Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on May 6, 2009.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, and welcome to the State Department. This is what’s called the Benjamin Franklin Room, after one of our early and most important leaders. And today, we are welcoming to the Franklin Room two very important leaders who are leading their countries at a difficult time in history, who are working hard to maintain and nurture democracy, and who understand that we face a common enemy. We may come from different places and have different backgrounds, but we are facing a common enemy and we have therefore made common cause together.
And so it is a great privilege to welcome President Karzai and President Zardari. I have known President Zardari for a longer period of time, going back many years now. And I was a great admirer and a friend of his late wife, who I thought was an extraordinary leader. And I am pleased to welcome him here as the democratically elected president of his country.
And I have known President Karzai now for about seven years.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Seven years.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I have greatly appreciated our relationship. I was very moved when President Karzai came to Fort Drum in far upstate New York on one of his early trips to the United States to thank the men and women of the 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed division in the U.S. Army, for their service in Afghanistan during the war that has gone on.
So it’s going to be a great privilege and pleasure for me to work on behalf of our common cause. Now, both presidents bring with them very distinguished delegations, their ambassadors and ministers, many of whom I also know and respect and have worked with. And we are especially pleased to welcome President Zardari’s son, Mr. Bhutto Zardari, to be here as well.
Now, presidents, we have with us a number of members of President Obama’s cabinet and high-ranking officials in departments in the United States Government. We will be hearing from them during the course of the morning. But let me introduce Ambassador Patterson, whom you know, the Ambassador to Pakistan; Director Mueller, the leader of the FBI; of course, you’ve met Director Panetta of the CIA and Special Representative Holbrooke.
Secretary Vilsack may be a new face to you. He is the Secretary of Agriculture, and it is an area that we intend to work on with each of you. We think that there are great opportunities to assist the farmers of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. I was very pleased to learn, Secretary Vilsack, that one of the early decisions President Zardari made is paying off because they’re back to being self-sufficient in wheat, maybe even selling some to their neighbors in the future. So we have a lot that we can bring to the table to work with you.
Jack Lew is the Deputy Secretary for Resources and Management in this Department. He has been to both of your countries recently and is working with your finance ministers and others on very specific planning. Next is Acting Administrator of USAID Alonzo Fulgham, and of course, Michele Flournoy, who is Under Secretary for Planning – Policy, who is a very experienced expert in defense matters. And then, of course, you all know General Petraeus.
Now, the presence of this distinguished group of U.S. officials from different federal agencies reflects President Obama’s and my strong belief that promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan must be an all-government effort. Now, this is not just the State Department’s responsibility or the Defense Department’s, but it is all of us working together. And based on the delegations that are here, I think both the presidents agree with that as well.
We have made this common cause because we face a common threat, and we have a common task and a common challenge. We know that each of your countries is struggling with the extremists who would destabilize and undermine democracy. An ancient Afghan proverb says “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” We know that this consultation is part of a continuing process. It began with our first trilateral. It continued with the international conference in The Hague, with the Tokyo donors conference, and now we are once again meeting here in Washington.
Through these ongoing consultations, we believe we can strengthen our partnership and our cooperation. Now, we are not perfect. No human being is. We will make mistakes. But we need to have the kind of open dialogue where we express our concerns about those mistakes. I am very grateful for the excellent relationships that I have with Minister Qureshi and Minister Spanta, and we want to create those relationships throughout our governments so that we learn from each other, we listen to each other, and then we do better – do better tomorrow.
On that note, I wish to express my personal regret and certainly the sympathy of our Administration on the loss of civilian life in Afghanistan. We deeply regret it. We don’t know all of the circumstances or causes, and there will be a joint investigation by your government and ours. But any loss of life, any loss of innocent life, is particularly painful. And I want to convey to the people of both Afghanistan and Pakistan that we will work very hard with your governments and with your leaders to avoid the loss of innocent civilian life. And we deeply, deeply regret that loss.
We are working with Congress to provide additional support to augment security in both countries. We are deploying additional U.S. soldiers and military trainers to Afghanistan. But we know that success will not come from military means alone, that what we must do and what both Secretary Gates and I emphasized in congressional testimony is the importance of diplomacy and development aid. And we reiterated our support for Congress’s efforts to triple nonmilitary spending for these democratically elected governments. We believe you earned it and deserve to have that level of support.
We will be increasing our civilian presence in cooperation with the ministries that are present here and other elements of both governments. And today’s discussions will center on concrete initiatives. I like to know specifically what we’re going to try to do together. I like us to reach agreement on that, and then to specify the steps we will take together to achieve our common goals. I think that helps to eliminate the confusion that comes with distance and misunderstanding. So we will start today to create the kind of work plans that will guide our efforts together.
And we’ll be talking today about the concrete initiatives to expand economic opportunities and trade, to bolster the agricultural sector as an essential source of revenue and jobs in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, to help build up the industrial sector in Pakistan again so that it is creating more jobs and opportunities for people, and to improve our joint cooperation on security.
I will also reinforce, as I have on many occasions, that this is not just me speaking, but this is the American Government speaking; that we do not believe either Afghanistan or Pakistan can achieve lasting progress without the full participation of all of your citizens, including women and girls. The rights of women must be respected and protected. This is a time for, as we say, all hands on deck. The entire population, the talents of everyone, must be engaged.
