General

Key role for the state, industrialization and inclusive growth drivers for “emerging” countries

20 Mar 2015

Abidjan – A state with a clear, planned vision, focused on accelerated industrialization and inclusive growth, are among the key drivers of what have become known as “emerging” economies.

These were some of the conclusions of the three-day International Conference on the Emergence of Africa that ended today, in the capital of Cote d’Ivoire, Abidjan.

The conference brought together some 40 ministers and government officials from Africa and emerging countries, as well as private sector, academics and civil society to spur debate and exchange ideas about what drives the economic and social transformation it takes to become an emerging country. China, Brazil, India and Malaysia were particular examples.

Participants reached consensus that emergence is a deliberate process, requiring planning, peace and stability, conditions that require the central role of the state. In this context, the state must have a clear and shared vision that translates into action, while also being able to set the conditions for reforms that benefit citizens and support entrepreneurship.

Recognising that Africa’s recent economic growth has not benefitted the majority of people, the participants called for a shift in production and consumption patterns. Accelerated industrialization focused on technology and building human capital was seen as key.

Boosting integration to enable trade, and domestic resource mobilization while curbing illicit flows were additional recommendations to countries pursuing emergence.

The Abidjan declaration also calls for measures to ensure that the most vulnerable people are included in the financial system. For instance, promoting women’s access to credit so as to increase their share of participation in the economy and ensure a better social protection for more people.

Further recommendations to ensure that people are at the centre of transformational growth included improving social safety nets, education and health systems and a focus on the agricultural sector in rural areas to strengthen food security.

The Declaration’s recommendations will be taken forward and the creation of a Strategic Intelligence Center on the Emergence of Africa is proposed for further substantive exchanges.

The Abidjan conference was organized by the Ivorian government in association with UNDP, and with the support of the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

read more

Press Releases: Joint Press Availability With Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I’m really very pleased to be here, together with Secretary Carter, to welcome the president of Afghanistan, President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah. We’re very, very pleased to be here with them today.

As most of you know, and I had a chance to share with our guests, Camp David was named after the grandson of Dwight Eisenhower, who in 1959 became the first American president to visit Afghanistan. And en route from the airport in Kabul, Eisenhower was greeted by tens of thousands of cheering citizens. While in country, he paid tribute to our bilateral friendship, relationship, and shared values and the courage and the fierce independence of the Afghan people – a pride of independence that we have come to know well.

He also marveled at his ability, I might add, to travel so far in such a short time, remarking on how closely drawn together the world was in the middle of the 20th century. Well, today’s productive meetings underscore both the enduring nature of the U.S.-Afghan friendship and the extent to which we have grown even closer after 14 years of shared sacrifice.

It’s worth underscoring that today marks an unprecedented and comprehensive high-level visit. From the dinner that I was privileged to host last night at my home together with my wife Teresa, to the Pentagon tribute for our troops this morning, to a full day here at Camp David, to meetings at the White House that will take place tomorrow, other meetings that the president will be having with various journalists and entities around Washington, and then finally meetings with the Congress on Wednesday and then to the United Nations, we have packed, literally, several visits worth into one. And we believe that speaks volumes about our commitment to Afghanistan and to its citizens, who believe in their future with an inclusive government that serves them all.

Our delegations held three separate sessions, beginning with security, then moving on to the issues of reconciliation and regional cooperation, and concluding with economic matters. American participants, in addition to Secretary Carter, included Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the directors of national intelligence, the CIA, and a range of other top officials in areas of diplomacy, development, and defense. Tomorrow, President Obama will welcome President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to the White House.

The depth of our discussions today reflect the critical nature of this moment, with Afghanistan’s government of national unity now fully responsible for the security of its people and moving ahead on a reform agenda of its own design. At the center of our bilateral relationship is a shared commitment to security and peace and a desire to promote prosperity and social progress throughout Afghanistan. These goals are outlined in the 2012 enduring strategic partnership agreement between our governments, the implementation of which is being tracked by the bilateral commission.

Later this year I will be traveling to Kabul to join Foreign Minister Rabbani in hosting a meeting of the commission, which will be the first such meeting since 2013. I’m also pleased to announce today a new initiative, a plan to create a new development partnership aligned with the unity government’s reform agenda. This initiative reflects the strategic importance of the U.S.-Afghan relationship and it recognizes a new era of cooperation between our governments. The partnership will promote Afghan self-reliance by using up to 800 million in U.S. aid to incentivize and measure Afghan-led reform and development activities and strengthen Afghan institutions, sustainability, and fiscal transparency, and give the new unity government more opportunity to lead its own development trajectory. And in today’s discussion we committed to an energy working group that will focus on the synergies of the regional energy market.

Before closing, I just want to add that I had the privilege last year during the post-election period of spending quite a few hours with these Afghan leaders. A lot of people felt that because of the hard-fought election and the nature of the presidential contest that they would never come together and that Afghanistan would literally split wide open as a result. Close-up, that is not what I saw. I saw two men who understood very clearly what the stakes were for their country, both of whom were determined to validate what was, in fact, a remarkable democratic process, both of whom who were determined to do what was right.

It is easy today to underestimate the measure of courage and leadership and selflessness that was demanded at that moment and that both of these leaders continue to show in their commitment to a unity government.

Huge challenges remain. We all know that. But there is good news in Afghanistan. Life expectancy has risen by 20 years. Health care access has increased dramatically. The number of children in school has risen from some 900,000, who were just boys, to 8 million now, with 40 percent of them girls. The overall economy has been growing, and the combined security forces are now larger and more capable. That is, in fact, no surprise to those courageous American servicemen and women and to the contractors and others who’ve been committed to this endeavor.

On his flight out of Afghanistan 56 years ago, President Eisenhower turned to a friend and said the Afghans were the most determined lot of people he had ever encountered. Today, I have confidence that in the president and chief executive we have people who are determined, and I believe that the vast majority of Afghans are committed to the kind of policies that will create, ultimately foster prosperity, and build peace. We were very touched today at the Pentagon to hear President Ghani affirm the bonds of friendship between our countries that have been forged in sacrifice.

And now I am pleased to turn the floor over to my colleague, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

SECRETARY CARTER: Thank you, Secretary Kerry, and let me add my thanks to yours. To President Ghani, Dr. Abdullah, our colleagues Secretary of Treasury Lew, Director Clapper, Director Brennan for a remarkable day of conversations here at Camp David. And I again want to express my appreciation to President Ghani for addressing the men and women of the Defense Department this morning at the Pentagon and for thanking the more than 850,000 American troops and civilians and thousands more contractors who have deployed to Afghanistan over the years. President Ghani’s remarks at the Pentagon have underscored the extent to which the United States now has a revitalized partnership with Afghanistan’s new unity government.

As many of you know, I saw President Ghani and Doctor Abdullah in Kabul last month, where I was also able to thank the nearly 10,000 American troops still serving there and to assess the changed circumstances on the ground there. Today, we continued this discussion on the progress and the challenges facing Afghan forces as they prepare for the coming fighting season and beyond; developments in NATO’s train, advise, and assist mission; counterterrorism, and Afghanistan’s long-term security objectives.

Being here with Secretary Kerry and Secretary Lew also puts Afghanistan’s security challenges in the broader context of its political and economic development, because as President Ghani himself has said, our relationship is not defined by the numbers of troops but by the comprehensive nature of our partnership. We know security can’t be isolated from the aspirations that ordinary Afghans seek to fulfill every day in seeking to find jobs, feed their families, or educate their children. President Obama has been very clear that while U.S. and coalition troops have transitioned to a new mission in Afghanistan, the United States maintains an unwavering commitment to a strong and enduring strategic partnership with Afghanistan. We will be discussing that further tomorrow in the White House with the President.

And as one part of that commitment, today we can announce that the Defense Department intends to seek funding for Afghan forces to sustain an end strength of 352,000 personnel through 2017. Afghan and coalition military commanders have jointly recommended this force size at least through 2017 to ensure that the security gains we’ve made together are lasting. Now, a force of this size will come at significant cost for Afghanistan and for its international partners, so we will work closely with them to ensure that we are charting a path towards a sustainable and affordable force for the long term.

As we do so, we appreciate President Ghani and Doctor Abdullah’s commitment to ensuring that Afghanistan’s government and its armed forces remain focused on accountability, transparency, and reform. And DOD remains committed to working with members of Congress to ensure that our investments in Afghanistan continue to support our national security interests while contributing to regional stability and a brighter Afghan future.

