Press Availability in Tallinn
Secretary of State
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But I have to add that I think, as today’s meeting demonstrated, this is not just a question of numbers. This is a question of commitment – the quality of commitment, the understanding of the mission. We’ve made dramatic changes in Afghanistan in the last year and a half under President Obama’s leadership.
And the fact is that we have new leadership on the ground here in NATO. We have a new level of understanding and commitment from our international partners. And I’m very encouraged by the close cooperation among countries and their forces, their military troops, their civilian experts. And I see every day the results of this much better coordinated approach. So I think that for me, the glass is way more than half full in terms of what we asked for, what we need, and what we have received.
Regarding the Middle East, Senator Mitchell is in the region right now. He is continuing discussions with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Our goal in these conversations is to advance negotiations over final status issues, borders obviously being one of them. And there can’t be a unilateral action or a unilateral proposal that will advance those negotiations. There has to be the painstaking work that is going on right now to try to move both parties in a direction that will enable them to start making some of these very difficult decisions. So there’s a lot of ideas that have been floated around, but at the end of the day it’s only the Israelis and the Palestinians who can make these decisions for themselves.
And finally, with regard to North Korea, our position is very clear. We have said time and time again that the North Koreans should not engage in provocative actions and that they should return to the Six-Party Talks, where we and our partners in those talks are prepared to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and then other matters that may be of concern to any one of the parties, including North Korea.
But I hope that there is no talk of war, there is no action or miscalculation that could provoke a response that might lead to conflict. That’s not in anyone’s interest. The way to resolve the outstanding differences among not only the North and South Koreans but the neighbors, including ourselves, is to return to the Six-Party Talk framework as soon as possible.
MODERATOR: We’ll take one more question from Kim Sengupta of The Independent.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. (Inaudible) about its nuclear (inaudible). And (inaudible) Afghanistan with the (inaudible) handing over areas to the Afghan Government, what happens if things go wrong, the Taliban try and exploit the situation (inaudible)? And also, what happens, for example, if Afghan control is accompanied by Afghan corruption?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to the first question, I haven’t followed it closely, but I know that that issue is a matter being discussed and debated in the current British elections, and I think I’ll stay out of it. I’m more than happy to talk about the American Nuclear Posture Review, the American position regarding the START treaty, the President’s recently and successfully concluded Nuclear Security Summit, but I think I’ll let the British people and their government make the decisions about their own nuclear deterrent.
Regarding Afghanistan, we believe that with sufficient attention, training, and mentoring the Afghans themselves are perfectly capable of defending themselves against insurgents. Now, does that mean that it will be smooth sailing? I don’t think so. Look at Iraq. The Iraq military is certainly proving itself to be a capable force inside Iraq. Yet it is, unfortunately, too easy for cowardly terrorists to set off bombs, and especially if they can convince people to become a bomb themselves, as they do with the so-called suicide bombers.
So there will be threats to the Afghan peace and security for years to come if the insurgents do not finally, once and for all, give up their commitment to terrorism. But that’s a problem in many countries with extremely competent military forces that have to be vigilant and on the lookout all the time. I mean, look at what’s going on in Pakistan, where the military has engaged in significant combat actions against the Taliban, and yet all too often there are these terrible terrorist attacks.
So I don’t think we should expect the Afghans to meet an impossible standard. But what we can expect and what we are working toward achieving is an Afghan national security force, military and police, that is able to protect the people and create a sense of confidence in their capacity.
With regard to the Government of Afghanistan, I’ve said before and I will repeat, I think President Karzai has one of the most difficult jobs in the world, balancing the internal forces inside Afghanistan, balancing the neighborhood and all of the regional powers that surround Afghanistan, working to try to integrate the international forces into the fabric of his society. This is a very difficult undertaking, and I think that the successes of the Karzai Administration and the Afghan Government are rarely talked about. There is a tremendous set of achievements, whether it’s the number of people going to school or getting health care or farmers producing a bumper wheat crop last year. There are just so many positive developments that rarely get much attention because, of course, it’s controversy and conflict that, understandably, grab the headlines.
And I think on the issue of corruption, we are going to continue to raise that issue. We’re going to continue to work with the government and the people of Afghanistan to try to diminish and even eliminate, where possible. But speaking for the United States, we have relationships with every country around the world. And they are on varying levels of good government and rule of law and the like. And I would caution us not to sort of single out Afghanistan, a new country, a new democracy, a country trying to fight an insurgency, stand up a government, deal with all of the challenges that it confronts, including corruption. But that’s not the only prism through which one should see what’s going on in Afghanistan.
And I’m personally looking forward to welcoming President Karzai and his ministers to Washington for a several-day visit that will include a meeting with the President and a very clear discussion about how far the government’s come and what more help they need. But I’ve met with a number of the ministers of the current government, and they’re very impressive. I mean, I would invite attention to the accomplishments of a number of them who have revolutionized the way business is done. And it’s not everybody, but there are enough good news stories there that we can see it in a more balanced way, perhaps.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
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