Clinton: Military Action Isn't Enough In Afghanistan U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells NPR that efforts to end the war in Afghanistan must be accompanied by a plan to reintegrate Taliban fighters, though she acknowledges that approach won't work with the group's top leadership. She says the evolving reconciliation process "will be a little like jazz ... you can't lay it out completely."
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Clinton: Military Action Isn't Enough In Afghanistan

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Clinton: Military Action Isn't Enough In Afghanistan

Clinton: Military Action Isn't Enough In Afghanistan

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

In London yesterday, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan touched on the dominant theme of an international conference on his country.

HAMID KARZAI: We must reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers who are not part of al-Qaida or other terrorist networks.

INSKEEP: That is the focus of delegates from more than 60 countries, bringing those who are now with the Taliban back into the fold, if possible. By the end of the day, the conference raised $140 million, with a promise of more, for a new fund designed to reintegrate former fighters into civilian society. Those millions could go toward creating jobs or building homes or simply replacing the money that the fighters made with the Taliban.

Our own Renee Montagne is in London, at this conference. Hi, Renee.


Hi, Steve. And, you know, yesterday's conference was held at Lancaster House, that's a gilded mansion near St. James Palace that's been the setting for a number of historic agreements. It's where I sat down with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ask her why the talk among the international community has now turned so forcefully to reaching out to the Taliban.

HILLARY CLINTON: Military action is not enough alone. It has to be mixed with political and development work. And I think everyone has realized, as we did in Iraq, that you have to begin to go right at the insurgents and peel those off who are willing to renounce violence, renounce al-Qaida, agree to live by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan and reenter society.

MONTAGNE: Although, obviously, Afghanistan is not Iraq, and I think there might be those who are hearing this knowing that the American fighting forces are in Afghanistan beginning a surge for a big fight with the Taliban, and it will be a surprise and maybe even disturbing to you that there's now talk of talking to the Taliban.

CLINTON: You can't have one without the other. Only a surge of military forces alone without any effort on the political side is not likely to succeed. Only an effort to try to, you know, make peace with your enemies without the strength to back it up is not going to succeed. So, in fact, this is a combined strategy that makes a great deal of sense.

Now, I think underlying your question is a concern of people who say, well, you know, wait a minute. Those are the bad guys. Why are we talking to them? We're not going to talk to the really bad guys, because the really bad guys are not ever going to renounce al-Qaida and renounce violence and agree to reenter society. That is not going to happen with people like Mullah Omar and the like.

But there are so many fighters in the Taliban who are there because, frankly, it's a way of making a living in a very poor country where the Taliban pay them a lot more than they could make as a farmer or, you know, in some other line of work out in the countryside. So we're already seeing people coming off the battlefield. There was a big story in one of the papers today about, you know, the military working with a whole tribe, in effect, to give them an alternative to either being on the sidelines or siding with the Taliban.

MONTAGNE: Well, it's interesting you mentioned the article. It's in The New York Times. The tribe is the largest Pashtun tribe in Afghanistan, something like 400,000 members. And basically what they said was we are going to - the tribe has pledged, all its leaders have pledged to fight the Taliban. The money that came from the American commanders went directly to the tribe, bypassed the government. How do you work out, in a sense, the tension between going directly to the people who are trying to do something, the tribal groups - such as they are in Afghanistan - and also trying to support a government? I mean, in this case, the tribal group said they didn't trust the government to help them.

CLINTON: Well, there are two interconnected approaches. The story you're describing was a story of our American military making this decision, similarly to what they had done in Iraq, where individuals were given incentives to leave the battlefield. The second aspect of this is what's called the reintegration fund, set up and funded by international donors.

A number of countries have made some significant contribution commitments, and it will be used by President Karzai. And I think that's smart, because it has to be agile and fluid, depending upon the circumstances.

MONTAGNE: Secretary Clinton, you were the first secretary of state who has put a big focus on women's rights. When you look ahead to integrating the Taliban, even those who have renounced violence - which, of course, they would have to do for that to happen - back into society and into some sort of political empowerment, are you worried about the effect that this might have - the negative effect this might have on Afghan women?

CLINTON: I am concerned, and I've spoken about it with a number of Afghan women and advocates for Afghan women, if the ...

MONTAGNE: And are they worried about it?

CLINTON: They are. They're worried because they don't know quite what it means, and I think that's fair. I don't think there's cause for alarm that the current government or any foreseeable government will turn the clock back like that, so long as there is enough power in the state and through the new Afghan security forces to make sure that there's never a resurgence of the Taliban that could come close to taking over large parts of the country. That's what we're preventing.

So I don't want us to be so diverted into our military and security efforts that we forget this country still needs a lot of development. And the only way, in my opinion, that Afghanistan has a chance to develop is if women are given the opportunity to participate fully.

MONTAGNE: President Karzai said this week that he expects Western troops to be in Afghanistan for at least another decade. Is that a timeline that makes sense to you?

CLINTON: Well, I don't believe that most Western troops will be in a combat role, but there are, in many countries, Western troops who do training of national armies or police. There are Western troops that provide intelligence, logistics, et cetera. But it won't be as it is today, where we are putting in thousands more troops, 30,000 from our own country, 9,000 from other countries. But I would imagine there will be continuing military assistance and liaison, which is common around the world.

MONTAGNE: Could you give me - what would be an example of talking to, let's say, a mid-level Taliban? I mean, will American officials sit down with Taliban? Will they work through - what is the practicalities of that?

CLINTON: Well, Renee, I don't know that I can answer that, because I think that this is a very new effort. It's a case-by-case effort. There already have been Taliban who have left, and I think it is, for me, just the beginning. And how it goes will be a little bit like jazz. I mean, we're not sure. I can't lay it out completely, but there are a lot of, you know, so-called members of the Taliban who want out.

MONTAGNE: And, of course, Western troops, in a way, want to get out of Afghanistan. Is this an exit strategy?

CLINTON: It's not an exit strategy. It is part of our comprehensive strategy. You have to have a very tough-minded attitude about this. This is not, you know, sweetness and light. You're dealing with a very difficult, complex phenomenon. A lot of things are moving in the right direction, but most wars, most conflicts these days don't end with a victory on the battlefield. So you've got to go at it in different ways. We've found how to do it in Iraq. We've got some of the same people that worked on this in Iraq working with General McChrystal in Afghanistan, and I think we're headed in the right direction.

MONTAGNE: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much.

CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk to you.

INSKEEP: That's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with our own Renee Montagne at the close of the international conference on Afghanistan being held in London.


INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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