Today, we also agreed after an interruption of three years to reinstate the U.S.-Afghanistan Security Consultative Forum, which the Defense Department will lead along with the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior, and which will serve as a partner to the body that Secretary Kerry will lead on behalf of our government as a whole with his counterparts. This mechanism will open the door to new opportunities to strengthen our enduring partnership.

So let me thank President Ghani and Doctor Abdullah once again for being here with us at Camp David, once again for visiting our troops and our families this morning. Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT GHANI: In the name of God the compassionate, the merciful, first of all, let me thank you, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Carter, Secretary Lew, Director Clapper, and Director Brennan for a remarkable day, and thank President Obama for making Camp David available to us.

I was 10 years old when President Eisenhower visited Afghanistan. All the school children were lined up to greet the President of the United States. What impressed us most was he chose to ride in an open car. All other heads of state that visited Afghanistan would not show their faces to the public or stand in an open car. That openness is what has characterized the American attitude to life, to politics, and to engagement.

Today, we’ve been very privileged – Dr. Abdullah and I and our colleagues – to engage in a discussion that characterizes a discussion among enduring partners. First of all, again, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women in uniform who have done the ultimate sacrifice: 2,215 Americans have lost – members of the armed forces have lost their lives; numerous members of the Secret Service and civilians. They will be part of our enduring memories, and we pay tribute to them. Equally, over 20,000 American military members have been wounded in action. We pray for their recovery and we hope that their families will recover from the trauma.

American troops – around 850,000 plus contractors – have gotten to know us in ways that very few people have known our country. They know locations that most Afghans probably don’t. They served in the highest peaks, in the most difficult deserts, and the barest of places with the minimum – with minimum support structures. But what they brought was a difference in attitude. We Afghans are fiercely proud, but we always know the difference between those who come in anger and those who come to support us.

It’s not Dr. Abdullah and I alone who want to say thank you. The parliament of Afghanistan by overwhelmingly supporting the Bilateral Security Agreement, previously the consultative Loya Jirga endorsing this, speaks for a consensus. This is a foundational relationship, and we are very proud that this relationship will be transformed into an enduring relationship.

The government of national unity is an enduring phenomenon, and one of its key characteristics is its honesty in dealing with the balance sheet that we have inherited. We have had accomplishments. but we also have inherited corruption, impunity regarding rule of law, gender disparities, disparities between rich and poor, and the enduring poverty – 36 percent of our population still lives under the poverty line. Our determination is to make sure that our people live not just in peace, but with dignity and prosperity.

So I welcome the new developmental framework because this is a framework that will incentivize the Afghan public and the Afghan Government to put our house in order. To be able to spend money on budget and in terms of priorities, we must commit to reforms that our people want and desire. And this is a new mechanism, and I hope that this becomes the new way of doing business.

I very much welcome the energy initiative because that is the difference between Afghanistan of today and the Afghanistan of the future. This energy initiative will turn us into a hub where energy from Central Asia and also increasingly generated into – from Afghanistan will flow into South Asia. It would make the dream of Asian integration a reality, and I look very much forward to working with you.

Simultaneously, I’d like to express appreciation to Secretary Carter for announcing support for the 2017 – for requesting 2017 budget support at the current numbers. This is a major statement of support. Our armed forces and our security forces are going to greet this with enormous welcome because it gives them the assurance that the Resolute Support Mission is continuing and that we are able to focus on our key priorities.

Just briefly, the security environment, we must recognize, is difficult. But our armed forces – an all-volunteer force – are ready to do their patriotic duty. The transition from international forces to Afghan forces has been smooth. We have endured immense sacrifice, but that’s our patriotic duty. We want to thank you for the assist support mission, train-assist-support mission, because that is vital to the continued relationship and buildup of the capabilities of our armed forces.

Peace is our goal, but peace from strength and enduring peace that would bring regional cooperation, and it is important that all regional actors translate their words of the need for a stable and prosperous Afghanistan into deeds, and we hope very much that the past will be overcome and the future will be different from the past and would correspond to our vision.

On the economy, I can assure you that we have a sense of urgency. The reforms that are necessary to create a self-sustaining base to pay not only for our armed forces but for social services. And for uplifting the population out of poverty, our key focus in this depends both on utilization of our immense natural resources, but also regional economic integration and trade.

So once again, let me take this opportunity to thank the national security team of the United States for spending not just time but very valuable time with us. The value proposition today has been of immense benefit to the people of Afghanistan, and we hope to the people of the United States where our joint endeavors will ensure both our security and your security. So let me thank you again and thank the American people for trusting in this partnership and investing in it.

Doctor Abdullah.

CEO ABDULLAH: (In Dari), President Ghani, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Carter, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon to all of you. I join President Ghani in thanking the American Administration, the American people for its contributions and sacrifices made alongside the people of Afghanistan which resulted in the change of lives for millions of Afghans for better. Now you have not only – you have a committed and dedicated partner in Afghan leaders, but also you have a grateful nation which is grateful for what you have done for us.

Today was a unique opportunity to once again take stock of what has happened, but, more importantly, the way forward. In four rounds of sessions, which I considered sessions of quality discussions and which in my engagement with our partners, I can consider it as a very unique, quality discussion opportunity. Truly, it was. Security, economic development, governance, reform, fiscal policies, reconciliation, regional cooperation were discussed, and not only we had honest exchanges of views and understanding of one another, but at the same time we strengthened our commitment to continue with the path of partnership, which has reached, as a result of formation of the unity government – I can also call it a new chapter in our relations with the United States. Once again, thank you for all what you have done, and the very intense schedule during our upcoming days, and at the same time but talking about President Eisenhower’s visit to Afghanistan, there was a little bit of age revelation as well. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT GHANI: Exactly.

CEO ABDULLAH: So I don’t remember that visit; I’d heard about it.

PRESIDENT GHANI: Were you born?

CEO ABDULLAH: That’s a different question. (Laughter.) So that shows that the relations goes back to the history, and then you have been with us during easy times and difficult times. And with today’s discussions and the upcoming opportunities that we are going to have, we will go back to our people reassured, strengthened, motivated – further motivated to continue the path in pursuit of our interest in our common interest which is in stable Afghanistan, democratic Afghanistan, connected Afghanistan, Afghanistan which is not a burden on its partners anymore but rather playing its part in giving to the region as well as to the world. Thank you all.

And on behalf of the unity government, President Ghani spoke this morning eloquently and that was expression of our thoughts, our feelings towards your servicemen, towards your country, towards your people. I join him in every word, and our commitment to make the unity government a functioning – a more functioning idea – not only idea, but an opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and opportunity for our partners is that we still rely on your support, but we are moving towards self-reliance. And as a result of that, Afghanistan will be a better place. Our region will be a more prosperous place.

Once again, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: The first question will be from Pam Dockins of VOA.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Kerry, first of all, is the U.S. any closer to any agreement on a amended timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan? And if so, how many U.S. troops do you anticipate will be staying behind?

President Ghani, how many U.S. troops would you like to remain in Afghanistan beyond the end of 2016? And also President Ghani, you said that Afghanistan was not going to be a burden, the country would work to get its house in order. What do you plan to do to ensure that the country is not a burden?

And finally for Secretary Carter, can you guarantee the safety of U.S. service members after the Islamic State posted the identities of 100 service members and said they should be targeted?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, as you know, the United States ended its combat mission in December of 2014, last year. And the Afghan Government, as I mentioned in my comments, now has the full responsibility for the security of the country. And we have drawn down our presence to roughly 10,000 troops. Now, while our combat mission has ended, we maintain our strategic partnership with the Government of Afghanistan. We continue our support for its efforts to pursue the reforms and continue to train its armed forces in order to end the conflict.

President Obama and President Ghani have had regular discussions about the transition that is taking place in Afghanistan. President Ghani has requested some flexibility in that process, and it’s our understanding – it’s our knowledge that President Obama is actively considering that request. Those discussions remain ongoing and those will really be the focus of the discussions tomorrow with President Obama in the White House. So I think I will simply say that we intend to continue to work very closely on all of the parameters that were discussed here today – the finance, the economy, the reforms, the reconciliation, and of course, energy and security as we have all discussed. And that’s our – that’s the road ahead.

MODERATOR: Please.

