Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Travel: Hillary Rocks The Hauge!

Today, of course, was the much anticipated International Conference in support of Afghanistan. The goal of the conference is aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan and jump-starting political support for the war-torn country.

Seventy-two of the 73 countries invited to the International Conference on Afghanistan in The Hague attended. Only Uzbekistan has declined the invitation. Nine international organizations and six observers will also be present. A total of nearly 700 delegates will participate in the conference. Wowza! The Netherlands is the host and will chair the conference together with the UN and Afghanistan.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen welcomed Secretary Clinton as she arrived for the international conference. "This conference is critical to our way forward," Clinton said prior to the conference. Citing the Dutch approach to its operations in the turbulent southern Afghanistan province of Uruzgan, she said the Dutch policy of defense, diplomacy and development "is exactly the right framework." Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen stand with Hillary as she makes a statement and answers questions before the start of the conference. During the conference, Hillary spoke as more than 70 nations gathered to reinvigorate international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan's lawless western border region.

The conference brought together all the countries bordering Afghanistan, including Iran, and all nations contributing troops to the NATO-led international force fighting Taliban insurgents.

It was opened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "We have great expectations," Karzai said after arriving Monday night.

At the start of the meetings, Hillary met with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. She also met with Japan's special envoy to Afghanistan Motohide Yoshikawa and Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone at the start of the meeting.

In her address at the conference laying out the new US strategy for the region, Hillary endorsed Afghan plans to hold reconciliation talks with moderate Taliban members.

"We must support efforts by the government of Afghanistan to separate the extremists of al Qaeda and the Taliban from those who joined their ranks, not out of conviction but out of desperation. They should be offered an honorable form of reconciliation and reintegration into a peaceful society if they are willing to abandon violence, break with al Qaeda and support the constitution."

Hillary also stated that there must be a government that is "legitimate and respected" with no room for corruption. "Corruption is a cancer -- as dangerous to our long-term success as the Taliban or al Qaeda... A government that cannot deliver for its people is a terrorist's best recruiting tool."

Karzai also addressed the conference and renewed a commitment to fight corruption, provide good governance and counter the country's rampant drug trade. "There can be no doubt our commitment and resolve," he said. He praised the new US strategy for his country and said he hoped Obama's leadership will inspire more cooperation from Afghanistan's allies.

Meanwhile, Richard Holbrooke, the administration's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, had "a brief and candid exchange" with the head of the Iranian delegation, and the two men agreed to stay in touch. This is the first direct contact between the US and Iran for the Obama Administration, and the first in many many years for the two countries in general. (Thank you very much Madame Secretary, you are the boss!)

Hillary made it clear that she has had no direct contact with the Iranians but had provided them with a letter in which she asked Tehran to release two Americans and to look for another, former FBI agent Robert Levinson, missing in Iran since March 2007. Hillary urged Tehran to play a positive role in helping stabilize its neighbor and she noted Iran's history of cooperating with the United States on Afghanistan since the US invasion on issues such as border security and counter narcotics.

"Trafficking in narcotics, the spread of violent extremism, economic stagnation, water management, electrification and irrigation are regional challenges that will require regional solutions," she said. She also said the United States would seek to impose greater measures of accountability in the aid programs to "trace the investment and the payoff for the American taxpayers and for the people on the ground."

"We recognize we're starting at a point where there is very little credibility for a lot of what's already been invested... There are good programs within governments and good programs within [nongovernmental organizations], but it is fair to say overall they have been a disappointment. And we know that, and we're going to have to try to get that fixed."
The U.S. strategy also emphasizes the need to combat extremism in western Pakistan, a partnership Clinton called "critical."

"Together, we must give Pakistan the tools it needs to fight these extremists," she said as she reaffirmed the administration's support for legislation authorizing "$1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years -- resources that will build schools, roads and hospitals and strengthen the Pakistani government."

And finally, Hillary urged participants to support Pakistan at a donors' conference next month hosted by Japan.

Great interview with Andrea Mitchell from MSNBC:

Footage of the conference (sorry it's not dubbed in English!):


Stan said...

Hillary is doing such an amazing job. My only question: why is she carrying her purse? Doesn't she have someone to do that?

Anonymous said...

This is a great compilation of pix. Well done!

PYW said...

Stan, I've never seen her toting a purae like that so I'm not sure what's going on, lol.

PYW said...

Um, that should be purse, not purae.

Mary said...

I am constantly, consistently, at all times and places and in every photo just AMAZED by this woman. It is unquestionably the error of my lifetime that she is not the President of the United States....yet.

Sarah said...

yea! where is Huma?! shes not doing her purse carrying duties hehe

and yea, the fact that Hillary pretty much spearheaded this entire conference on Afghanistan and so much good has come out of it already.

also, seeing the reactions of everything that went down today at the G20, with China openly saying the want to work with the US and Russia wanting to mend ties and hit the 'reset' button... we can really see the work Hillary is doing as a diplomat. she is rebuilding ties all around the world.

She is amazing, and she is making Obama's job of restoring America's standing in the world a lot easier too!

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