Remarks With British Foreign Secretary David Miliband
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, everyone.
We also talked at length about our common efforts in Afghanistan, and I commended the foreign secretary for the important speech he gave in Brussels earlier this week. His analysis of the way forward is very much consistent with ours, and we will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in pursuit of our common objectives.
I also want to state publicly what I mentioned to the foreign secretary, my admiration for the incredible courage, service, and sacrifice of the British troops working for stability and peace in Afghanistan. This has been a very challenging period for American and British forces alike, and for the American and British people who are standing behind them. Thanks to the bravery, skill, and sacrifice of these troops, we have made significant gains in the recent operations, but there remains much work to be done.
Both of our countries are still threatened by the same enemy, an enemy that has attacked London, New York, and Washington. We know they’ve attacked us in the past, and, unfortunately, we know that they plot against us even today. With commitment and resolve – qualities in great supply in both of our countries – we can succeed in confronting this enemy and achieving our goals. On this, as on so many other issues, our special relationship is a driver for greater peace, progress, and prosperity not only for our own people, but around the world.
So once again, David, I’m grateful for this opportunity that we had today in a series of conversations and meetings that we’ve enjoyed since I took this office to discuss joint solutions to our shared global challenges.
FOREIGN MINISTER MILIBAND: Well, thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be back in Washington. We have had really excellent talks today, deep and broad. I just want to touch on a couple of issues. The issue of Afghanistan and its relationship with Pakistan is obviously at the top of both of our agendas, and it’s a tough phase for all the countries that are in Afghanistan at the moment. But I want to be absolutely clear that we went into this together, and we will work it through together, because we are stronger together.
We are approaching a very important moment in Afghanistan, the first Afghan-led elections for 30 years, on August the 20th. Those elections need to be credible, and I think they will be especially important, because they are a chance to reaffirm that our purpose in Afghanistan is to support a credible, democratic Afghan Government. There is a lot of talk, rightly, about burden sharing within the coalition, but the greatest burden sharing must be between the international community and the Government of Afghanistan, which increasingly needs to take the lead, the security lead as well as the political lead, in shaping the future of that country.
The contract between the winner of the August 20th elections and the people of Afghanistan is the most important contract of all. The importance and centrality of the Middle East peace process is shown by the range of senior American diplomats and officials in the region at the moment, and we applaud the systematic and sustained way in which the Administration is engaged on this absolutely vital issue for all of our national interests.
On Iran, I think it’s very important to say that on the important nuclear question, the ball is in Iran’s court. And as soon as the new government is formed in Tehran, we look forward to that government addressing the clear offer, the clear package that was put to Iran some 15 or 16 months ago.
I’ll just mention briefly that we also touched on climate change, because I think both of us are clear that today and in the future, climate change will be a major foreign policy issue, and it’s going to be an issue that needs sustained international political leadership from foreign ministers as well as environment ministers, and that’s what we’re determined to offer.
Finally, with great sadness, I have to repeat the condolences that have been offered by my prime minister today to two families of British hostages held in Iraq. I can confirm that on July the 20th, the Foreign Office informed the families of Alec and Alan that it was very likely that their loved ones were dead. This is something that is based on credible information. It is putting the families, obviously, in a horrible position, but we thought it was essential that we continued the open dialogue that we’ve had with them over a traumatic two years.
This leaves one British hostage in Iraq. We are in contact with those who are in contact with the hostage takers. And all of our efforts are working to ensure the safe release of that hostage. Hostage taking is never justified. It belongs to a dark past in Iraq.
We call, as the hostages’ families did today in an incredibly dignified way, for the release of Peter Moore and for final clarity about the fate of Alec and Alan. We do not offer substantive concessions to hostage takers. We cannot do so. It would be the wrong thing to do. But the hearts of every British person will go out to those families today. Thank you very much, indeed.
MR. KELLY: The first question to Arshad Mohammed.
QUESTION: Foreign Secretary Miliband, you both spoke about the challenging time that it has been and you are obviously well aware of the increases in casualty rates. Are you confident that given the skepticism in the British population that you can retain sufficient popular support to work this through, as you said?
And Secretary Clinton, this is the most deadly month, or this will have been the most deadly month, for coalition forces since the war began nearly eight years ago. Do you believe that the U.S. Government could – one, has done enough to prepare the U.S. population for what may be more and more casualties to come, and secondly, could increase its commitments, if necessary, should you see your allies start to quail?
FOREIGN SECRETARY MILIBAND: Well, I think that the British people understand the vital nature of the mission that’s taking place in Afghanistan. They know that Afghanistan was the incubator for global terrorism that struck with such deadly effect in September 2001. I think the British people will stay with this mission because there is a clear strategy and a clear determination on behalf of the United States and other coalition members to see this through.