SECRETARY CARTER: Well, with respect to the question that you asked of me, force protection is, of course, a paramount objective of us with respect to our forces all over the world. The information that was posted by ISIL was information taken from social websites and publicly available. It wasn’t stolen from any DOD websites or any confidential databases. We take the safety of our people very seriously. At the same time, this is the kind of social media messaging of a vile sort that ISIL specializes in, and that’s the reason and the kind of behavior that causes us to be determined to defeat ISIL in the first place.

PRESIDENT GHANI: The question on numbers is a decision for the President of the United States, and that decision will solely be made by President Obama. What we have emphasized and agreed is that we are strategic partners; we are bound by common interests and will act together to ensure both the safety of United States and the safety of Afghanistan. That is the important consideration. Numbers are a means; they are not an end in themselves. So we are not going to get involved in any discussion of numbers. That’s a field for experts, and we defer to the judgment of those experts such as General Campbell and the very able group of the national security team of the United States.

What I want to emphasize is that Afghan National Security Forces are an all-volunteer force – every single member of this. The defense of our homeland is first and foremost our patriotic duty. Tragedy brought us together – the tragedy of 9/11. Now we have created an enduring frame of partnership. This is based on common values, respect for democratic process, electoral reforms, empowerment of women, education of girls, eradication of poverty. What are we doing not to be a burden, first of all, is to take control of our destiny. Last – two years ago there were 130,000 U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan. Now there are around 12,000. The transition has been probably one of the most effective transitions from an internationally supported regime to a national regime. That should speak for our determination, for our political will, and for our commitment to our nation.

In terms of providing the economic underpinning, we are fully invested in creating a functioning economy and we are – today we are a rich-poor country, meaning we are one of the richest natural resource deposits in our soil, in our water, in our mineral resources, our oil and gas, and particularly our rare earth material. But our people are poor. We want to translate that natural wealth into a social wealth for our people, and that will ensure that within the framework of 10 years that we’ve put in our paper on self-reliance, we will be able to provide for the full services that our people expect from a functioning government.

And our political unity is, as expressed in the government of national unity, is the most important asset. We have chosen unity over division. We have chosen focus on the future instead of repetition of the past, and we stand united to achieve our common goals.

MODERATOR: Next question, Ayub Khawreen, VOA.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, my name is Ayub Khawreen from the Voice of America Afghanistan Service. We broadcast to Afghanistan Pashto and Dari live, and in fact, this conference is right now seen live in Afghanistan, and you will be translated into Pashto and Dari.

My other question on security or U.S. troops commitment was already asked, so I’ll move on to the peace efforts. President Ghani’s vision for peace efforts and getting Pakistan on board to support the peace talks is seen visionary and transformational for the region. How or in what ways can the U.S. be supportive of improving the relations between Kabul and Islamabad in getting Islamabad to support the peace talks and bring Taliban into – to the table?

And secondly, is the U.S. commitment on funding the Afghan national troops, Afghan national army or security forces, is extended till 2016, and you’re asking for 2017 from Congress? But the major part or the first part of this question is the commitment of U.S. troops beyond 2016. How flexible or the chances of flexibility is there beyond 2016 of U.S. Army or servicemen in Afghanistan? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you. Good question, both questions. I’ll let Secretary Carter handle the troop part of that. Let me speak to the peace efforts. We believe, without any question, that the surest way to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region is for reconciliation to take place. We believe that reconciliation should be Afghan-led, Afghan-structured, and we support the president’s very important, courageous, necessary effort to try to see if that reconciliation can take place. The United States will support that in every way that we possibly can.

I am convinced that the passage of the BSA, the Bilateral Security Agreement; the flexibility that President Obama made already in a decision that he made about how we will continue to provide support in training and equipping and assisting the Afghan forces; the efforts we have made with Pakistan, the efforts that President Ghani has made to reach out to Pakistan and the reciprocity of Pakistan; together with the announcement that Secretary Carter just made about the troop support at 352,000 through 2017 – all of these things have to send a message together with this press conference, the four of us standing here, the day we have spent today, the day we’re spending tomorrow, the next day – all of these underscore to any Taliban, to anybody who wants to engage in violence, that we are prepared for the long term to support our friends in Afghanistan.

There’s been too much sacrifice. There’s been too much violence. There have been too many lost lives and injured people – Afghanistan and others, and other countries who have served. More than 50 nations made up this effort in ISAF over these years.

So this is a global commitment to rule of law, to inclusivity, to democracy, to a process where the people of Afghanistan will choose their future. And we hope the Taliban will take advantage of this moment, that they will see that the real way to define the future for their country and to serve the needs of people is to come together through a political process and resolve that future.

Now, we have three fundamentals that we think are important: The Taliban needs to give up violence; they need to sever any ties to any terrorist organization; and they need to support the constitution of Afghanistan. Within that framework, we believe the president and the Government of Afghanistan have enormous latitude to work with the Taliban on defining that future. And as I said, President Obama is committed to doing everything possible that we can to help support President Ghani and CEO Abdullah and the people of Afghanistan in that effort.

SECRETARY CARTER: With respect to the 352,000, the transition that we are embarked upon and that passed an important milestone in late December and that we have been discussing in detail today and that President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah will be speak – discussing further with President Obama tomorrow is a transition from coalition and U.S. lead for security in Afghanistan to a situation in which the Afghan Security Forces will be the ones that are in the lead. So looking ahead to 2017, that is the force that will be in the lead and responsible for security in Afghanistan with a train, advise, and assist role from the United States and its coalition partners and counterterrorism activities. But the bulk of the security burden will be borne by Afghan forces. That’s the path that we’re on.

The Afghan Security Forces are under a tremendous and very admirable process of change and evolution now. They’re taking on new missions. They are developing – further developing their special operations forces. They’re incorporating advanced ISR strike and mobility and other enabling platforms. They’re professionalized in many ways; they’re streamlining their logistics and their support and their sustainment. So there are a lot of things going on in this force, and by pinning one thing down, which is the number – overall number in 2017, that’s a way of providing some stability to the Afghan Security Forces and a perspective into the future as they otherwise undergo this very significant transition.

Now with respect to the number of U.S. forces, that is something that will be discussed with President Obama tomorrow, but for the specific question you raised about U.S. and coalition forces after 2016, our objective – and I think the President has made this very clear – is to be down to a very small enduring presence in 2017 and beyond, which has the mission of train, advise, and assist in counterterrorism. The main event in those years will be the Afghan Security Forces, and this is a way of providing some future horizon and stability to that force as it builds itself and takes over an increasing share of the security mission in Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: The next question is from Phil Stewart of Reuters.

QUESTION: Thank you. To President Ghani, does the need to keep Afghan forces at their peak targeted level of 352,000, beyond providing stability —

PRESIDENT GHANI: Could you —

QUESTION: Yeah. Beyond providing stability, does the need to keep Afghan forces at their peak targeted level reflect your concerns about the security situation in Afghanistan? And could you speak a bit about whether or not Afghan forces can actually reach that level if they’re not there now?

PRESIDENT GHANI: I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.

QUESTION: Whether Afghan forces can actually reach that level of 352,000 because they’re not there now. They’re at around 330,000, to our understanding.

And to Chief Executive Abdullah, could you please give us a sense of what your thoughts are about post-2017 and whether or not you think a U.S. Embassy presence will be enough?

And for Secretaries Carter and Kerry – I don’t know who – which one of you would like to take this, but could you – do you share Afghanistan’s concerns about the extent of a threat from the Islamic State? And if so, what does that say to you about the need for counterterrorism forces – a stable number of counterterrorism forces in this year and next year, at least? Thank you.

PRESIDENT GHANI: Thank you. First of all, the numbers reflect quality. During the last four years, the investment in the Afghan Security Forces has resulted in a force of quality. Our special forces are second to none in the region, and I’d like to thank their counterparts for that immense investment. The Afghan army is profoundly changed. I had the honor of leading the security transition, so I’ve known every corps and every police – provincial police-level issue.

Our force is always dynamic. We are shifting from an emphasis on quantity to one of quality. As the conditions change, we will be viewing and reviewing actively. What is critical at this moment with the train, advise, assist mission is on the one hand, to focus on training, leadership, and an orderly change. We are very pleased that during the government of national unity, we’ve renewed the leadership of the Afghan National Army to a significant degree. Sixty-two of our senior generals retired, and this is bringing about a massive mobility of officers, and we are reviewing this process.

