On October 19, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made an unannounced visit to Kabul, Afghanistan. Earlier today, the Secretary met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and participated in a roundtable with civil society leaders.
Following her meeting with President Karzai, Secretary Clinton underscored four points. First, the United States remains focused on the shared goal of a stable, sovereign, independent, and prosperous Afghanistan and a region free of al-Qaida and extremists who would try to undermine the progress that the people of Afghanistan have made.
Second, the United States remains committed to an inclusive Afghan peace process that ends the conflict, protects the gains the Afghan people have achieved in the last 10 years, and helps bring greater stability and prosperity to the wider region. Third, Afghanistan's future is tied to the future of the entire region both politically and economically -- that is why the United States is working with Afghanistan to secure commitments from all of its neighbors to respect Afghan sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to support peace in Afghanistan. The United States has also embraced a vision of Afghanistan at the heart of a New Silk Road, which will increase cross-border trade, investment that creates jobs and opportunities, and leads to broad-based prosperity. Secretary Clinton then outlined her fourth point, stating:
"...And the final point is that all of this work advances the plan for transition that Afghanistan and NATO agreed on at the summit in Lisbon. The transition to Afghan-led security has already begun, and we are identifying the next group of districts that will be ready to be handed over to the Afghans. This process will conclude by 2014, when Afghans will have full responsibility.
"But I want to be clear: The United States is making an enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan that will not end in 2014. We will not abandon Afghanistan. We continue to make progress toward a new Strategic Partnership Declaration that will provide a framework for long-term cooperation between the United States and Afghanistan. We hope that this agreement and the clarity it brings will bolster Afghan and regional confidence that this country will not again become a safe haven for terrorists or an area for competing regional interests. Our work depends on an ethic of shared responsibility. The United States will do our part.
"Now, over the years ahead, our role and our military presence will change significantly, but we will remain committed and engaged. And we will look to work with our Afghan partners. We know that ultimately all of this depends upon the people and leadership of Afghanistan. And so let me just end by saying a word directly to the people of Afghanistan -- men and women from every ethnic group, every geographic area, every part of the political spectrum: The time has come for you to choose what kind of country you want. America cannot make that choice for you. Even your president cannot make that choice for you. It must be a choice by the people of Afghanistan with the leadership of Afghanistan working to make it a reality.
"I am confident, given the strength and resilience of the Afghan people, that you will make a choice for a future of peace, prosperity, and stability, where every Afghan boy and girl has a chance to live up to his or her own God-given potential."