TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – The U.S. secretary of state Saturday urged Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors to play a role in securing and rebuilding the country as American forces withdraw over the next three years.

Hillary Rodham Clinton also pressed authorities in the region about improving their record on human rights.

Clinton told an audience in Tajikistan that Afghanistan’s reintegration into the regional economy would be critical to its recovery from war, as well as for better conditions in surrounding countries.

Clinton was promoting the concept of a “new Silk Road” that would increase regional trade and commerce.

But, Clinton said, countries must remove or ease trade restrictions and reform commercial laws for the plan to succeed.

Clinton told a town hall meeting in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, that she would raise the issue of human rights with the leaders of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

She said she spoke to Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon about her concerns over limits on media and religious freedoms. In particular, she cited attempts to register certain faiths and efforts to discourage young people from embracing the worship of their choice.

Tajikistan, a Muslim nation with a secular government, is keen to prevent its youth from adopting extremist Islamic views.

But this kind of strategy, Clinton warned, often backfires.

“It could push legitimate religious expression underground and that could build up a lot of unrest and discontent,” she told reporters at a news conference.

U.S. officials said she brought a similar message to Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

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