Second is to build systems, procedures, processes where full accountability and transparency in the use of resources can be dealt with. I’m confident that we are pursuing the right strategy. We Afghans for 5,000 years have defended our country. The last 12 years were a rare exception within our history. With the advise, support – with the train, advise, and support mission, we are confident that we will be able to fulfill the goals that the constitution specifies and the desires that our people expect from us.

But again, let me re-emphasize our partnership with the United States is multidimensional, and to reduce it to a single number will miss the larger point. And it’s that enduring partnership that has been reaffirmed today and will be again reaffirmed with our discussions with President of the United States and then with the opportunity that I would have to address the Congress of the United States and the people of the United States.

CEO ABDULLAH: And in regards to your question, already President Ghani mentioned the view of the unity government about the parameters of cooperation between the United States and Afghanistan on the basis of a strategic partnership agreement is in strengthening enduring partnership, which is a multifaceted partnership. So that’s very clear in our part, that – but we are committed – both sides are committed on continued partnership for the sake of common goals in our part of the world. So there is nothing that I can add. There is a unified position on this, like in many other national security interests, so —

SECRETARY KERRY: Secretary Carter may want to give a more granular answer, but just in general terms, we’re concerned about reports of the spread of any terrorist organization, but especially one whose actions are as barbaric and brutal as ISIL. And we have seen some reports that it has attempted to try to do some recruiting and perhaps some Taliban rebranding themselves as ISIL. But this is going to take a period of time to really evaluate and determine what the prospects are for it, if there are any. And we will continue to maintain a counterterrorism platform in Afghanistan focused, obviously, on al-Qaida at this moment. But as things develop, we will have the ability to continue to assist the Afghan forces to provide the security that President Ghani has promised and that the people of Afghanistan expect.

Do you want to answer?

SECRETARY CARTER: (Off-mike.)

MODERATOR: The last question, Lotfullah Najafizada, Tolo TV.

QUESTION: Lotfullah Najafizada from Tolo TV. Mr. Secretary, you talked about the ultimate price the U.S. forces paid in Afghanistan. I would like to ask whether the Taliban is or at some stage was an enemy to the United States.

Mr. President, do you still expect any face-to-face negotiations with the Taliban to happen within weeks? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, as you may recall, in the walk-up to the military actions that took place as a consequence of 9/11, President Bush could not have been more clear and his security team could not have been more clear to the Taliban in their request for assistance in dealing with al-Qaida, Usama bin Ladin, and the ungoverned spaces. That was repeatedly refused, and so ultimately President Bush made the determination to do what he had to do in order to protect the United States and the rest of the world from this terrorist organization and to deal with the aftermath of the egregious attack that took place against the United States of America from Afghan soil. So the Taliban did not cooperate, and the president made it clear at the time that if they didn’t decide to cooperate, they would be aligning themselves with that terrorist organization and with the attack against the United States of America, and the rest is history.

Now, if the Taliban, again, as I said, want to be part of the political process and the future of Afghanistan in a peaceful and acceptable way according to the norms and international values and standards of governance, they are invited to do so by this president, who has set his terms for that negotiation. And as I said a few minutes ago, we hope they will decide to do so. But if they don’t, we will continue to defend our interests with respect to counterterrorism and to assist the people of Afghanistan with their aspirations for peace and stability.

PRESIDENT GHANI: Sustainable peace is our goal. I’m not committing to any announcements till the announcement is made, and you will be pleased when it’s made. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Very well done. Thank you.

read more

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – March 23, 2015

1:07 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. HARF: Welcome to the daily briefing. It’s good to be back.

QUESTION: Nice to see you.

MS. HARF: I have a couple items at the top, so bear with me, and then I will get to your questions.

First, a Secretary schedule update. Today, as you know, the Secretary is hosting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and key members of the Afghan Government at Camp David. They’re discussing a range of issues including security, economic development, and U.S. support for the Afghan-led reconciliation process. Secretary Kerry will be joined by cabinet-level officials, including Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, and others. Following their meetings, the Secretary will hold a joint press conference today at 4 o’clock – most of you probably know that – with Secretary Carter and with President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah.

And a travel update. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Lausanne, Switzerland to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif on March 26th as part of the ongoing EU-coordinated P5+1 negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. So I know that’s not a big surprise to anyone, but there’s the official announcement.

Just a couple more quick things at the top. You may have seen the White House announced that President Obama will host Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi at the White House on Tuesday, April 14th. The prime minister’s visit will underscore the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Iraq and the strong U.S. commitment to political and military cooperation with Iraq in the joint fight against ISIL. I’m just trying to fill out everyone’s calendars for the next few weeks.

Two more – a couple more quick things. You probably saw the Secretary’s statement on the death of Lee Kuan Yew that we put out yesterday. I just wanted to let people know that Assistant Secretary Danny Russel signed the condolence book at the Singaporean Embassy this morning for Lee Kuan Yew.

QUESTION: Do you know if anyone else in the Administration plans to do that?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t. I don’t know. I will check.

On Ukraine, we continue to see an increasing disparity between what Russia and the separatists say and what they do. This disparity threatens the Minsk agreements and stability in the region. Russia and the separatists claim to be honoring the ceasefire, but in reality they are violating it on a regular basis and are encroaching further beyond the ceasefire line, including recent attacks on an important bridgehead in northern Luhansk. Yesterday Russia-backed separatists also launched an attack on the village of

Pisky, where OSCE monitors were inspecting a checkpoint. We condemn this attack, which ended up – injured up to seven Ukrainian troops and placed the OSCE monitors in danger. We commend the OSCE for continued monitoring, even at the risk of personal harm, and we reiterate our call for unfettered access for OSCE monitors. Russia and the separatists it backs will face increasing costs if they do not implement their Minsk commitments. Finally, we take note of yesterday’s so-called International Russian Conservative Forum meeting and look forward to the day when groups from across the political spectrum may once again gather and speak freely in Russia. As always, we will judge Russia and the separatists by the actions, not their words.

And last, in the category of some good news because we don’t often get a lot of this in the briefing room: The World Wildlife Fund is currently hosting the prime minister of Bhutan to promote their collaboration on a joint initiative called Bhutan for Life, which will raise financing to support setting aside more than 50 percent of Bhutan’s territory to preserve forests and wildlife. We welcome the innovative initiative and applaud Bhutan’s commitment to sustainable economic development and environmental preservation.

With that, get us started.

QUESTION: Yay, Bhutan.

MS. HARF: I know. Some good news.

QUESTION: There you go. All of which is – all of that is very interesting. Let’s start, though, with Yemen.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Are there any U.S. Government personnel left in the country?

MS. HARF: I do not believe so. As we said in the statement over the weekend, the U.S. Government has temporarily relocated its remaining personnel out of Yemen. I know we’ve talked a lot about this in this room, but it’s my understanding that the remaining personnel were relocated.

QUESTION: So zero, to your knowledge?

MS. HARF: To my knowledge.

QUESTION: So how exactly is Yemen going to continue to be a model for the —

MS. HARF: For counterterrorism?

QUESTION: — counterterrorism if you don’t have anyone there on the ground? Are you able to do what you have been doing from outside of the country?

MS. HARF: So political instability there has not forced us to suspend our counterterrorism operations. Although we have temporarily relocated our remaining U.S. Government personnel from Yemen, we continue to actively monitor threats and have resources prepared in the region to address them. Clearly, this is a top priority for us and I can’t go into more detail than that, but that’s certainly what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: So you would take issue, then, with critics who say – criticism from people who are saying that you basically had to run out of the country with your tail between your legs and you’re not able to conduct the same kind of counterterrorism operations that you were, say, a month ago?

MS. HARF: I would certainly disagree with that characterization. We did relocate personnel for security reasons, but as I said, we have resources in the region to address counterterrorism, and we have not been forced to suspend our counterterrorism operations.

QUESTION: Okay, but surely it would be better, right, if you had people on the ground there.

MS. HARF: I think our preference is always to have a presence in countries if we can.

QUESTION: I’ll leave it at that. I mean —

MS. HARF: What else?

