Meet and Greet at Embassy Kabul with Employees and Their Families
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Karl W. Eikenberry
Ambassador to Afghanistan, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
November 18, 2009
AMBASSADOR EIKENBERRY: Well, good evening, members of this very great United States civilian and military and Afghan team. We’re deeply honored and very pleased to have with us today the 67th Secretary of State of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Today, Afghanistan is at the forefront of American diplomatic and national security policy, a welcome and essential change after years during which this mission was under-resourced and unable to fully tackle the many challenges our country and the international community have faced here.
But with the President’s new strategy in March came very distinct emphasis on a joint civilian-military effort, a new clarity about our mission and the resources we have so long needed. And we’re blessed to have a Secretary of State who has provided us with the vision, the funds, the personnel, and the leadership to transform this Embassy into a powerhouse unlike any other embassy in the world today.
She’s given us all in this extraordinary team the tools that we need to be successful. Madame Secretary, it’s a very distinct honor to introduce you to the members of the greatest U.S. mission anywhere in the world. (Laughter.)
Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. It is absolutely wonderful to see you and to have a chance to be here to thank you – thank you for your service, thank you for your dedication, your commitment, your professionalism. I am absolutely delighted and honored to have a chance to greet you on my fourth trip to Afghanistan and to have a briefing and a greater understanding of what challenges you’re facing, what opportunities you are pursuing. So I thank you so very much.
And I have to tell you that most ambassadors say I want to introduce you to the greatest American mission in the world, but I do think that Ambassador Eikenberry did not overstate. And so therefore, thank you so much. (Applause.)
And I want to thank Ambassador Eikenberry, who continues his life of service to this country that he has loved and protected and defended and represented, and I especially want to thank his wife, Ching, for making so many people feel so welcome as they come here and want to know more about what we are doing. We have a plethora of ambassadors here – (laughter) – and I want to thank Frank and his wife, Marie, and Tony and everybody, because we beefed up this Embassy because we knew that we needed to have all hands on deck, that we were going to be asking a lot of you, that we were redefining and deepening our partnership with the people and Government of Afghanistan, so we brought in a lot of extraordinary talent.
We also have an operation in Washington that Ambassador Holbrooke leads as the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, because of course, one of the conclusions we reached in the spring with President Obama’s review of the situation that was in place when he became President was the need to integrate our civilian and military strategy, to look at Afghanistan and Pakistan and the entire region as a whole, to understand the courage and the bravery, the commitment, and the hope of the people of Afghanistan. Because after all, this is their country and this is what we hope that they will be able to take leadership over, defend, and protect, now and into the future. So I could not be prouder to be here.
This Embassy, as you know, was protected during the hardest times by locally employed staff. The American flag flew here for 12 years while we were not present. And to me, that says more than any speech could about the true connection between the American people and the people of Afghanistan. So I want to personally thank all of our locally employed staff. Let’s give a round of applause to you. (Applause.)
I bring greetings from President Obama, whom I just left in China. He is deeply grateful, as we all are, for your service. And we know the sacrifices that you and your families have made to be here and to be part of this mission. It is a great tribute to your optimism as well as your expertise that you see what we see; that we can meet these challenges and we can provide the support that the government and the people deserve to have.
We stand at a critical moment on the eve of the inauguration of President Karzai’s second term. There is now a clear window of opportunity for President Karzai and his government to make a new compact with the people of Afghanistan to demonstrate clearly that we’re going to have accountability and tangible results that will improve the lives of the people who live throughout this magnificent country.
We want to be a strong partner with the government and the people of Afghanistan. And I always say both because it’s not either/or. It has to be both. And I will look forward to the conversations that I will be having with the president and others. We have engaged in a very careful and thoughtful review. When the President asked us to make this review, we wanted to question every assumption, we wanted to look at every possible decision. Because we know that this is a turning point that we all face together.
And I’m very impressed that we’ve had so much assistance from so many of you in providing ideas about the best way forward. Many of you were, as you know, chosen to come here. You were chosen not only by State and USAID, of course, but by Defense, by Justice, Treasury, Agriculture, FBI, DEA, or some other alphabet agency of our government. Because you were thought to have particular skills and savvy to be able to deliver what we need to do together with the government and people of Afghanistan. And we need your help. We need your help to guide our thinking and strategy in Washington. We need your feedback about what works and what doesn't work. We need your honest assessment.
