May 6th, 2009
01:25 PM ET

Clinton at AFPAK talks: Large and in charge

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/06/art.clinton.karzai.zardari.jpg caption="U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari."]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

If anyone needed a better visual that the State Department is back under Hillary Clinton, today's AFPAK meetings provided one. In the State Department's ornate Ben Franklin diplomatic reception room, Clinton presided over the opening session of the two-days of talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Flanked by the two leaders, Clinton spoke at length to the foreign, defense, intel and agriculture ministers from both countries and a team of heavyweights from the Obama administration, including US envoy Richard Holbrooke, CENTCOM Chief General Petraeus, CIA Director Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak.

The diverse group, Clinton said, reflects the fact that "promoting peace must be an all-government effort." But it was clearly Clinton who was running the show, on her own turf. The Secretary of State, who came respectably close to being president herself, addressed the leaders with authority about the Obama administration's strategy for stabilizing both countries.

Since taking office Clinton has been adept at featuring the State Department as once again being the center of US diplomacy, a traditional role that was often in doubt during the Bush administration. Just two days on the job, President Obama traveled to the State Department to announce his appointment of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as his point man for Afghanistan and Pakistan and former Senator George Mitchell as Mideast envoy. She also has fought for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development to take back duties and resources for development that have fallen to the Pentagon over the past eight years.

Obama's foreign policy team is not one of shrinking violets, with Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice. Not to mention Mitchell and Holbrooke, who is a diplomatic tour de force of his own. During the first 100 days of the administration, we've all wondered whether Clinton would be able to stand out among these players. Today she demonstrated, once again, that she is large, and in charge.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Elise Labott • Global 360° • Pakistan
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Ahmed Malik

    Billions have been and billions more will supposedly be sent to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the name of development in these countries. For goodness sake, why is everybody afraid or reluctant to demand guarantees if whole or part of this money will not end shoring up family fortunes stashed all over the world by Zardaris and Karzais of these countries? After all these are hard earned dollars paid as taxes by you and me; is it not?

    May 6, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  2. supergirllondon@twitter

    People need to realise that diplomacy and standing 'shoulder to shoulder' with the international community will be the only way that the US can engage in a viable debate on how to contain the Taliban, but also how to make the people in the region resist the agression and somewhat inevitablilty of a mullah like Taliban strong-hold on the masses. This can be addressed in a number of ways:

    1) The US gives the international community, – those being the EU,UN and NATO – a strong speaking to and tells them straight to stop with the indecisions, and to get together and agree a UN resolution that recognises the Taliban as a legitimate political party or movement who shall participate in diplomacy so long as they call a ceasefire. It's been done with the IRA, Hamas, and the Mehdi army, so why not the Taliban?

    2) You need to get the Arab Alliance (Syria, Iran, SA, Egypt, and Turkey) to engage in transparent diplomacy with the Taliban as well, whilst also laising with the US and UK.

    3) People need to stop looking at Talibani recruits as poor uneducated slumdogs, and instead recognise that the wealthy, educated and smart are part of it's band of brothers.

    4) You need to make the people in countries like Pakistan to see what their Armageddon scenario could be..No womens rights, ex pat families banned from going to the region, child soldiers, existence within a bubble of fear and control. You then need to show them what the positives could be of resisitng the Taliban...scholarships, internet freedom of choice etc.

    5) You need to quite basically shut down all the borders – but with the agreement of those countries. You need to control the various borders. Surely if the international community could find it both practical and logistical to controlling the borders between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Turkey.

    6) And finally, just listen to them all. Find out, understand and recognise why the people in those regions are anti US, Anti government and why they believe it is their way or the highway.

    May 6, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  3. Shekar

    Please be advised that Taliban is Pakistan's army without uniform. How can the US be so naive to think that the uniformed Military of Pakistan will ever fight with the non-uniformed military? They are one and the same. They are in the pretext of fighting Taliban taking the money from US and funding/strengthening Taliban.

    May 6, 2009 at 2:44 pm |
  4. twylamalikah

    Thank you for the stroies you cover. I enjoy watching your program. I dvr it every night. May God Bless you. CNN my news to watch!

    May 6, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  5. daveindesmoines

    The extremists are almost like a virus or cancer that tries to infect “healthy cells.” Hate is that disease. In order to prevent that disease from spreading is to keep good cells (or people) healthy.
    I have seen using google how empty cargo containers are converted into housing. Windows are also included. For the people who are leaving war torn areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the following could be suggested.
    Why not create new communities with walls built to protect people. Check points could be situated along the walled in areas. Several cargo containers could be converted into housing, classrooms, eateries, and medical facilities within these communities.
    Perhaps for the kids who are dramatized by the war(s), the following could be suggested. Pets could be brought in to help kids cope. Music or even teaching kids art could help them cope as well.
    The main part is to keep the good cells as healthy as possible. To prevent them from being “infected” by the hate virus in the future due to being dramatized by war in their childhood.

    May 6, 2009 at 2:30 pm |
  6. Wendell

    Why can,t we hit the Taliban with more air power and just blow up thier strong holds and hide outs. It seems to be more practical this way and then perhaps send in ground troops to mop up . We would lose less troops this way . All this hand to hand combat is getting us nowhere. If you saw the vidieo from Nick today, well ,lets say they mean bizness. You no the American public can,t stand to see all the coffins coming back. Why keep losing troops when we don,t have to fight in such a way . We need to be smarter and hit them harder and stop useing old fashion tactics.

    May 6, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  7. Melissa

    What a truly great idea giving Clinton this position. Obama couldn't have chosen anyone more perfect. She's a very good diplomat.

    May 6, 2009 at 2:09 pm |