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia warned that it might intervene in Yemen. Would – and also that comes at the same time that some officials have told I think NBC News that Yemen could be a new Syria. Do you see it going in that direction, when you have all of these Sunni and Shia countries – Iran and Saudi Arabia – intervening in this – trying to intervene at least – in the same way they have done in Iraq and Syria?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t – I would caution you from drawing direct parallels. First, of course, we know the security situation in Yemen is grave. We are aware of that, obviously, and further violence or any kind of deterioration further than this would be catastrophic for Yemen’s communities, for the country as a whole.

But we are being very clear that all parties in Yemen need to immediately halt all unilateral and offensive military actions, return to Yemen’s political transition; have urged a commitment to peaceful political transition consistent with the GCC initiative, the national dialogue outcomes. There are a number of ways they could get back to dialogue here. Obviously, that’s what we believe needs to happen.

When it comes to Iran, obviously we’re aware of reports of a variety of support that Iran has provided to the Houthis, but have not seen evidence that Iran is exerting command and control over their activities in Yemen. So I think it’s just a little different than maybe the link you were trying to draw. Obviously, though, the security situation is very concerning.

QUESTION: Specifically, would you be concerned if Saudi Arabia intervened in the conflict?

MS. HARF: As we’ve said, the parties in Yemen need to come back from the brink here. They need to get back to a political transition dialogue, that there’s not a military solution here, and I think that is our position and it’s pretty clear.

QUESTION: Marie, just on the command and control issue.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You say that you are aware of links between the Iranians and the Houthis?

MS. HARF: And a variety of support, whether it’s weapons or money.

QUESTION: Right. Well, regardless of whether they have command and control over day-to-day operations, the Iranians – I mean, they’ve started direct flights into Sana’a. There were reports of a big ship, Iranian ship unloading weapons there. I mean, whether or not they actually are controlling the day-to-day military operations, there certainly is a very high level of support, is there not, from —

MS. HARF: Certainly, and we’ve talked about that in the counterterrorism report from the State Department. I just think there’s a little misconception out there about our view of the Houthi and Iran’s command and control, and I just think it’s a detail that warrants clearing up.

QUESTION: Right, but —

MS. HARF: But yes, there’s a large number – there’s a huge amount of support. That is true.

QUESTION: But the – but concern has been expressed in many quarters, not least of which your Arab – some of your Arab allies, that Iran is basically taking over the region and it now has control – or it has a significant degree of —

MS. HARF: Influence.

QUESTION: — influence in not only Syria but in Lebanon and in, now, Yemen. Does the Administration not share those concerns?

MS. HARF: We certainly – absolutely, Matt. We certainly share the concerns that Iran has in many places in the region played a very destabilizing role. We’ve spoken out about that when you talk about Hezbollah, Syria, Lebanon. We’ve criticized their support for the Houthis in multiple counterterrorism reports, from this podium. I just wanted to be very precise about the command and control issue. But yes, we are very concerned about their role in the region and their influence in the region.

QUESTION: And will this have any impact at all or come up at all in – when the Secretary goes back to Lausanne?

MS. HARF: I do not anticipate it will.

QUESTION: Can I ask why not?

MS. HARF: Because these —

QUESTION: I mean, if you’re —

MS. HARF: Sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, it just seems if you’re sitting down with the Iranian foreign minister and a delegation of senior Iranian officials, albeit on another topic, I don’t understand why – I mean, are they not empowered by the supreme leader or by President Rouhani to discuss the situation, say, in Yemen, which has gotten bleaker and bleaker since you all left Lausanne —

MS. HARF: That’s true.

QUESTION: — the last time?

MS. HARF: I – the reason, and this has always been the case, that these – we keep these talks focused on the nuclear issue. I mean, those conversations are complicated and difficult enough as it is without putting in all these other difficult issues. Often issues in the news come up sort of in passing on the sidelines of these conversations, but the negotiations are focused on the nuclear issue. We have enough work to do in that area before the 31st, so I think that’s where we’re going to keep it focused.

Yes, Samir.

QUESTION: What about if they have the command and control outside of Yemen to help the Houthis?

MS. HARF: I think I’ve made clear what our position is. I don’t have more analysis to do for you than that.

Let’s just do a few more on this, then we’ll move on.

QUESTION: On Iraq and Iran’s role – I mean, for observers, we’re seeing the country really from inside and outside Iraq, Iran seems to have taken over the leadership of the war against ISIS from the United States. When you see —

MS. HARF: I think that the Iraqi Security Forces would strongly disagree with that —

QUESTION: Can I —

MS. HARF: — as would the Kurdish forces.

QUESTION: The United States has led a coalition against the Islamic State.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But over the past – say since the war against – in Tikrit started, the – to recapture Tikrit, the United States has been bombing ISIS only in the areas where the Kurds advance, not in Tikrit. No airstrike in Tikrit, where the Iraqis are focused.

MS. HARF: Well, we – the coalition has continued to provide air support in the fight against ISIL with multiple airstrikes on ISIL targets in various locations, with the last strikes occurring over this weekend.

QUESTION: But all of them have been in —

MS. HARF: Let me finish.

QUESTION: — the Kurdish area.

MS. HARF: Let me finish with the – and I said in various areas, various locations. And this fight against ISIL is much bigger than Tikrit. That’s one – certainly one part of it. That battle is ongoing. But the fight against ISIL on the military side is much bigger than Tikrit. The United States is leading that with our Arab partners, with our Iraqi partners, our Kurdish partners, but then there’s all the other four lines of effort beyond that that we are leading a coalition around the world.

QUESTION: But isn’t it really fair to say that the Iranians are helping the Iraqi Shia government and the militia – Shia militias who are helping the Iraqi Government to recapture the area? The United States is helping only the Kurdish government at the moment.

MS. HARF: That is patently false.

QUESTION: At the moment.

MS. HARF: That is patently false.

QUESTION: That’s practically true, though.

MS. HARF: No, it is patently false, actually. What you said is not true.

QUESTION: At the moment.

MS. HARF: At the moment, what you said is not true. I will keep saying that until I make my point clear —

QUESTION: Well, what —

MS. HARF: — that the – wait, let me finish – that the United States is supporting the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish forces throughout Iraq in a variety of ways to help them push back on ISIL. We are training Iraqi forces; we are helping them get them more equipment; we are supporting them on a day-to-day basis, day in and day out; we’re helping the coalition take strikes. This is something we’re very committed to.

So yes, Tikrit is a small part of it. But clearly, the United States military is very focused on this and is playing a leading role in helping push back on ISIL.

QUESTION: Just one more question. An Iraqi lawmaker, prominent one, said that there are as many as 30,000 Iranians on the ground in Iraq. Does that concern you?

MS. HARF: I can’t confirm that that number is accurate.

QUESTION: Back to Yemen.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: With the complete pullout, how confident is the State Department that computers and hard drives left at the embassy remain secure?

MS. HARF: Well, the embassy we actually closed several weeks ago, so this relocation over the weekend wasn’t of our embassy. So it’s a question I think we addressed several weeks ago.

QUESTION: And then – okay. And how will the U.S. keep pressure on terrorists now that we’re completely out?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I just made that clear, that the security situation in Yemen – the political instability – has not forced us to suspend our counterterrorism operation, so that’s how.

What else? Yes, go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Japan.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Today, the governor of Okinawa ordered to suspend all works at the site where U.S. military base will be relocated. What’s your reaction on that?

MS. HARF: Yes, we’ve obviously seen that. Construction of the replacement facility is a meaningful result of many years of sustained work between the U.S. and Japan. It’s also a critical step toward realizing our shared vision for the realignment of U.S. forces on Okinawa. Our understanding is the construction on the replacement facility will proceed as planned. Obviously, the Defense Department may have more information given this is their project, but our understanding is that it will proceed.

QUESTION: And also on the Japan prime minister – Prime Minister Abe’s state visit to the U.S., he is likely to address a joint session to Congress. However, an American organization for former U.S. prisoner of Japan say that – say to Congress that Abe should be invited only if he acknowledges Japan’s wartime past. I mean, China and Germany recently called for Japan to face squarely to its past. So will the U.S. Government ask Japan to do so?

MS. HARF: Well, first, you are correct: President Obama will host Prime Minister Abe for an official visit to the White House on April 28th, including a state dinner that evening. The two leaders will celebrate the strong global partnership that we have developed during the 70 years since the end of World War II, underscore the common values and principles that have made the relationship so enduring. They’ll discuss a range of issues, as you can imagine.

