U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hold a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Oct. 14, 2010. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison)
BRUSSELS, Belgium (Oct. 14, 2010) —Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed support for the Afghanistan government’s efforts to reconcile with high- and mid-level Taliban members and to reintegrate insurgent fighters into Afghan society.
Gates and Clinton were at NATO headquarters for meetings of the alliance’s foreign and defense ministers.
Gates said Taliban reconciliation ultimately has to be part of the solution in Afghanistan.
“We will do whatever we can to support that process,” he said. “I think one of the principles that we have established with [Afghan President Hamid Karzai] is transparency with one another as this process goes forward. We are in very close consultation with President Karzai and the Afghan government so we know what they’re doing, they know what we’re doing, and they understand what our requirements are.”
Clinton said those requirements, or “red lines,” for Taliban members seeking reconciliation and insurgent fighters seeking reintegration are that they must renounce violence, give up their weapons, renounce al-Qaida and the insurgency, and abide by Afghanistan’s laws and constitution.
Gates said close communication between the U.S. and Afghan governments on the issue ensures that Afghan officials know where the United States stands.
“Frankly, we share with them what we think will be in their own best interests as the process goes along,” he said, “but it’s basically a partnership as we go forward with this. Clearly, the Afghans have the lead, but I think we’re confident that we have access into this process, and plenty of opportunities to make our concerns, as well as our suggestions, known.”
Gates noted that he and Clinton, as well as their NATO counterparts, had seen for themselves and heard from their NATO counterparts encouraging reports of progress in Afghanistan.
Gates added that Petraeus briefed him last night on progress in Afghanistan. “And I’ve had several defense ministers come up to me today who have just been in Afghanistan for the last few days or for the last week or so,” he said, “and to a person, they said they were heartened by what they saw.”
Clinton added that Petreaus’ report “reinforces a lot of the other information and evidence that we’re seeing about the increasing effectiveness on the ground of our joint efforts.” She also warned against reading too much into reports about activity on the reconciliation and reintegration front.
“This is a long process,” she said. “The reintegration process is accelerating. More and more of the fighters on the field are seeking a way out. Many of them found themselves employed by the Taliban or related insurgents because it was a way to make a living, and our reports are that more of them are seeking to leave the battlefield behind.”
But reconciliation is a much more complex effort that is just beginning, Clinton said.
“There are a lot of different strains to it that may or may not be legitimate or borne out as producing any bona fide reconciliation. … We support what the Afghans are doing,” she said. “We obviously have sought and obtained transparency. We have an understanding of their goals and objectives, and they have a very clear understanding of ours.”