Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday made the case that the United States can't give up on its investments in Afghanistan -- particularly its investments in women -- after U.S. troops leave.
"We're going to have to be very determined to continue working together and encouraging the transfer of resources to those who have demonstrated a track record about being able to use them effectively to get results," Clinton said at the "Advancing Afghan Women" symposium at Georgetown University. "We can't give up."
This winter, U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan will be down to 34,000. By this time next year, the process of handing over control to Afghan security forces will be nearly complete, bringing the longest war in American history to an end.
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Clinton said that as U.S. troops come home, "there will be an understandable, totally human response in our country, like, 'Ok, fine we spent all this money, we lost all these brave men and women, we ran into a lot of problems, we're proud of what we accomplished -- but we can't continue at that rate."
She said that she and others like Kerry "have to be prepared to make the case why we don't have a choice but to continue in some form and fashion what has worked, and I think that will fall to people like us to try to make that argument to the Congress and to the American public."
Kerry noted the remarkable gains that Afghans -- and Afghan women in particular -- have made this millennium. For instance, the maternal mortality rate has dropped by 80 percent since 2001. Societies where women are safe, he said, are more prosperous and more stable, "not occasionally, but always." There are now nearly 8 million students in school in Afghanistan, and nearly a third of them are girls.
"If I have to walk blind into a district in Afghanistan and I can only ask one question to determine how secure it was," Kerry said, "I would ask what proportion of the girls are able to go to school."
By continuing to invest in women there, he said, "Afghanistan will sustain the gains of the last decade and never again become a safe haven for terrorists."
One of the most important signs for Afghanistan's success, he said, will be next year's presidential election and "the peaceful transfer of power from Karzai to a democratically-elected successor."