Paris: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that her country and its NATO allies are committed to a timetable to exit from Afghanistan by 2014, but maintains that the Taliban is still a major threat that needs to be countered.
In an interview with TF1, conducted on the sidelines of meetings of the OECD and UNESCO, Hillary said: “NATO international forces agreed on a timetable in the Lisbon summit last year. So we’ve all agreed that we’re moving – starting in the summer ahead, in July – to withdraw our troops and, we will be finished with our efforts in 2014.”
She also rejected the suggestion that the Taliban are in control of most of Afghanistan, but added that the outfit continues to carry out destructive attacks across the country.
“Actually, most of the country (Afghanistan) is now not in the Taliban’s hands, that is in the hands of either local officials or the central government. But of course, the Taliban still tries to stage these very destructive attacks using suicide bombers and going after unarmed people, undefended facilities, as well as military outposts,” Hillary said.
She further added: “We have seen is a shift in the momentum against the Taliban… But starting in July, we will begin a conditions-based transition to Afghan security. And in fact, there are large parts of Afghanistan that we have no military presence in, and there will soon be more of those.”
Recalling the scenario in the White House Situation Room during the operation to kill al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, Hillary said that it was a very intense period.
“The operation went on for 38 minutes, and we all, as you can look at the expressions on everyone’s face, had been working on this with a very small group of top officials for months, and then it was out of our hands. The very well-trained Special Forces -- Navy SEALs were going to carry out the mission. And it was a breath-holding moment for all of us until we got the final word that their mission had been accomplished and they were safely away,” she said.
She said she couldn’t recall when the picture of her holding her hand to her mouth was taken.
“I don’t know whether it was when something was happening that we were aware of or when I was coughing, as I just did over at UNESCO in the middle of my speech, but there’s no doubt that this was some of the most intense, focused minutes of my entire life,” Hillary said.