I don’t have anything for you on whether he’ll address Congress. I would refer you to his staff or to Congress for that. We’ve been clear and have continued to emphasize the importance of approaching historical legacy issues in a manner that promotes healing and reconciliation for all parties, but beyond that, I don’t have anything else for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Back to Okinawa —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — just for a second, the ostensible reason given for the order to halt the construction was that a giant cement anchor that was dropped into a bay damaged coral. Does the Administration, which has often expressed concern about environmental damage and that kind of thing, have any concerns about the environmental impact of the relocation?

MS. HARF: I can check. To my understanding, we do not. I can check with DOD to see if there are more on those reports, obviously. But one of the things that we think is important is that relocating this facility will actually reduce our footprint in the most populated part of Okinawa and enable the return of significant land south of the airbase there while obviously sustaining the U.S. military capabilities. I know DOD has more on that, and I can check and see if there’s more to say.

What else? Yes.

QUESTION: Your email questions – this Times report about the contents of Secretary Clinton’s emails on Benghazi. First, does State regard the release of that information as a breach of the agreement with Capitol Hill, with the Benghazi committee about how this kind of information would be treated?

MS. HARF: Well, I have no idea who the anonymous sources are, so I couldn’t speculate on that.

QUESTION: Okay. And the account said that the sources, whoever they were, were concerned about their access to secret information being cut off.

MS. HARF: I found that an odd attribution —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — to be honest with you.

QUESTION: Well, do you want to say why you thought it was odd, then I’ll finish my question?

MS. HARF: Well, I just had never seen that attribution used before.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Maybe you all have, but I found it sort of odd.

QUESTION: I thought State had previously indicated that it had no indication there was any classified information in any of the Clinton emails that had been reviewed, which included at that point the Benghazi email. So is it still State’s position that there’s nothing classified in what was sent to —

MS. HARF: I certainly stand by what we said earlier. I’m – as we’ve also said, we’re not going to prejudge the outcome of the review of all 55,000. But again, I was sort of perplexed by that attribution.

QUESTION: Well, do you have any quibble with the story? Is it incorrect?

MS. HARF: Which parts of it?

QUESTION: Any of it. All of it.

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) Is any of it incorrect? I’m not going to fact-check the story. But a couple points I would make —

QUESTION: Well, why not? If it’s wrong, then you should say so. Right?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points I would make. We’re not going to get into the content of those emails. As you know, we are going through a process right now to go through all 55,000, but to do those emails first, the ones that have already been provided to the Benghazi committee, for release first. So all of those emails are right now at the front of our work process. Those are being gone through for public release. So everyone will, as soon as we can get that done, have a chance to look at what we release themselves and make their own judgments. That, I think, is an important point to remember.

QUESTION: Well, it sounds as though you’re – you’re not saying there’s anything inaccurate in the story. So it sounds as though it’s correct.

MS. HARF: I have – I mean, I didn’t read the story word for word to fact-check it, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. Well, what —

MS. HARF: But I’m not going to get into the content. What I won’t comment on one way or the other is the content that is discussed in the story, given we’re still going through them for public release. And we’re just not going to talk about the content until they are released publicly.

QUESTION: All right. Well, let’s not talk about the content.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about one of the other things that was said in the story —

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — which was that it – at least the story says that contrary to what former Secretary Clinton said at her news conference, that there – she did in fact email – use her private email to email State Department employees on their private email accounts. Is that part of the story correct? And if it is, does the State Department have a problem with that?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points, Matt. First, each of the individuals that are referenced in the story had a State Department email, as you all probably are well aware. There are times employees use personal email addresses for work. We’ve said there are ways people can take appropriate steps to preserve those records. So we’ve also said that. Her staff, as we’ve said, had state.gov emails. I know her team actually spoke to this in the story, so I’ll let her team speak for itself.

But I will remind people that the State Department sent a letter earlier this month to a small group of current and former employees whose emails have been subpoenaed by the select committee in which we asked for any records in their possession. So that letter went out, and we – that’s a process we think is important.

QUESTION: Well, right. Except that she said that she always sent – always copied in a state.gov address.

MS. HARF: Her team spoke to that in the story.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to speak further to that.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that —

MS. HARF: Hold on, I think – go ahead, and then Josh, we’ll go back to you.

QUESTION: — the State Department doesn’t have an issue with this because you think you’ve got it covered with this letter that you sent?

MS. HARF: I said that we sent a letter to the small group of current and former employees who were named in a subpoena by the select committee. And we asked for any records in their possession – part of our ongoing process to improve our records. Obviously, that’s something we think is important, and her team can speak more to it.

Yes, Josh.

QUESTION: A couple follow-ups. One is, setting aside the Times story, is there an agreement between the Benghazi committee and the State Department regarding their ability to publicize her emails? In other words, if they wanted to just release the 850 pages tomorrow, is there some deal that prevents them from doing that?

MS. HARF: Let me check. It was my understanding that when we gave them the documents in order to provide them with the limited redactions, there would be conversations before the text was released publicly. Obviously, we are more forthcoming when it comes to fewer redactions with Congress than under the FOIA process for public release. So it’s my understanding that’s part of the process, but let me check on the specifics.

QUESTION: Okay. And the other thing I wanted to ask about is there was a report last week about a memo that was written here at the State Department to the National Archives, and perhaps to the White House in 2012, that talked about State’s record-keeping obligations and said that the agency’s top records officer wanted to narrow those obligations because they thought they were too vague and they were being forced to retain too much information. Can you tell us anything about the process that went into that?

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Is that the kind of thing that would have been —

MS. HARF: The memo? Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — cleared widely within the Department?

MS. HARF: I have a little more information about the memo.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And I think we’re talking about the same one. First, I would say this is a memo in response to a specific request from NARA for agencies to provide input in identifying obstacles to improving records maintenance. The Department followed the NARA-specific template in providing its response. Second, I would also note we published this response memo in full online, so it’s by no means some sort of secretive memo. And then I would say the definition of what constitutes a working file or record for preservation purposes is an issue for the entire government, not just the State Department, as I know you know. And other agencies raised similar concerns when responding to NARA’s request for input at the time as well. So that, I think, is some context for the memo.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you know anything about its clearance? Is this – it does represent the official view of the State Department on this matter?

MS. HARF: It does, and we posted it online. We were very transparent about it.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you know anything about how it was cleared within the Department? Is this something Secretary Clinton would have known about at the time?

MS. HARF: I very strongly doubt it’s something that would have risen to the level of the Secretary of State, but I can check and see if there’s more on that.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. HARF: I obviously was not here at the time.

QUESTION: Do you know —

MS. HARF: I did not clear on it.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you know if you – if the building has responded to the letter from NARA, or is this it? There was a letter —

MS. HARF: Which? About the recent one?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: We have not yet. We will be responding. The one that we received on March 3rd – dated March 3rd – I don’t know when we actually received it – we will be responding.

QUESTION: Can I go to – we done with this?

MS. HARF: I think so.

QUESTION: Can we go to —

QUESTION: One more.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Regarding the personal emails that were sent, did Secretary Clinton submit any of her staffers’ emails that were on her server to State?

MS. HARF: She submitted her emails that were either to or from her that were part of her email account. So – and many of them were to and from advisors, as one would expect.

Yes.

QUESTION: Israel.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: First of all, I want to know – this happened relatively recently, but I – in terms of within the hour or last two hours —

MS. HARF: Uh-oh. Okay.

QUESTION: — so I don’t know if you’re aware of it yet.

MS. HARF: Let’s see.

QUESTION: But Prime Minister Netanyahu met with some Arab Israeli leaders, officials today and apologized for any offense that they may have taken for his comments that he made on election – on the election day.

MS. HARF: I had not seen that. I think we’ve made clear our position on those comments.

QUESTION: Okay. Right.

MS. HARF: I’ll check with the team.

QUESTION: But is an apology – he’s now backed off on two things that you guys took issue with that he said during the campaign and on voting day itself. Is it still the position of the Administration that you’re going to re-evaluate how you go forward in trying to – in dealing with Israel?

MS. HARF: Well, the President, I think, addressed this in his interview that ran this weekend – that given his statements prior to the election, it’s going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing, when it comes to negotiations, that those are possible. So we are evaluating what’s taking place. And I think what we’re looking for now are actions and policies that demonstrate genuine commitment to a two-state solution, not more words. So that’s what we’ll be looking for.

