By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 19, 2009 - Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai today in Kabul for the renewed commitment he expressed in his second-term inaugural address to end government corruption and set the stage to decrease the international military footprint in Afghanistan. "This is an important moment," Clinton told reporters. "Today's inauguration opens a real window of opportunity for a new compact between the Afghan government and its people, and for a new chapter in the partnership between Afghanistan and the international community."
Karzai delivered his address upon taking office for his second five-year term as president. Along with his promise to root out corrupt Afghan politicians, he set a five-year goal for Afghanistan to take over security efforts. Karzai's plans also call for increased dialogue between his administration and the Taliban.
"President Karzai's inaugural address provides an important new starting point, and we intend to build on it," Clinton said. "The United States shares this same objective, and we welcome this strong commitment."
Continued efforts from international civilian agencies will also play an important role in Afghanistan's future, Clinton added, and she noted that Karzai also outlined methods to improve services for Afghans.
The Afghan government will build on its efforts to deliver the basic services, justice and economic and educational opportunities Afghans deserve, he said.
"It's an effort that will require steady progress on government capacity, transparency and accountability," Clinton said. "It will also require us to pursuer a broader and deeper partnership with capable Afghan ministries responsible for carrying out their own programs."
Clinton arrived in Afghanistan yesterday in a surprise visit. She met with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.
The secretary also met with Afghanistan's education, agriculture and finance ministers and received "detailed briefings on past progress and future plans," she said.
Results are beginning to come to light through the work of those Afghan officials and international support, Clinton said. She celebrated Afghan farmers who are straying away from poppy crops that fuel the illegal drug trade, as well as the fact that more Afghan girls are attending schools. She also noted the infrastructure improvements, such as new health clinics and paved roads throughout the country.
Government reform is on the rise and on Karzai's agenda, but Clinton reminded reporters that citizens of Afghanistan are the "most critical" partners.
"We will use clear benchmarks and measures to ensure that our efforts are delivering results [to Afghans]," she said. "I am here in Afghanistan, and so many brave Americans are serving here, because we believe that we can make progress."
Such progress won't come easily, Clinton said. The secretary acknowledged that challenges and setbacks lie ahead. The international community has to be realistic in its goals and make decisions toward security and a better future, she said.
"We are under no illusions about the difficulty of this mission," she said. "The road ahead is fraught with challenges and imperfect choices. But we are also clear-eyed about the stakes. For the Afghan people, it is about a better future. For the United States, it is about protecting our people, our allies and our interests.
"That is why we are working so hard to renew this partnership," she continued, "and why it is so vital that we seize this moment -- this crucial window of opportunity.”