Interview With Wyatt Andrews of CBS
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you for the time this morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Wyatt.
QUESTION: I want to go back to your discussions with Pakistani journalists yesterday. You were referring to the Pakistani Government and the al-Qaida leadership. And you said, “I find it hard to believe nobody in your government knows where they are,” meaning the al-Qaida leadership, “and could get them if they really wanted to.”
Are you saying you think the Pakistani Government is harboring al-Qaida?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. But what I was conveying is really part of the message of my trip. I knew when I was coming here that there was a trust deficit, that the people of Pakistan had a lot of questions for us. And some of its based on past history, which I understand; some of its based on nothing but misperception and misinformation. So, as you know, for two days – and then I will do it again today – I have been fielding questions on anything that was on people’s minds, from the press or from the public.
But I think it’s also important that if we’re going to create the kind of cooperative relationship that is in our best interest – we have a common enemy and a common threat, we want to see Pakistan succeed – that it be a two-way street. Trust has to go both ways. So I’m not drawing any conclusions, but I am asking the questions that are on Americans’ minds as well.
QUESTION: But to be fair to this quote, it does sound like you’re saying it has to be that somebody knows something some --
SECRETARY CLINTON: No – well, there was some more that I said – I don’t know, I don’t know. Maybe they’re not getable, and --
QUESTION: Maybe they’re not --
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t know. I don’t – I am not in any way imputing any knowledge or motive. But I do think it’s important for the people of Pakistan and for the government, as they express their mistrust of us, our motives and intentions and actions, to realize that when we arrest somebody like Zazi a few months ago, who was trained in an al-Qaida training pack in Pakistan, we have questions.
Now, I am very impressed by the resolve being shown by the Pakistani Government, the people, and the military in particular, to go after the Pakistan Taliban, first in Swat now in South Waziristan. But I don’t believe, no matter how successful these campaigns are – and they are successful – that will be enough, because the Pakistan Taliban, like the Afghan Taliban, are now part of a terrorist syndicate that is headed, or at least directed and inspired, to some extent, by al-Qaida.
We know al-Qaida runs training camps. We know al-Qaida recruits. We know al-Qaida provides funding. We know that they encourage the attacks on Pakistan, the attacks within Afghanistan, and attacks elsewhere in the world. So my message is we really applaud what you are doing to go after your enemy, but that’s not your only enemy, because your enemy is also our enemy.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about that offensive that you just raised. I know you got a briefing from the military and security --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: -- the top leadership last night. But you have also said in the past there has been a suggestion in previous Pakistani assaults on the Taliban in their own country that it wasn’t serious, that the job wasn’t done.
The tone seems to have changed now. Is this a serious invasion?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that in the past, and prior to our Administration, there were many approaches tried by the Pakistanis. As you recall, they struck an agreement in Swat with the Taliban. And the theory behind that was, look, this is a sparsely populated area, it’s a long way away from our population centers. If they want to have some autonomy, we’re willing to give it to them. But of course, they quickly found out that that wasn’t the only objective of the Pakistani Taliban. They continued their offensive.
SECRETARY CLINTON: They moved into Benir, they moved closer and closer to Islamabad, where we are today.
QUESTION: And so no losses really suffered.
SECRETARY CLINTON: But I think that what happened is that the Pakistanis themselves concluded that this was a direct threat. I think it’s important for us to recall that this border area in Pakistan has never been “governed.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: It wasn’t governed by the British, it wasn’t governed by the Government of Pakistan. It was kind of viewed as a part of the country, of course, but one that was remote, that didn’t really have the direct connection to Lahore or Karachi or the rest of the country.
But in the 21st century, given mobility, given communication, and given this virulent ideology that al-Qaida has promoted and represented, there is no such thing as remote places. People are able to move, they are able to wreak havoc. This horrible attack in Peshawar the other day is evidence of that.
So I think the Pakistanis themselves have really come to the conclusion that they have no choice, and they are pursuing a very vigorous, aggressive campaign against the Taliban.
QUESTION: But you suggested this week that this time, militarily, it’s different. They’re going after them this time, you said at one point. What do you mean by that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, in previous years, going back in the 2007, 2006, 2005 period, I think the Pakistani military thought that if they just went into a place, then taught them a lesson, then they could pull out. And what they have learned is you’ve got to defeat them, you have to capture and kill them. You have to then come in quickly with the writ of government and with services for people.
In large measure, there has been a recognition that the Taliban found fertile ground in some of these remote provinces --
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- because there was no judiciary system to resolve people’s disputes. There were not adequate schools, so families turned to the madrassa system for their sons. There wasn’t healthcare. I mean, there were no economic opportunities.
And part of what we have tried to do in our approach – and it came out of our March review and the creation of our Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Holbrooke – is to say, “Look, you have to have a political, economic strategy that goes along with the security strategy.” And we are working with the Pakistanis on just that approach.
QUESTION: Not to belabor this, but I am hearing that you feel a bit more convinced this time that the goal is military defeat.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Now, given the terrain that the military is operating in, I mean, a low –
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- battle takes place at 7,000 or 8,000 feet. It’s kind of hard to imagine. There is going to be leakage. You are going to have --
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- people who know these mountains as well as the back of their hand escaping to live to fight another day and launch another suicide attack against Pakistan.