When I became Secretary of State, I said that I wanted us to be using smart power. And that was a combination of what too often has been divided between our incredible military assets, so-called hard power, and our diplomacy and our development, so-called soft power. But in effect, we have done a disservice to both by separating them out and labeling them, instead of looking at what they could represent in the furtherance of our values and our interests around the world.
So smart power requires smart people, and that’s what each and every one of you represent. I think it’s fair to say that nobody knows better than our military commanders that troops alone cannot meet our goals of defeating al-Qaida, of helping the Afghans to get the capacity to defend themselves and provide governance that will result in positive changes for the people of this country.
The military has performed brilliantly time and time again in confronting terrorists and protecting civilians and training security forces and defending borders. But this has got to be a common joint strategy that we have to look at in that way from the beginning, not as an afterthought. And that’s what we are trying to demonstrate, and you are on the front lines of doing that.
We are on track to having close to a thousand American civilians here by the end of the year, tripling the number that we inherited back on January 20th. Whether you are a civil service officer or a foreign service officer, or a locally engaged staff, or an eligible family member, you are all integral to our strategic efforts here in Afghanistan.
And a lot of the work that we’re asking you to do is work that we think has long-term payoff. It may not be immediately apparent, like those of you working in agriculture to support food security and agribusiness, or those of you who are partnering with local governors to expand opportunities for modern banking and private enterprise, launching a “cash-for-work project” to clean water from the Kabul River, or supporting the first Afghan-led elections after 30 years of war, you are helping to create the conditions that will, we believe, assist in achieving the core objectives, not just by the international community or the Americans, but by the people and Government of Afghanistan.
And I want to note the excellent work of our Provincial Reconstruction Teams, all the PRTs who lead our development efforts in some of the most difficult and dangerous regions of the country.
There is one Embassy staff member in particular, a foreign service officer who has gone above and beyond the call of duty that I just wanted to mention, because to a great extent, he represents all of you. Last May, Matt Sherman was on a mission with military colleagues when the lead convoy vehicle struck an IED and flipped. Matt raced from the safety of his vehicle to assist the wounded soldiers. And in recognition of his courageous and selfless actions, the troops of Task Force Spartan, Third Brigade Command Team, 10th Mountain Division, from upstate New York, nominated him – let’s give a round of applause for Fort Drum, okay? (Applause.) The 10th Mountain Division were the first American soldiers to come to Afghanistan after 9/11. I had the honor, when I was a senator from New York, escorting President Karzai to Fort Drum to thank the 10th Mountain Division and to recognize their sacrifice.
Well, the Task Force and the Brigade Command Team and the 10th Mountain Division have nominated Matt Sherman for the Department of State Award for Heroism. And Matt – where’s Matt? Matt, come up here. Matt, please. (Applause.)
Well, Matt, we have approved – big surprise – we have approved – (laughter) – this award in appreciation for your outstanding service. As I said, there are a lot of people who have performed just extraordinary and admirable service on behalf of the United States.
The President and I know this is hard work in a hard place. I’m not coming here to give you happy talk and just say onward and upward. I’m coming to tell you how important what you do is, how absolutely essential your service and commitment has to be to whatever can be achieved here.
We know that the security and logistical challenges you face are considerable. I’m working with Ambassador Eikenberry to improve the quality of life here at post – although I have to tell you, it looks a lot better than it did when I was here in ’03 – to address some of the overcrowding. We are moving forward with efforts to de-mine the multi-acre lot nearby and expand the Embassy compound to provide a more comfortable and safe work environment.
We ask a lot of you, but we do it because we really believe in you, and you believe in our mission. So I want to thank each and every one of you. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here with you.
I want to take a few minutes to say hello to you. I know some of the locally engaged staff want to get home, and I appreciate that So I’ll try to see as many of you, and then please leave so you can get home to your families. But I’m very, very grateful. God bless you, and God bless America. (Applause.)