SPIEGEL Interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 'Our Goal Is to Defeat Al-Qaida and Its Extremist Allies'
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to SPIEGEL about her hopes for Afghanistan, her fears about al-Qaida's safe haven in Pakistan and her finite patience with Iran.
SPIEGEL: Madam Secretary, your government is considering sending more troops into Afghanistan. What for? Is it your goal to build a Western-style civil society there? Or is it just to prevent the establishment of new bases of terrorism?
Hillary Rodham Clinton : President Obama has not made any final decision. He has conducted a very deliberative process which has explored every assumption underlying every action. I think that this process alone has been quite productive. But I think it is fair to say that in the course of our examination, our goal is to defeat al-Qaida and its extremist allies.
SPIEGEL: And what does this mean for the Afghan population, for their daily life?
Clinton : We are hopeful for the future of the people of Afghanistan to have a better life, to have political, social, economic development. But we are in Afghanistan because we cannot permit the return of a staging platform for terrorists. We think that al-Qaida and the other extremists are part of a syndicate of terror, with al-Qaida still being an inspiration, a funder, a trainer, an equipper and director of a lot what goes on. Two months ago we have arrested a gentleman who was plotting, it's alleged, against the subway system in New York who went to a training camp of al-Qaida.
SPIEGEL: There are terrorist attacks in Afghanistan on a daily basis. Therefore a lot of people in Germany ask: Do we really have to defend our freedom there? Should our troops die for a corrupt government?
Clinton : I don't think they are fighting and sacrificing for the Afghan government -- they do this for all of us. The soldiers in the Afghan army are willing to fight as well and they are often dying alongside our soldiers. It is very clear that the people in Afghanistan do not want the Taliban back. In every single survey that we have ever seen, they reject the extremism that they lived with from the Taliban. In order to accomplish the goal we set of having a country that is able to stand up and defend itself, there has to be an effort for more accountability; the rule of law; security. Our chances of success in this struggle are enhanced by a government in Afghanistan that can be a partner that can help to train and deploy a bigger and more effective security force. We have to try to better organize our efforts and try to demand more from the Afghan government itself.
SPIEGEL: After the election fraud in favor of President Hamid Karzai -- shouldn't you insist on a government of national unity, including his challenger Abdullah Abdullah?
Clinton : Well, I think that what we are interested in is an effective government. Who the personalities are is not as big a concern as having competent, effective, honest members of the government. But we are not only looking at the government in Kabul, we are also looking at the government throughout the country. Because very often, it is local governance, as it has historically been in Afghanistan, that delivers services, that provides security. So we think more has to be done with the local government structures.
SPIEGEL: Do we understand you correctly: The US government is thinking about naming local governors or at least influencing their nomination?
Clinton : I think that a number of us -- not just the United States but a number of NATO members, too -- agree with what Prime Minister Brown said last week: That there has to be more accountability. We do see this as in our national security interest, but part of being successful and protecting our interest is having a better partner in Afghanistan. And we will be making our views known and we will have certain measurements of accountability that we expect.
SPIEGEL: President Karzai has already made clear that he refuses to tolerate interference.
Clinton : We do not think that is interference. The most common kind of formulation that I and others have learned from the Afghans themselves is: We need your help to get us in a position where we can defend ourselves against the threats of the Taliban and al-Qaida-terrorists - and then we need you to go. Well, that pretty much summarizes what we want to do as well. We have no intention of staying or occupying territory. But we want to leave a stable enough situation behind that the Afghans can defend themselves.
- Part 1: 'Our Goal Is to Defeat Al-Qaida and Its Extremist Allies'
- Part 2: 'Is Hamid Karzai the Right Partner?'
- Part 3: 'We Know There Is a Lot of Turmoil in the Iranian Political System'