QUESTION: Okay. So public —

MS. HARF: And we’ll see what the path forward looks like, Matt.

QUESTION: So a public renunciation of and apologies for the previous comments are not enough to get you to —

MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s just understandably confusing for people about which of his comments to believe. And so that’s why —

QUESTION: Well, it’s – I think it’s confusing for people who choose to be confused.

MS. HARF: Well, he said diametrically opposing things in the matter of a week, so which is his actual policy? That’s why what we said is words aren’t enough at this point. What we need to see are actions, actions and policies that demonstrate a genuine commitment to the peace process.

QUESTION: Right. Well, this gets back to what – kind of what we were asking last week, which is: Why do you believe the pre-election Netanyahu and not the post-election Netanyahu? Is it —

MS. HARF: I think we just don’t know what to believe at this point.

QUESTION: Hold on. Is it because the peace process – the last attempt at it that the Secretary led failed, and that you don’t believe – so you go into the whole election – the whole campaign, Israeli campaign with the idea already in your mind that, one, he opposes a two-state solution and, two, he’s not a big fan of Israeli Arabs?

MS. HARF: What I think, Matt, and what I think is confusing is that when you say things, words matter. And if you say something different two days later, which do we believe and which – it’s hard to know. It honestly is. And why was one said at one time and why was something different said after the election? Who knows? We can’t read his mind. So what we’re looking for now are actions and policies. He’s forming a government. We’re obviously – well be in touch with him as he does so. And that’s why what we need to see now is action and not more words —

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean —

MS. HARF: — just because it’s hard to know which is the accurate policy. If you change all the time, how do you know?

QUESTION: Well, it suggests that you guys have already decided what you want to believe from —

MS. HARF: No, that’s not true.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: That’s why we haven’t said what the course of action will be.

QUESTION: Well, is – are these things, one, saying that he still is in favor of a two-state solution and, two, apologizing for these, are they at least good – can you at least say that they’re good first steps —

MS. HARF: Well, again, at this point —

QUESTION: — even if they’re only words?

MS. HARF: At this point what we need to see are actions and policies that indicate a genuine commitment to a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Okay, all right.

MS. HARF: That’s what we’ll be looking for.

QUESTION: There was a report this morning out of Geneva which —

MS. HARF: — was wrong.

QUESTION: — was wrong, yeah.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: But I want – I want to know if you can explain why —

MS. HARF: Yes, I will.

QUESTION: — it was wrong. And let me just —

MS. HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Unless you want to repeat what the erroneous report said.

MS. HARF: Nope. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So the report was that the United States was boycotting or not going to speak up in defense of Israel at the UN Human Rights Commission meeting today on the Agenda Item 7 issue, which is Israel and the Palestinians.

MS. HARF: Yes. So this – go ahead.

QUESTION: That is incorrect. Why?

MS. HARF: This report is not correct. We’ve – this is not the first time the U.S. has refused to participate in the UN Human Rights Council discussion of Item 7. We do not participate because we remain deeply troubled by the Human Rights Council’s standalone agenda item directed against Israel and by the many repetitive and one-sided resolutions under that agenda item.

We have coordinated our refusal to participate with Israel, which also did not participate. In fact, I think the report has now been clarified by the news outlet that reported it, including a statement from the Israeli Government saying the reason we don’t participate is because they single out Israel. When the council considers its annual resolutions under Item 7 later this week, the United States will call for a vote and vote against these texts. We will also issue a statement outlining our objections to the agenda item at that time per our standard practice.

QUESTION: Okay. So this would suggest that this, combined with the vote that was taken on Friday which you also – in New York on the Status of Women Commission, suggests then that the reevaluation of your approach towards Israel hasn’t really produced any change in how you’re going about things.

MS. HARF: Well, the prime minister hasn’t formed a government yet. And when it comes to the peace process, obviously, that’s a separate issue. But no, we were – we are very clear, as we have been for a long time, regardless of our policy disagreements or discussions on other issues, that we’re not going to let Israel be singled out by the international community unfairly; we will stand up for them in the international community, absolutely. That’s something we believe very deeply in.

QUESTION: Okay. So then is it correct to think then that your position is that as long as you see something as being biased against Israel or anti-Israel, you are going to continue to oppose it?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to predict everything, but obviously, we believe that things should not be biased against Israel. That’s why you saw us take the action we took today.

QUESTION: Does the Administration believe that resolutions or – I don’t know – motions, resolutions, however you want to call them – having to do with final status issues, such as a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, are those – do you view those as unfair to Israel?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get ahead of any policy decisions about something hypothetical. I’m just not. We obviously continue to believe that the best path forward is for negotiations between the two parties, but I don’t want to get ahead any further than that.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask a question about a report that came out of The Wall Street Journal this morning.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I know that, like, the State Department has commented on this before last week, but the report said that the U.S. Government will try to get the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Bank to cooperate with each other. Is there any truth in that? Is that a change in the U.S. position?

MS. HARF: Well, since the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was formally announced in October, the U.S. Government has encouraged China and the prospective members to work within the existing multilateral development banks and incorporate their high standards – work with them, excuse me. Obviously, this is not a change in policy. We’ve been very clear that if they can take certain steps to maintain high standards that the international community has collectively built over the last 70 years, these new institutions could add global value. So we believe that they should adopt these high standards, including strong board oversight and environmental and social safeguards. That’s obviously very important to us.

QUESTION: Do you have – what is your position on whether or not you will join the bank?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates for you, and that I know we’ve spoken to this.

What else? Yes.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Yeah. North Korean ambassador to United Kingdom Hyun Hak Bong has mentioned yesterday interview with British TV, and he said North Korea ready to fire nuclear weapon anytime. And also he said if U.S. use conventional weapons, they will do so; and if U.S. use nuclear weapons, also they will do so. How —

MS. HARF: Well, I saw those reports. There is obviously an overwhelming international consensus against North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. We have called on North Korea to abandon both programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner. This is required by multiple UN Security Council resolutions. And we remain fully prepared to deter, defend against, and respond to the threat posed by North Korea, obviously are steadfast in our commitment to the defense of not only the United States but our allies and our interests in the region.

QUESTION: So now he had acknowledged to North Korea has nuclear weapons. So —

MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s a big secret.

QUESTION: Big secret, okay. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: There’s a reason we’re working to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: There was a bombing on Nowruz day in the Kurdish province of Hasakeh. ISIS claimed responsibility for it, and it killed scores of people. Do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports. Obviously, we would condemn any attack or bombing by ISIL against civilians. Of course, we’ve seen their brutality, unfortunately, too many times at this point, but I don’t have specifics.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran for one second?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: I’m just curious. You’ve seen the – I’m sure you’ve seen that there’s an Israeli delegation in France right now.

MS. HARF: I have.

QUESTION: Do you – the Israelis have made no secret of the fact that they don’t think that the deal that is emerging, if that’s what one calls it, is a good one. Do you have any thoughts on this visit to France by —

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: — Mr. Steinitz?

MS. HARF: The Secretary said, and I would reiterate, that all of the P5+1 are united in our goal, our approach, our resolve, and our determination to ensure that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon. None of our countries can subscribe to a deal that does not meet the terms of credible, comprehensive, durable, verifiable measures. The President had the opportunity, as you know, to speak with President Hollande on Friday. President Hollande was in complete agreement with the President on the type of agreement we are seeking. We are confident that we will continue to have the kind of unity we need that’s been so important in these negotiations.

QUESTION: Right, but – I understand that. I’m wondering if you have any comment about what appears to be an Israeli attempt to encourage France to —

MS. HARF: Look, I don’t think —

QUESTION: — push back against what’s going on.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think it’s any secret that the – some in Israel’s views about the nuclear negotiations with Iran. We have bottom lines – we, the P5+1: one-year breakout, cutting off the four pathways. That’s what we’re working towards. And we’re not going to accept anything less, period.

QUESTION: So do you have any feelings about the Israelis going to France to – in what appears to be an attempt to hive them off from the rest of the P5+1?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, I think we’re confident that we will have the unity we need inside the room. I understand there’s lots of talk publicly about this issue. What we’re focused on is what actually happens in the negotiating room and seeing if we can get to an agreement.

