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Clinton: Afghan progress being made, in cricket

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wasn’t saying that mounting a successful cricket team was the only accomplishment in Afghanistan since 2002, but she did lead off her remarks with Afghan president Hamid Karzai Tuesday by pointing to cricket as a model for Afghanistan’s reemergence. "I might suggest that if we are searching for a model ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wasn't saying that mounting a successful cricket team was the only accomplishment in Afghanistan since 2002, but she did lead off her remarks with Afghan president Hamid Karzai Tuesday by pointing to cricket as a model for Afghanistan's reemergence.

"I might suggest that if we are searching for a model of how to meet tough international challenges with skill, dedication and teamwork, we need only look to the Afghan national cricket team," Clinton said, standing alongside Karzai Tuesday morning before a full day of meetings commenced. "For those of you who don't follow cricket, which is most of the Americans, suffice it to say that Afghanistan did not even have a cricket team a decade ago. And last month, the team made it to the World Twenty20 championships featuring the best teams in the world. Well, today, we have our own top teams from the Afghan and U.S. governments."

The U.S. "cricket" team for today's meetings is an all-star roster, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, CIA Director Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, General Stanley McChrystal, Deputy Secretary Jack Lew, and others.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wasn’t saying that mounting a successful cricket team was the only accomplishment in Afghanistan since 2002, but she did lead off her remarks with Afghan president Hamid Karzai Tuesday by pointing to cricket as a model for Afghanistan’s reemergence.

"I might suggest that if we are searching for a model of how to meet tough international challenges with skill, dedication and teamwork, we need only look to the Afghan national cricket team," Clinton said, standing alongside Karzai Tuesday morning before a full day of meetings commenced. "For those of you who don’t follow cricket, which is most of the Americans, suffice it to say that Afghanistan did not even have a cricket team a decade ago. And last month, the team made it to the World Twenty20 championships featuring the best teams in the world. Well, today, we have our own top teams from the Afghan and U.S. governments."

The U.S. "cricket" team for today’s meetings is an all-star roster, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, CIA Director Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, General Stanley McChrystal, Deputy Secretary Jack Lew, and others.

On the Afghan team? The entire Karzai cabinet.

The broad U.S. government representation matches what the Obama team put forth last month for the U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue and is being framed as a move to establish ties that will endure after U.S. troops begin leaving Afghanistan in July, 2011.

"This commitment… will endure long after U.S. combat troops have left, because we have learned the lessons of the past," Clinton said. "As we look toward a responsible, orderly transition in the international combat mission in Afghanistan, we will not abandon the Afghan people. Our civilian commitment will remain long into the future."

Karzai also looked out to the future, saying that American development assistance was needed so that Afghanistan could "in a few years’ time, not be anymore a burden on your shoulders, so that Afghanistan can stand on its own feet, so Afghanistan can defend its country, so Afghanistan can feed its people with its own income, so we can pay for our lives from our own pockets… ‘Til then, we will continue to ask you for help."

Clinton and Karzai both said that there would be disagreements between the two countries, but that was normal and shouldn’t impede progress. Referring indirectly to one of those disagreements, the makeup of Afghanistan’s election oversight board, Karzai said he was "seeking respectful judicial independence."

But Karzai thanked Clinton for the warm reception and the United States for its intervention in Afghanistan.

"The United States has been with Afghanistan for the past eight years, through a very important part of our history — a part of our history where we began to reconstruct our country, and where the United States and our other allies helped us in all walks of life," he said. "The consequence of that for us, the Afghan people, has been one of tremendous achievements — the advance of our team in cricket being one."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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