Interview With Jill Dougherty of CNN
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for spending some time with us. I want to start with this idea of reintegration and reconciliation in Afghanistan. President Karzai today, in fact, said that he believes that the insurgents will definitely be invited to the peace talks. What do you think about that idea?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, in general, Jill, you don’t make peace with your friends; you make peace with your enemies. And I think what President Karzai is trying to do is to send some very clear messages. Number one, if you are one of the many, many Taliban members who is there because it’s a living, you actually are making money by being in this fight, or you were, in effect, drafted through intimidation of some sort, come off the battlefield and reintegrate into society. If you are a mid-level leader of the Taliban, not ideologically committed to their world view, then you too can rejoin society. However, there are very clear conditions: You must renounce violence, you must lay down your arms, you must renounce al-Qaida, and you must be willing to live by the laws and the constitution of Afghanistan.
So I think that this is the way peace usually gets made. You send out feelers. You see who’s willing to lay down their arms and abide by the conditions. You see how far up that will go. I do not expect Mullah Omar and those people to be at all interested in this. In fact, they’ve made it very clear that they’re not. But I think there are many members of the Taliban who will see this chance to reenter society under these very stringent conditions to be attractive enough to test.
I also think it’s clear that our commanders on the field, General McChrystal and his team, who are in the fight and reversing the momentum of the Taliban, they know, as we learned in Iraq, there is an opportunity to try to convince the insurgents to quit the fight and come back. And that’s part of this peace effort.
QUESTION: You mentioned Iraq. And in fact, the Sunni Awakening was what happened in Iraq. The United States was very actively involved in Iraq in that movement. In Afghanistan, what would be the role of the U.S., briefly? And especially when we get into the financial side of it, there’s going to be a fund, an international fund. Can the U.S. actually contribute money to that? Because after all, there are Treasury regulations that seem to preclude that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, just as we did in Iraq, the United States military will have funds available for these battlefield decisions. And all of the rules and regulations will be abided by, of course. But what our commanders tell us is that it is extremely useful when somebody shows up and says to a young lieutenant or captain, “I’d like to quit, I want to go home, I want to plant in my fields,” that happens a lot. And so to be able to say okay, and here’s what you’ll get if you meet our conditions and you go forward as a member of society – so we want to equip our military.
Now, on the civilian side, a number of countries today made commitments to what is being called the reintegration fund. And that will be a means also to make sure that the people who are now making more money as a Taliban fighter than they made as a farmer or doing something else within Afghan society will be able to support their families and contribute. I mean, that’s the way this works. We’ve learned a lot and we know much more today than we did five or six years ago in Iraq. And I have the greatest confidence in General McChrystal and his team to know how to pull this off.
QUESTION: But can the U.S. actually contribute to that fund without getting some type of a waiver?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yeah. All the rules have to be abided by, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, when you get into reconciliation, that would deal with the leadership, more important members. Five former leaders, in fact, have been delisted – as they say, taken off the UN list of suspected terrorists. Could they be part of the government?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, one of the people who was on the list has already renounced the Taliban and has actually joined the government. So we’re kind of playing catch-up here, that the list has names of people who are irreconcilable – that is clear. The list also has at least one name we’re aware of, of someone who has already died. But there are people on that list who everyone believes, including the gentleman who has already met the conditions, who should be taken off the list and given a chance to be reintegrated.
QUESTION: But the irreconcilables – what if the government, the Afghan Government, actually did want to deal ultimately with Mullah Omar, thinking that perhaps he could bring them Osama bin Laden or something like that? What could the U.S. do in that case?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the U.S. is a partner with the Afghan Government. So we are going to be closely consulting on the structure of the fund, the standards for the fund. I had a long meeting with President Karzai last night and we went over many of these matters that are going to have to be addressed. It is the kind of situation that, by the very nature of it, is going to be somewhat fluid because we don’t know what’s going to happen, who will come forward.