QUESTION: Right. Well, the Iranian deputy foreign minister, who was actually in the negotiating room, said over the weekend that the – that Iran – the people – the countries that are negotiating with Iran – i.e., the P5+1 – need to show unity. Can you imagine how it is that, while you proclaim that there is huge unity, the Iranian – how is it that the Iranians are complaining that its negotiating partners are not united? How is that —

MS. HARF: I have no idea why the Iranians would say that publicly.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: They don’t let me in on their public affairs strategy, unfortunately. Anything —

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Matt’s glasses are now on the floor. Anything else? (Laughter.) Thank you, everyone. That was a good sign to end the briefing.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:42 p.m.)

# # #

read more

A Collaborative, Unified Ebola Response

We have all been following the news reports on the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa since last summer. It is a crisis that has already claimed over 10,000 lives, and one that must be stopped at all costs.

In my capacity as Special Coordinator for Ebola for the State Department, I have worked with our senior leadership to lead the Ebola Coordination Unit, a team dedicated to mobilizing State Department resources towards an effective U.S. response. Through this unit, we work collaboratively with the rest of the U.S. government and other donors to carry out a unified response.  Our strategy has been predicated on four key goals:

  1. Controlling the epidemic at its source in West Africa;
  2. Mitigating second-order impacts, including blunting the economic, social, and political tolls in the region;
  3. Engaging and coordinating with a broader global audience; and
  4. Fortifying global health security infrastructure in the region and beyond.
[embedded content]

As the President has emphasized repeatedly, our government has applied a whole-of-government response to the epidemic, and is committed to supporting our African partners and protecting Americans. This directive has given me the opportunity to work with the very best of the U.S. government to plan our efforts. We are constantly communicating and strategizing on ways to move faster to outsmart the virus and halt this outbreak.  We have worked very hard to lay out a plan to provide the affected countries with the support they have requested to combat this disease.

Our incredible colleagues in the U.S. Embassies in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, and the U.S. Mission to the African Union have worked tirelessly to support the government and international organizations working on combatting the epidemic. The State Department has also provided lifesaving medical evacuation (medevac) services when needed. We also actively manage the coordination of our international allies to contribute experienced personnel, supplies and funding, to support the UN, and the new UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

To effectively end this crisis means each day we have to move closer to our goal: We have to get to, and stay at zero cases. It’s an enormous challenge, but one that I’m sure we can overcome…together.

About the author: Steven A. Browning serves as the Special Coordinator for Ebola Response.

read more

Minister Paradis Announces Additional Support for Vanuatu

Canada increases its support in response to the humanitarian needs of those affected by Cyclone Pam

March 23, 2015 – Ottawa, Ontario – Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Today, the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, announced additional Canadian funding to support the work of World Vision Canada in responding to the humanitarian impact of Cyclone Pam, which struck Vanuatu in the South Pacific on Friday, March 13, destroying thousands of homes.

“The destruction caused by this cyclone is devastating for the people of Vanuatu,” said Minister Paradis. “Over half of the country’s population has been affected by this disaster, including as many as 60,000 children. Canada’s response is helping meet urgent needs by providing relief items, clean water and shelter, and reconnecting families.”

Humanitarian needs remain significant in the Oceanian island nation. The Government of Canada will continue to monitor the situation to ensure humanitarian needs are met and is ready to provide further assistance if required.

Canadian citizens in Vanuatu requiring emergency consular assistance should contact a consular official from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at +678 22777 or the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at +1 613 996 8885 (collect calls are accepted where available).

Friends and relatives in Canada who are concerned about Canadian citizens they believe to be in the affected area should contact Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada’s 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre by calling 1-800-387-3124 (toll-free) or 613-996-8885 (collect calls are accepted) or sending an email to sos@international.gc.ca.

Quick Facts

  • On Friday, March 13, Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, located northeast of Australia, as a Category 5 cyclone, with reported winds of up to 340 kilometres per hour.
  • The support announced today is in addition to Canada’s initial contribution, made on Saturday, March 14, towards the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to help kick-start immediate response activities of the Vanuatu Red Cross Society, including the distribution of emergency relief items.
  • Further Canadian support was announced on March 18 in contribution to the IFRC’s emergency relief efforts already under way.

Related Products

Associated Links

Contacts

Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
343-203-7700
media@international.gc.ca
Follow us on Twitter: @DFATD_Dev
Like us on Facebook: Canada Is Dedicated to International Development – DFATD

read more

WHO, worried about damage to West Africa’s economy, delayed declaring Ebola an emergency

EbolaWHO, worried about damage to West Africa’s economy, delayed declaring Ebola an emergency

Published 24 March 2015

The World Health Organization(WHO) for two months delayed labeling the Ebola outbreak a global emergency for fear of damaging the economy of Guinea and neighboring countries, according to leaked documents and memos from the organization. Beginning in April 2014, WHO’s specialists, both in the field and at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva, were raising an alarm about the spreading epidemic — but it was not until June 2014 that WHO begun seriously to consider the scope of the outbreak, and it was not until August 2014 that WHO defined the Ebola outbreak as an epidemic and declared an international emergency.

The World Health Organization (WHO) for two months delayed labeling the Ebola outbreak a global emergency for fear of damaging the economy of Guinea and neighboring countries, according to leaked documents and memos from the organization.

According to the AP, WHO’s Geneva headquarters received numerous e-mails by mid-April 2014 from staffers in Guinea calling for help with an epidemic which had already killed 100 people and was likely to spread. In an e-mail from Jean-Bosco Ndihokubwayo, an Ebola expert with WHO’s Africa office to a WHO official in Geneva, he described the situation as taking a critical turn because many health workers at Donka Hospital in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, had been exposed to the virus. “What we see is the tip of an iceberg,” he wrote, later requesting the help of six veteran outbreak responders, writing in all capitals in the email’s subject line: “WE NEED SUPPORT.”

WHO official Stella Chungong warned the Geneva office that terrified health workers might abandon Donka Hospital and that new Ebola cases were appearing out of nowhere. “We need a drastic … change (of) course if we hope to control this outbreak,” she said.

WHO eventually sent Pierre Formenty, an Ebola expert to the region, but many of the other staffers sent to Conakry “had no idea how to manage an Ebola epidemic,” according to Marc Poncin, mission chief for Doctors Without Borders (DWB), the group that led the Ebola outbreak response until WHO declared a global public health emergency in August.

Before the declaration, in early April WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told reporters that “this outbreak isn’t different from previous outbreaks.” In a Twitterpost, Hartl wrote “You want to disrupt the economic life of a country, a region, (because) of 130 suspect and confirmed cases?”

The Guardian reports that in June 2014, WHO officials discussed whether to declare a global health emergency as such a declaration “ramps up political pressure in the countries affected” and “mobilizes foreign aid and action,” read an internal document. WHO, however, was already preoccupied with other outbreaks, including polio, which was a high political priority. There were also issues with the Guinean government, which according to WHO documents, was reporting only confirmed Ebola cases and not those suspected or probable, in an effort to downplay the dangers and avoid alarming foreign workers in the mining industry.

Dr. Sylvie Briand, head of WHO’s pandemic and epidemic diseases department acknowledged that her agency made wrong decisions, but said postponing the declaration made sense at the time because it could have had catastrophic economic consequences “What I’ve seen in general is that for developing countries, it’s sort of a death warrant you’re signing,” she told the AP.

Critics of WHO’s actions before August 2014 argue that declaring an international emergency functions as a global distress call, one that no world leader could ignore. “It’s important because it gives a clear signal that nobody can ignore the epidemic any more,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, DWB’s international president. In a meeting at WHO headquarters on 30 July, Liu told WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan: “You have the legitimacy and the authority to label it an emergency … You need to step up to the plate.”

After WHO declared an international emergency on 8 August 2014, the United States sent 3,000 troops to west Africa to help build Ebola field hospitals, Britain and France also pledged to help build Ebola clinics, China sent a fifty-nine-person lab team, and Cuba sent more than 400 health workers. Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO’s top Ebola official still maintains that labeling the Ebola outbreak a global emergency would not have been a magic bullet. “What you would expect is the whole world wakes up and goes: ‘Oh my gosh, this is a terrible problem, we have to deploy additional people and send money,’” he said. “Instead what happened is people thought: ‘Oh my goodness, there’s something really dangerous happening there and we need to restrict travel and the movement of people.’”

More Stories:

Leave a comment

Register for your own account so you may participate in comment discussion. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to abide by our Comment Guidelines, our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Use. Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief. Names are displayed with all comments. Learn more about Joining our Web Community.
read more