I am pleased to announce that Afghanistan and Pakistan have reached an important milestone in their efforts to generate foreign investment and stronger economic growth and trade opportunities. Before President Karzai and President Zardari meet with President Obama this morning, the two ministers, Minister Qureshi and Minister Spanta, will sign a Memorandum of Understanding committing their countries to achieving a trade transit agreement by the end of the year, which we believe will have great economic benefits for both peoples.
This is an historic event. This agreement has been under discussion for 43 years without resolution. But when I think about Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I look at the map of the world and see how strategically located both countries are, this is an agreement that will bring prosperity to both countries, along the trade routes and beyond. Nothing opens up an area to economic development better than a good road with good transit rules and an ability to transport goods and people effectively. So we think this will be enormously beneficial, and I congratulate both countries.
It will also help us bring more foreign direct investment into both countries, because that’s always the first question: How do we get our goods to market? How do we get them to another economy in another country? This is a very concrete and positive step.
So we are encouraged by the progress that this agreement and this second trilateral meeting represent, and we see it as a harbinger for the productive consultations we anticipate over the next two days.
I would now like to introduce President Karzai to deliver brief remarks. He will be followed by President Zardari to also deliver remarks. President Karzai.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: (In Arabic.) Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. It’s a pleasure for us, and I can speak on behalf of both Afghanistan and Pakistan at this point, to thank you and the President for giving us this unique opportunity of the presence here in the United States to discuss the issues of terrorism and of combating terrorism, and stability and peace, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by consequence in the region and beyond. This initiative, I’m certain, through the implementation of the strategy outlined earlier by President Obama, will bring us the needed relief towards a better, more peaceful life in both of our countries
Madame Secretary, thank you very much for showing concern and regrets for the civilian casualties that are caused, especially for the one that was caused yesterday. We appreciate that, and we hope we can work together towards reducing and eventually completely removing the possibilities of civilian casualties as we move ahead in our war against terrorism or in our struggle against terrorism.
Madame Secretary, Afghanistan would like to assure the United States, its most valued strategic ally, and Pakistan, its neighbor, brother, friend. What I described yesterday is exactly true. Pakistan and Afghanistan are conjoined twins. Our suffering is shared, our joys are always shared. The life that we live is affected by the opportunities that we have and the lack of opportunities that occurs because of the circumstances in which we live today.
Madame Secretary, I will be very brief in my remarks. At this point, I would suffice that at occasions like today, Afghanistan will use, to the best of its possibility and ability, to deliver to the effectiveness of what we are doing together for stability and to do the right thing with regard to relations with Pakistan in bringing more confidence, more trust, and a working environment in which the two countries together can wage a more effective struggle against the menace of terrorism and the violence that radicalism causes both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan and the danger that they pose to you in America and the rest of the world.
I would request our brothers and sisters in Pakistan to count on us in the best possible manner that Afghanistan will go along in order to eventually provide a life of peace and prosperity to both countries. Now as we move ahead, there will be areas of practical work and cooperation. In that too, Afghanistan will contribute.
Madame Secretary, do have full confidence in us, as the two countries sit together, that we’ll be friends with you and colleagues with you. And the journey that we have together will take us where we intend to be. And the right environment, as it is created today, I hope we’ll continue to insist upon and have kept. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
PRESIDENT ZARDARI: (In Arabic.) Madame Secretary, thank you for having us. My dear brother President Karzai, thanking for being here and giving – Madame, thank you for giving us this opportunity. Let me begin by thanking President Obama for his vision and, of course, my friend, my wife’s friend and my friend, and the hope for the beacon of the world, Secretary Clinton, for her leadership in arranging this historic meeting of our three democracies.
And today, we sit here as three democratic states and joined together in the history of democracy looking forward to working together. Pakistan faces many challenges. Our democracy is trying to overcome these challenges. We need the nurturing of democracy of the world. The oldest most powerful democracy of the world, the extended democracies of the world, we need – my democracy needs attention and needs nurturing.
We thank the United States for its support for democracy, for security in Pakistan and look forward to further support. Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States are all victims of terror, as is indeed the entire world. Our threat is common and our responsibilities should be shared. I am here to assure you that we shall share this burden with you all. For no matter how long it takes and what it takes, democracies will deliver. My democracy will deliver. People of Pakistan stand with the people of the United States and the people of Afghanistan. We stand with our brother Karzai and the people of Afghanistan against this common threat, this menace, which I have called cancer. This is a cancer. It needs to be done away with. Pakistan carries a huge burden confronting al-Qaida and Taliban together. But we are up to the challenge because we are the democracy, and democracy is the only cure to this challenge.
Just as the United States is making progress after seven years of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will – we too will make progress over time. Democracies in – democracy in Pakistan is only seven months old. And during this period, we have performed better than the dictatorships in the previous many years. I look forward to our discussions, especially our meetings with President Obama, with whom the whole world attaches a lot of hope and especially our coming generations in Pakistan.
I think the U.S. – I thank the U.S. Congress for supporting the emergency economic and security assistance for Pakistan. I am here to assure Americans, partners that while we will need high level of support in the days to come, we will also be far more transparent in our actions.
Democracy will avenge the death of my wife and the thousands of other Pakistanis and citizens of the world. Pakistani democracy will deliver. The terrorists will be defeated by our joint struggle. And here, me, my friend President Karzai, and the United States assure the world that we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the world to fight this cancer and this threat.
Thank you, gentlemen.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, presidents. And now, I am pleased to witness the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding to commence the transit treaty negotiations.
(The Memorandum of Understanding is signed.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. That was very good. (Applause.)