But going into South Waziristan, which has been the headquarters – and where Baitullah Mehsud, who was a sworn enemy of Pakistan until he was killed, was located, sends a message of the resolve and the determination of the Pakistani people as exemplified by the military’s campaign. And remember, President Zardari lost his wife to the terrorist assassins. I sense a great resolve on the part of both the democratically elected government as well as the military.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about your week here. You worked very hard this week on America’s image here.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: It seems like you singlehandedly took on the Pakistani media. But I was thinking, you know, it is not automatic that, diplomatically, you’re going to care about public opinion. But you are worried about it here. Why is that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, Wyatt, I am concerned about it everywhere. I mean, you have traveled with me before. And everywhere I have gone, I have tried to expand my contact beyond just the official government-to-government meetings, which are part of my job, and which are very important.
So I have done town halls, and I have visited projects that the United States Government is funding to see their effects, and I have done cultural events. I really believe that in today’s world, where information is pervasive, universal, even in countries where the governments may not be as responsive to their people as we would want, public opinion matters. People need to be connected to what their people are thinking. And because the United States has such a global interest, then public opinion in these countries matters to us, too.
So I have been willing to put myself out there to take questions, but not just to receive incoming fire from the press around the world --
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- or the publics that have problems with our country or historical grievances, but to try to reset these relationships, and to turn the page, so to speak.
QUESTION: But I have had the sense that the stakes are higher here. This is now a for-real democracy, just having held a legitimate election. Public opinion is up for grabs. It’s not going well for the United States. And we are at war.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s a good summary.
QUESTION: Fair to say that the public opinion fight here is high stakes?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is high stakes. And when we came into office, the attitude toward our country was very negative. And President Obama, who is so popular worldwide and viewed with such great acclaim by people, including here in Pakistan, has high personal favorabilities. But the problem is translating that into an understanding and an approval of what the United States does.
So, I very consciously wanted to come when I had a schedule that would permit me to spend a lot of time – as you know, this is a long trip for a Secretary of State – and to engage in the kind of discussions and settings that I have been participating.
Now, this is not going to change overnight. But I think from what I have seen in the Pakistani press, what has been reported to me, we’re breaking down some of the barriers. People are beginning to say, “Okay, this has to be a two-way street, and at least the United States is coming forth and listening to us and answering us.” We may not always agree, but let’s try to broaden the basis of agreement and cooperation, and where we disagree, let’s have an honest discussion about that.
QUESTION: But is it fair to watch you this week doing all these public outreach events and see that, wait a minute, we can’t lose – we, the United States, can’t lose much in the way of public opinion here, because that would undermine support for the war?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s deeper than that. I mean, certainly our security interests and our concerns about the threats we face are at the top of the priority for me, or for any member of the President’s national security cabinet. Obviously, we think about it all the time. And as someone who represented New York during 9/11, it is never far from my mind.
But I think it’s important to broaden our relationship. Because one thing we know is that if all you talk about with a country is security and terrorism, you lose a lot of the people who are saying, “Wait a minute. Yeah, that’s a problem, but it’s up there somewhere. My problem is I can’t get the electricity to turn on in my country. What’s the United States doing about that?” Or, “I have no school to send my daughter when she graduates from primary school,” or, “Where do I go to get healthcare?”
And the United States has always been a beacon of hope and opportunity to people, historically. And I think we still are. But I think we have to be more aware in this information world that we live in that everything we do is now not just communicated to governments, it’s communicated with the flick of a mouse. I mean, everybody knows. And we have to be much more committed to public diplomacy.
It is not “You are with us or you are against us,” or, “Take it or leave it.” It is, “Let’s talk about this.”
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the – I’m down to the last couple of questions here. You are going to the Middle East for two days. Context here is that there are reports of very little progress going on on the ground. What good is a two-day visit?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am going to meet with the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and, of course, of Israel, because I believe that this is an important effort by the United States. I am not expecting any kind of big breakthroughs. That’s not the purpose of it.
But Senator Mitchell is there. I want to go meet him, consult with him, consult with the leadership because we are committed to this. This is something that the President started on the very first day, and we are going to see it through. It takes persistence. We know how difficult it is for both sides to enter into negotiations.
Frankly, I think we’re making up for eight years of lost time. That is my personal opinion, because I saw what can happen when the United States stays committed, even though you don’t get across the final finish line, but along the way you make real progress. Well, we are going to do that again. And we believe in the two-state solution. We believe that the Palestinians deserve their own state, and we believe that Israel deserves the security that they should have so that they can pursue their own lives.
That is what we are committed to, and I am not somebody who believes that it is ever going to be easy. But we are going to keep trying as hard as we can.
QUESTION: Has it dawned on you we’re almost one year since the election?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, that’s true. We nearly are, aren’t we?
QUESTION: What would you say is the number one area of the world, one year later, where you wish you had made more progress?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you see, I feel like we have made progress everywhere. And why do I say that? Because I think we had to undo a lot of the attitudes and concerns that people had about our country, about whether we were a true partner, whether we were willing to work with people, whether we had any interest in people, other than pursuing the war on terrorism, which alienates people, instead of brings them to the cause of this fight against terrorism --
QUESTION: Is there one area in particular where you’re saying, “I wish – we need to be doing a lot better right there?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I get up every day thinking we need to be doing a lot better. I mean, obviously, I am here in Pakistan because even with President Obama’s election, it didn’t change attitudes overnight. That is something you have to work on, be patient about. As you say, I am going to the Middle East because this is a very long history of problems that we are willing to tackle. We’re not walking away from it. We don’t expect immediate progress, but we’re not going to give up, and we are going to keep pushing.
I just think around the world what we have tried to do is to – in this first nine months – is to establish a platform that our goals, our values, our concerns can be viewed in a much more comprehensive way by the rest of the world. And in the middle of a global recession, and all the other transnational problems we face, from H1N1 to climate change, I think we have teed up a lot of very positive changes.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.