The military side of the equation is essential. The sacrifice and effort and skill of the forces on the ground – British, American, but also from other countries – has been extraordinary over recent weeks. But we also know that a sustainable solution needs to be a political solution, and that is why we put such emphasis on a political track, reaching out to the Afghan population, a political strategy for the insurgency, but also a political strategy for the neighbors. And I think that is in lockstep with the strategy that’s been set out by President Obama and by Secretary Clinton. And what we need to make sure is that there is a sufficient and clear Afghan drive to provide the governance that that country needs at national and, critically, at provincial and district level.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Arshad, we are deeply saddened by the loss of life of our young men and women as they begin this military effort that is in accordance with the strategic review that the President ordered and whose conclusions he adopted. And we are grateful for the strong support that we have received from the British Government, and particularly, the bravery of the British troops who are fighting alongside our own.
The early reports from our commanders are encouraging – that there has been significant gains made in the areas where they are present. And we know that this is a challenge that is not going to be easily resolved in a short period of time. But we believe that we are pursuing a strategy, both military and civilian, that holds out promise for achieving our principal objective; that is, to destroy, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida and their allies in the syndicate of terror that has, unfortunately, taken root in Afghanistan and spilled over into Pakistan.
I think the American people, like the British people, as David just referenced, know that we are seeking to uproot the enemy that we have been pursuing now since 9/11 in concert with our allies, and that this is a mission that is very much in the interests of the American people and the British people, as hard as it is. So I think the early reports are promising, but we know we have a long way to go.
MR. KELLY: Next question, Dan Dombey, Financial Times.
QUESTION: A question to both the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary, if I may. As the war in Afghanistan continues, how important is it to increase the size of the Afghan national security forces even beyond the levels that are currently projected so that those forces can step up in the fight against the Taliban and to secure populations? And how important is it to get more than the current level of international funding so that the world can be convinced that actually such an increase in size is sustainable over the medium and long term?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think your question goes to the heart of the matter. Our military strategy to clear, hold, and build requires holding, and it requires holding ultimately by the Afghan people themselves through the Afghan National Army and through a trained and well-deployed, professional police force. We have always seen this as our central goal for long-term success in Afghanistan. And the President, in his orders directing additional troops, included 4,000 trainers who will be arriving in September. So we see this as an absolute essential role for us and for our allies to play.
Again, we think that this is a good case for us to be able to make, not only for our own people but for others, that what we’re trying to do is to create the conditions in which Afghan people can have a more normal, ordinary life, going back to farming, going back to businesses – we’re seeing that in some of the territory that is being taken back by our joint military operations – and then to introduce the rule of law, particularly the use of a homegrown military and police force to consolidate the gains and to protect the people and to stand against the return of the Taliban and their allies.
FOREGIN SECRETARY MILIBAND: I strongly agree --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the financial (inaudible)? Do you need more financing, more international commitments, to make --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have to get started on it. We have to get started on it. We’ve got a big commitment for training. We obviously have talked about it with not only those like the British troops and government who are so supportive, but those who don’t have troops on the ground but understand the importance of this. And I think that as we move forward, we’ll be able to make the case and actually produce the levels of commitment that are needed.
FOREIGN SECRETARY MILIBAND: I strongly agree with that. The obvious point is that Afghanistan is not just a country plagued by an insurgency, but also by extreme poverty – one of the poorest countries in the world, an economy that so desperately needs a period of stability in order to grow. And I think that’s a further reason for the sort of comprehensive military, political, and economic approach that is at the heart of everything that we are doing, that the United States is doing, and that the whole coalition is doing.
And General McChrystal’s words that the test of success is not the number of Taliban killed but the number of the local population who are protected, I think gets to the heart of these issues of sustainability. And that is certainly what we are trying to achieve.
MR. KELLY: Charlie Wolfson, CBS News.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in Iraq, can you talk about the U.S. policy towards the MEK in Iraq, and can you also talk about the events of yesterday and whether or not the U.S. has any responsibility towards the people in Camp Ashraf?
And for both of you, in Iran, next door in Iran, there are reports of abuse of political prisoners coming out of Iran and also reports of a fracture among the political leadership in Iran. Can you address those issues, please?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first with respect to the MEK at Camp Ashraf, we are urging restraint on both sides. The Government of Iraq has stated that the residents of Camp Ashraf will be treated in accordance with Iraq’s constitution, laws, and international obligations. The Iraqi Government has assumed security responsibility for Camp Ashraf and its residents, which obviously largely consists of MEK members, the full transfer of security responsibility from the coalition forces in Iraq to the Iraqi army forces occurred on February 20th, 2009. This is part of the turnover of responsibilities to a sovereign nation.
And although the U.S. Government remains engaged and concerned about this issue, it is a matter now for the Government of Iraq to resolve in accordance with its laws. And we are very clear that we expect that the Government of Iraq, now that it has assumed this security responsibility, will fulfill its obligations, to show restraint, will not forcibly transfer anyone to a country where such a transfer might result in the mistreatment or the death of that person based on their political affiliation and activities. But it is now the responsibility of the Government of Iraq.
