Interview With Pakistan's Express News

Marc Grossman
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 
New York City
September 28, 2011

QUESTION: Ambassador Grossman, thank you so much for being with us on Express News. After Admiral Mike Mullen’s statement, U.S.-Pakistan relationship seems to be going through a particularly rough time. What would you like to see, and what is the United States stance towards relations with Pakistan?

AMBASSADOR GROSSMAN: Well, first of all, thank you very much for the chance to be here today and also to speak to your viewers. I think I’d like to just sort of talk about a couple of principles in answer to your question.

First, I think it’s very important to recognize that the United States and Pakistan – we have work to do together. We have work to do together so that the region in which Pakistan lives is secure and stable and prosperous. We have work to do together to stop extremism and terrorism. And so we’re looking for a relationship with Pakistan that works, and I think that’s something that our Pakistani friends would like as well. So the first thing is here that we have work to do together, and I believe we can do it for the benefit of both the Pakistani people and the people of the United States.

Second thing that I would say in answer to your question is that terrorism is a common enemy for Pakistanis and for Americans. As you know very well, whenever I speak to Pakistani audiences – and American audiences too, I will tell you – I never do so without remembering how many Pakistanis have been killed by terrorism and extremism over the past few years – 19,000 civilians since 2003 – and the number of Pakistani military people who have been killed as well, fighting extremism and terrorism. And as President Obama has said, we’ve killed or captured more terrorists on Pakistani soil than anyplace else in the world. So terrorism and extremism are common enemies for the Pakistani people and for the American people.

Now, you’ve heard a lot over the past few weeks about the Haqqani Network and the terrorists that they – the challenge that they pose. And I think the idea here is that the Government of Pakistan recognizes that they’re a threat. And so the question is not whether we will work together, but how we’ll work together to try to deal with these issues.

Third is it’s interesting that so much of the media over the past few days have been on our differences, and yet at the same time, there have been a huge number of contacts at very senior levels between Pakistan and the United States. I had the great honor to participate in Secretary Clinton’s meeting with Foreign Secretary Khar here in New York a couple of Sundays ago, three and a half hours, a review of this relationship and how we want to move forward. Finance Minister Shaikh was in Washington over the past few days to talk to Deputy Secretary of State Nides and the Treasury Department. And of course, General Mattis was in Pakistan just the other day. Ambassador Haqqani continues his contacts here; Ambassador Munter also in Pakistan.

So we’re trying to do all that we can to make this relationship work. We want it to be successful. But it’s very, very important that the Government of Pakistan and the Government of the United States and the people of the two countries recognize that terrorism – and that includes the Haqqani Network – is a threat to both of us.

QUESTION: So how does this relationship move forward, then? I mean, obviously, there’s a lot of acrimony in Pakistan at the statements that were made by Admiral Mullen, so how do – how are both countries going to move forward, especially the United States, after this statement?

AMBASSADOR GROSSMAN: Well, that’s a fair question and a good question. I would say in – we can move forward by following some of these basic principles. I’ve been saying – and I don't know if people in Pakistan will agree, but what I’ve been saying is, is that we ought to be able to find a way to identify our shared interests – Pakistan and the United States – and then act on them together. And I think if we continue the contacts we’ve been having – Secretary Clinton, the foreign secretary, the foreign minister, ambassadors, other ministers, military – we can sort of work our way through this. That’s what friends do, is they have these conversations and they work their way through their challenges.

The other bit of it seems to me – or two other bits if you’d allow me – first of all is to keep focused also on the people-to-people relationships. One of the things we’re very proud of is that we have more education and student exchanges with Pakistan than in any other country in the world. And the United States was among the most active countries in responding to the floods over the past few weeks. And so this idea that we can focus our attention on shared interests is extremely important, and again, I come back to the joint threat, or the common threat, that terrorism, very much including the Haqqani Network, poses to both Americans and to Pakistanis.

QUESTION: Ambassador Grossman, do you feel that the Pakistani government – in your conversations with them and the conversations that they’ve had with other leaders, do you feel that they’re willing to move past the acrimony that was – that came up in this relationship and move forward from that? What are your expectations? And lastly, what is your message to the Pakistani people?

AMBASSADOR GROSSMAN: Well, thank you very much. Well, first of all, certainly in all the contacts we’ve had with our – with the Pakistani leadership and to read statements that have come from Pakistan over the past few days and the continuing contact we’ve had with Ambassador Haqqani, Foreign Secretary Bashir, and obviously others, and certainly the foreign minister, is that people in Pakistan do want to find a way to move forward. And as I say, as I noted to you in these first principles, we ought to be able to find our shared interests, act on them jointly, and that very much applies to terrorism.

Again, I repeat, to me, terrorism and extremism is a threat to both Pakistanis and Americans. That includes the Haqqani Network. And we hope that action, joint action, will get taken. But this is something that’s a very important relationship for the United States and for Pakistan, and so the messages that we have been receiving from our Pakistani counterparts is that we ought to be able to find a way forward. That’s what friends do. That’s why this relationship is so important. And as I say, that’s what we want to have – a relationship that works.

Don’t forget that a big part of Admiral Mullen’s statement was that Pakistan and the United States needed to stay engaged with one another, and that’s what we want to do. This is not about ending relationships or moving away from relationships, rupturing relationships. It’s about continued engagement in the relationship.

And my message to the people of Pakistan – and I thank you for the opportunity to say something – is that the United States is a friend of Pakistan, the United States will be there with Pakistan, that the threats to Pakistan are the same threats that we face as Americans, and that’s extremism and terrorism. And we ought to be able to find ways, and we ought to work to find ways, to identify our shared interests and then act on them together.

As I say, there are important issues out there – Afghanistan, relations with India, the Haqqani Network, other terrorist organizations. But these are things that the United States and Pakistan ought to be talking about and ought to be finding ways to work together. Identifying shared interests, acting on them together, that should be our watchword for the very near future of U.S.-Pakistan relations. So I thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you so much for being with us, Ambassador Grossman.

AMBASSADOR GROSSMAN: Thank you for the chance.