KABUL -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visiting Afghanistan for President Hamid Karzai's inauguration ceremony, discussed the numerous obstacles the Afghan leader faces in his second term. In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Mujahid Jawad, Clinton speaks about security, corruption, and the prospects for international cooperation.
RFE/RL: The international community, especially the United States, has urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai not to include warlords in the Afghan government. But on the other hand, you are supporting peace talks with the Taliban, an armed militia. Do you think this might show that the international community is rejecting one kind of warlord and accepting another kind of warlord?
Clinton: I think what was important about today was President Karzai's speech outlining a vision for Afghanistan in the future -- where he would like to see the country at the end of his second term. But it was also very specific about what needed to be done for the people of Afghanistan.
I've had the opportunity to meet with a number of your ministers. I met with four last night who gave me very detailed accounts of what they are doing in agriculture, education, finance, and intelligence, and I think that the quality of the people in government is really quite positive. I know that there are all kinds of international commentaries about who is in the government and who is not in the government; we've made it clear that we want to see capable people. We want to see people devoted to the people of Afghanistan -- who can improve their lives. So I think that if the president continues to utilize the talents of the kind of people that I met with last night, I think that we will be able to work together very effectively.
With respect to the question about any political resolution regarding the Taliban -- you know, that is really up to the people of Afghanistan. But I think it is important to make sure that anyone who would be invited back into society gives up violence. There should be an end to any kind of armed capacity outside of the military and the police, which is why we are committed to helping build a professional, disciplined army and police force for your country.
RFE/RL: If there is a wide representation of warlords in the new cabinet, will the United States still support the new Afghan government?
Clinton: Well, there are warlords and there are warlords. There are people who were called that who fought on behalf of the people of Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, who fought against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies. And there are people who had very serious breeches of human rights and mistreatment of people during war -- which is always difficult to look back on and figure out how to judge.
So I have made it clear, as have others, that we would far rather have people in the cabinet with professional skills, with experience and expertise who can actually do the work that is required. I think [President Karzai] understands that and he is certainly giving me the strong impression that that is what he intends to do.
RFE/RL: One of the major concerns during President Hamid Karzai's previous term was the wide-ranging civilian casualties caused by American forces in Afghanistan, which harmed Karzai's credibility among Afghans. Does the United States plan to implement any new measures to prevent such casualties during Karzai’s new term?
Clinton: Yes. In fact, we have already begun to do that. I share the concern and regret about civilian casualties. Under the new rules of engagement that General [Stanley] McChrystal has put into place, not only the United States but all of the allies plus the Afghan military will do everything they possibly can to avoid civilian casualties. It is not always possible. There are unfortunate tragic circumstances. But I think in the last months, under General McChrystal's leadership, there has been a decrease. A noticeable decrease.
RFE/RL: President Obama gave Hamid Karzai a six-month deadline to eradicate corruption. But many Afghan experts believe that it will be difficult for Karzai to meet such a deadline. If Karzai fails to meet this deadline, what will be your country's reaction?
Clinton: I was pleased to hear what President Karzai said today about corruption, and in fact, it produced spontaneous applause in the audience when he made such a strong statement against corruption and impunity -- when he set forth some of the steps that he intends to take requiring government officials to list all of their assets, creating a major crimes tribunal, reinvigorating the anticorruption commission. These are all positive steps. I think that demonstrates good faith on President Karzai's part. He is taking those actions, and I think that is exactly what President Obama wanted to see.
RFE/RL: Your administration reportedly has been pressing Pakistan's military to move against the Quetta shura led by Taliban head Mullah Omar, and the Jalaluddin Haqqani network in North Waziristan. Do you now see the Pakistani military moving against these networks, seeing that it is claiming victory against the Taliban in the South Waziristan tribal region?
Clinton: Well, I know that the Pakistani military is working very hard in South Waziristan, and they do have to have priorities as to how they will spend their resources and their troops. But we will continue to press them to go after all of the extremists in Pakistan -- some of whom target Pakistan and some of whom, as you know, target Afghanistan.
We think there has to be an effort to root out the extremists in Pakistan who threaten Afghanistan. That is the message that I took to Pakistan when I was there a few weeks ago. It's the message that I continue to stress with our friends in Pakistan because we know that there is a cross-border fertilization of extremism and terrorism.
Afghanistan cannot get control over its territory and defeat the Taliban if they can go across the border into Pakistan for safe haven. Similarly, Pakistan cannot root out the people that threaten them and their government if they can seek refuge across the border in Afghanistan. That's why we look at Afghanistan and Pakistan together when it comes to this fight against terrorism.
RFE/RL: There are reports in the media that the United States is negotiating to establish specific benchmarks with Afghanistan and Pakistan to pave the way for the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan. Can you comment on what these benchmarks might be?
Clinton: Well, I don't think that they're benchmarks that are as you describe them. I think what we are trying to do is create some measurements that can determine whether we are succeeding.
I had a long discussion with the minister of defense, Minister [Abdul Rahim] Wardak. He is very pleased at how much better integrated the Afghan military is with ISAF and the troops under the ISAF command. There is more sharing of intelligence. There are more joint missions, more joint training. That's a good benchmark. That's the kind of benchmark we are looking at, because what we want to see is how can we determine that we are making progress on the path that President Karzai outlined today, where your military will have what it needs to begin to take responsibility for much of the country, moving toward the primary responsibility for all of the country.
Now, the United States wants to have a long-term relationship with Afghanistan. But we don't see it as always primarily a military relationship where we are putting our troops in to do combat. We see over time the professionalization of the Afghan military so that we would provide advice and training, certain kinds of support that you might not have on your own.
But we also have a big civilian commitment. We have tripled the number of civilians who are doing development work, who are working with your government to build capacity within your government. That, to us, is equally important, and we want to be there for the long term to help Afghanistan increase the educational system, improve the healthcare system, see agriculture resume the rightful place that it used to have in Afghanistan, where so many people know that it was the garden district of Central Asia with orchards and exports. And there is a lot of good and promise that we see in Afghanistan, and we want to be a good friend and a partner to help you achieve that.