With respect to the stories coming out of Iran concerning the abuse of political prisoners, we deplore that. We believe that it is imperative for the Iraqi authorities to release political prisoners, to treat them appropriately and humanely, and it is something that is very much telling, because their continuing detention and abuse of political prisoners certainly suggests that the political situation inside of Iran has not yet resolved itself.
And we are very much, as you’ve heard me say before, supportive of the people of Iran being able to express their opinions, being able to demonstrate freely and openly and engage in peaceful protests, for freedom of the press so that journalists are not picked up, detained, deported. And it’s part of the overall concerns that we have expressed for weeks now about what we’ve seen in the behavior of the authorities in Iran and the incredible courage of the Iranian people in standing up against what they view as infringements on their rights.
FOREIGN MINISTER MILIBAND: I think it’s important to say that ever since the elections, Secretary Clinton and I have been at pains to say that it is for the Iranian people to choose their government, but it’s for the Iranian Government to protect their people. And we have refused to fall into any trap that suggests it was for anyone other than the Iranian people to choose their government.
But equally, there are universal values, universal values that need to be stood up for, and obviously, we await further details of the alleged abuses. But it remains a signature part of our approach that without fear or favor, we do point to human rights abuse wherever it takes place. And the most recent Foreign Office Annual Report on Human Rights highlighted Iran as one of the countries of concern, and obviously, we’ve been looking with very great care at the latest revelations that have come out.
In terms of the situation within the government, I think that the world has seen a remarkable testimony to the strength and education and desire of the Iranian people for greater freedom. We’ve seen that in the run-up to the election day when the debate was passionate and engaged, but also since then. And I think it’s very important that we continue to say very clearly that the Iranian Government has responsibilities to the international community, which we want to see them uphold, but it also has responsibilities to its own people that its own people want to see upheld.
MR. KELLY: Last question, James Robbins from BBC.
QUESTION: James Robbins from the BBC. On Afghanistan, to both of you, please, you’ve outlined a comprehensive political and military strategy. Do you accept that there can be no guarantee of success? And to increase the chances of success, is it likely within the future, both countries – both your countries are going to have to commit further troops to Afghanistan?
And specifically to you, Madame Secretary, this morning in London, British judges who want to publish a summary of the alleged torture of Binyam Mohamed were told in court that you personally have said that such publication would damage intelligence-sharing relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. So may I ask you, is that correct? And are you at all concerned that the judges think that justice would be better served if the material was published?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to comment on the last question. Obviously, the issue of intelligence sharing is one that is critically important to our two countries, and we have both a stake in ensuring that it continues to the fullest extent possible.
With respect to your first question, we are just at the beginning of this campaign. We’ve been in office for six months. One of the very first things that President Obama ordered was a complete comprehensive review of where we were. It won’t surprise you to hear that we thought that there were some problems with the approach that had been taken over the previous nearly eight years, and that we then set forth a very clear path forward as to what we believed would be in the best interests of our goals in Iraq.
We are in Iraq because we were attacked from – I mean, Afghanistan – we are in Afghanistan because we were attacked from Afghanistan. And we are obviously pursuing what we think to be a much better thought out, more comprehensive strategy. But we’re just at the beginning. As I said earlier in response to an earlier question, we think that there are some promising results from the military campaigns ongoing at great cost to our military, to the British military, and our other allies who are with us in Afghanistan.
But we’ve got an election to see through. We want it to be as fair, free, and legitimate as possible. It’s difficult to hold an election during a conflict. And we are attempting to assist, with the help of many, many countries and organizations, for the execution of that election. We’ll then have a government that we look forward to working with. We’ve taken no position. We are actively impartial in the election. And so we’re looking for the chance to actually implement the strategy.
The troops that the President ordered are not even all in Afghanistan yet. So I think some of these questions are kind of getting ahead of themselves. I mean, let’s just bear down and do the hard work that we are attempting together and try to see the results as they come.
FOREIGN MINISTER MILIBAND: I think that it’s important to remember that the biggest increase in troop numbers in the next few years is not going to be Brits or Americans; it’s going to be Afghans. And the heart of the strategy is to build up the Afghan security forces. And that’s why the training role as well as the combat role that Secretary Clinton has referred to is so important.
In respect of intelligence sharing, our two countries have a uniquely close intelligence-sharing relationship. I think I’m right in saying that the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee has said that that relationship saves British lives. It’s a relationship which is based on deep trust, as the Secretary has said. And a fundamental principle for both of our countries is that we don’t disclose publicly each other’s intelligence. And that is a fundamental principle of intelligence sharing between any countries, and it’s one that I think is of enormous benefit to both of our countries.
Thanks very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you want to say something about your trip to India last week?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I had a wonderful trip to India. Thank you.