On December 5, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks in Bonn, Germany at the International Conference for Afghanistan. Secretary Clinton said:
"First, I want to express our appreciation to the German Government, particularly Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Westerwelle for hosting this conference, and to the Afghans -- particularly President Karzai and Foreign Minister Rassoul for chairing it. I think we took some important steps forward.
"Second, I want to recognize a number of the women leaders who are here from Afghanistan. I met with them and with representatives of Afghan civil society this morning and just now because I am convinced that they have a crucial role to play in the future of Afghanistan, and in particular the peace and reconciliation process. Women and civil society have achieved considerable progress over the last 10 years, and we don't want anything that we agree to or do to undermine that progress or to turn the clock back on human rights for women and men.
"I also want to say a word about a particular area of progress, and I'm delighted that the Minister of Health from Afghanistan, Minister Dalil, is here, because a new Afghan mortality survey shows that the Afghanistan healthcare system has made a huge leap forward for women. Ten years ago, the maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan was estimated to be the highest in the world. Today, women's life expectancy has increased by between 15 and 20 years, because women are finally getting access to healthcare, including prenatal care, and far fewer are dying in childbirth.
"This is the kind of progress we cannot allow to be undermined and turned back. Now, we have no illusions about the enormous obstacles that remain ahead in Afghanistan. The insurgency by the Taliban remains active. There is a lot of work to be done both by the government and civil society to strengthen and build democratic institutions and to assure the rule of law, and also a free media and an independent judiciary among other things. And the World Bank recently projected that Afghanistan will face continuing hardships and budget deficits that will require new resources and revenue. And at the same time, as everyone is aware, the international community faces fiscal constraints. So these challenges are in very much the minds of all of us as we discuss the way forward.
"At the NATO Summit in Lisbon, we agreed to a plan for our security transition that will be completed in 2014. Today in Bonn, we took the next step by setting out a blueprint for a post-transition Afghanistan, a roadmap for what we are calling a decade of transformation. In our session today, I emphasized how critical it is that we avoid repeating the mistakes of the 1990s and how important it is, as President Karzai said, that we all embrace mutual accountability.
"So the United States is prepared to stand with the Afghan people, but Afghans themselves must also meet the commitments they have made, and we look forward to working with them to embrace reform, lead their own defense, and strengthen their democracy. I think it's going to be very critical that the United States continue what we call our 'fight, talk, build' approach, going after al-Qaida and their networks and allies, increasing the pressure on insurgents while supporting inclusive reconciliation and sustainable development. So we welcomed the economic, political, and security plans that President Karzai announced today which largely align with this strategy.
"On security, they committed to expand the capacity of the Afghan security forces, and the United States and our partners will be committed to training, advising, and assisting. On the economy, the Afghans committed to set priorities, use international aid effectively, and enact a series of economic reforms to crack down on corruption, spur private sector growth, and attract new investment. And we have to come with concrete steps. So for example, I announced that the United States and other partners will now resume financial disbursements to the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund.
"On the political front, the Afghans committed to proceed with inclusive, fair, and credible presidential elections and a peaceful, democratic transfer of power in 2014. And we will continue to provide support to Afghanistan's democracy, including civil society.
"And finally, the Afghans also committed to accelerate the process begun in Istanbul last month of building stronger economic, political, and security ties in the region. Every neighbor has a stake in the future of Afghanistan. Every neighbor loses if the country again becomes a source of terrorism and instability. So in addition to supporting increased regional economic integration, pursuit of the New Silk Road vision, we also look to Afghanistan's neighbors to actively support an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process.
"I know how much of a setback it was when President Rabbani was assassinated, so it was especially significant when the traditional Loya Jirga reaffirmed Afghanistan's commitment to pursue this effort.
"We want to send a very clear message to the people of Afghanistan that as they continue to make tough decisions we will stand with them and do so in that spirit of mutual accountability. Today we join nearly 100 nations in agreeing to renew and focus our shared commitment to continue investing and engaging in Afghanistan for the long term. We look forward to the NATO summit in Chicago in May and other upcoming meetings, such as the Tokyo Donors' Conference to formalize this commitment.
"Now, I can say that this has been a long and difficult decade, but the people who really understand what those words mean are sitting here with us. The people of Afghanistan have endured so much, and over and over again they ask me, they ask others, to ensure that they don't lose the gains that they have made in this last difficult decade. I think we have a strategy that gives us the best chance to achieve a stable, prosperous, and peaceful future. That's what this conference was all about, but of course, we know a lot of work lies ahead. I'm committed to that work, and I know we have many partners in Afghanistan who are as well."
You can view the full remarks here.