March 31, 2009 to April 1, 2009
At the invitation of Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to the Netherlands to attend the “International Conference on Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context” in The Hague on March 31. Building on the achievements of the conferences held in Bonn, in London, and most recently in Paris last year, The Hague Ministerial should reaffirm the solid and long-term commitment of the international community to supporting the Government of Afghanistan in shaping a better future for Afghanistan and its people.
Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke will accompany Secretary Clinton. The ministerial discussion will be co-chaired by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Afghanistan Kai Eide, Afghan Foreign – Afghan Minister for Foreign Affairs Spanta, and Foreign Minister Verhagen. While in the Netherlands, Secretary Clinton will also have a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Verhagen to discuss issues of mutual interest.
Hillary Clinton Seeks Support On Afghan Plan, Iran Contact
by Sue Pleming
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was en route to the Hague on Monday, set for her first contact with Iran at an international meeting and seeking support for Washington’s new war strategy in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials said Clinton did not plan “substantive” talks with Iran on the sidelines of a conference on Afghanistan in the Netherlands but she hoped Tehran’s presence there would be helpful and could set a good tone for future engagement.”We hope they will sit down with us all at the table and that the Iranians will come ready, willing and able to help Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said State Department spokesman Robert Wood, who is traveling with Clinton to the Hague.
“We want them to play a positive role,” he told Reuters.
The White House said it would like specifically to see Tehran’s help in fighting drug trafficking from Afghanistan, pointing to problems with heroin abuse in Iran.
The Obama administration, in a reversal of predecessor President George W. Bush’s policy of isolating Iran, wants to engage Tehran, particularly on areas of mutual concern like Afghanistan.
But U.S. officials have made clear pleasantries exchanged between Clinton and the Iranian delegation expected in the Hague will not end three decades of hostility with Tehran.
The demand remains that Iran must stop sensitive nuclear work the West says is aimed at building an atomic bomb and Iran argues is for electricity.
“Iran has a right to be a member of the international community, but with that right comes responsibilities — principally as it relates, in this instance, to its nuclear program,” said Denis McDonough, White House deputy national security adviser, in a weekend conference call.
Clinton proposed Tuesday’s one-day conference in the Hague, held under U.N. and Dutch auspices, and said Iran should be there along with delegates expected from over 80 nations.
She sees the conference as an opportunity to win global status of support for the Obama administration’s new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was announced last Friday.
‘BUY IN’ SOUGHT for PLAN
“We are looking for buy-in, first and foremost,” said a senior State Department official of the new U.S. plan.
President Barack Obama’s goal is to crush al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan and adopt a more regional approach to the conflict by involving neighbors such as Iran, as well as players India, China and Russia.
The United States also plans to send 4,000 more troops to train the Afghan army, along with hundreds of civilians to improve the delivery of basic services. This is in addition to 17,000 combat troops being added to Afghanistan before August elections.
Wood said Clinton was not going to the Hague armed with a “shopping list,” but others must do more and could offer practical help with equipment, transportation, training for Afghanistan’s police force and reconstruction projects.
“Failure is a real possibility. We have got to marshal all of our resources in a coherent and coordinated fashion.”
Former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, James Dobbins, said he expected European countries could match U.S. offers in terms of economic resources and civilian personnel.
“I think that within reason the Europeans are going to respond,” said Dobbins, now with the Rand Corporation think tank.
Dobbins said while Afghanistan would be the main focus at the meeting, Pakistan would have at least equal priority on the fringes of the conference.
The United States hopes a strong statement will emerge at the end of the meeting, emphasizing “unity of purpose” in tackling al Qaeda in Afghanistan and safe havens in Pakistan.
“It’s really a matter of coming together on the basic strategy,” said the senior State Department official.