But based on our experience in many areas of Afghanistan today, the Taliban is extremely unpopular. There was a recent poll that has a lot of credibility, pointing out that most people in Afghanistan now believe that they can have a better future, they do not want the Taliban back. But they’re scared and they are looking for some support. And one of the ways, as we saw in an article in The New York Times, I think it was today, is that the military is going in and not just talking to individuals, but talking to tribes, talking to villages. This is classic counterinsurgency, and everyone knows that, as General McChrystal has said, you’re never going to kill or capture everybody calling themself a Taliban. But you can change the political environment so that those who continue to call themselves Taliban become more and more isolated, and that’s what we’re seeking.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about women, because in – this is a subject that’s very dear to your heart, it’s very important.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: We know the traditional approach that the Taliban have taken to women. So if you bring these people in, isn’t it ultimately a deal with the devil?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, not if they abide by the conditions, which they have to in order to be eligible. They have to abide by the constitution and the laws of Afghanistan. That means girls are entitled to go to school, girls and women are entitled to get healthcare. Girls are given the same rights that they should have to be trained. Women have the right to participate in the government. In fact, the new Karzai government has some very prominent women nominated for ministers.
So I think that that’s a concern that some people have raised, but I don’t think that it, in and of itself, is what will impact women’s future. We have to change mindsets. There are very serious continuing problems for many women in Afghanistan that still need to be addressed. And women are just like the men of Afghanistan; they don’t want to see the Taliban come back, obviously, but they still have to be given the opportunities to participate in society.
But a lot of progress has been made. I just was meeting with one of the Afghan women who was presenting at the conference, and she said we want to protect women’s rights, we want to continue to get what we deserve to have, we don’t want anything done in the name of peace to interfere with that. And I said neither do I. And I made that very clear in what I said publicly and privately at this conference.
QUESTION: Now, on Iran, to change the subject here, Iran did not send a representative to this conference on Afghanistan. What do you read into that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not sure yet, because the foreign secretary here in London had told me that he expected Iran to send a representative. There was a name plate for Iran. It may, Jill, be another example of the uncertainty, confusion, division within the existing Iranian leadership. On many issues, it appears that they aren’t quite sure the way forward because the leadership is being challenged and there are lots of forces at work within the society. But I don’t know any more than that.
QUESTION: So we understand that you have at least an outline of sanctions that you want to impose or – on – we understand that you have at least an outline of sanctions that you want to impose on Iran. How quickly will we see those?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I was meeting all day today not only about Afghanistan, but also about Iran, with many countries. I brought with me two of the experts who are working on the design of the sanctions and the enforcement of the sanctions, and we are beginning to share ideas. It is premature to talk about those because I don’t want to preempt the consideration that other countries will be given to this, but it is very much our agenda to move forward.
We want as much support as we can possibly muster, and we want to be sure that we are aiming at the mindset of the Iranians so that they understand that the international community will not be turning a blind eye to their continuing violations of Security Council obligations of International Atomic Energy Agency regulations. But it is premature to talk in specifics.
QUESTION: You have said that the sanctions are basically aimed at the Revolutionary Guard. The Revolutionary Guard, of course, control key elements of the Iranian economy. So in hitting them, how do you avoid hurting the Iranian people?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they have a lot of business interests, as we have discovered. And our assessment is that the sanctions will be tough and clearly aimed at the Iranian economy, but that the international community does not have a choice, that this is, unfortunately, a situation in which the behavior of the Iranian Government, not just in this instance but what they’re doing to protestors and demonstrators. I mean, one of the foreign ministers from a Muslim country told me with just total bewilderment, he said, “How can they have a death penalty to demonstrate?” I mean, that’s basically what they’ve come to.
So their society is under a lot of stress. We think it’s imperative to change the calculus of the leadership, and we think this is an appropriate way to proceed, so we are pursuing it.
QUESTION: But could that be a way – if you make it difficult for the people, could the aim ultimately be to get the people angry at their own government and, hence, have some type of regime change?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is not meant to punish Iran; it’s meant to change their behavior, and it’s not meant as a target at any one person. It’s meant to change the calculation of the leadership, where – whether that leadership is in the supreme leader’s office or in the Revolutionary Guard or the president or anyone else. And I think that it’s hard to sit here and predict exactly how Iran will respond, because we still are open to the diplomatic track, but we haven’t seen much to really prove that they’re willing to engage with us.
And I think the time has come for the international community to say, no, we cannot permit your continued pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is destabilizing, it is dangerous, and we’re going to take a stand against you.
QUESTION: But you seem to be changing – the United States seems to be changing the focus, at least broadening it. Originally, of course, it’s about the nuclear program; however, there seems to be now a desire to punish the people who are responsible for repression.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No.
QUESTION: Isn’t that a broadening of --
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I mean, if – for example, if the leadership had accepted the offer that we made on the Tehran research reactor to ship out their low-enriched uranium, we would not be sitting here talking about sanctions. It was their choice. They chose not to. And I think that the Iranian people are at a crossroads. They have the opportunity to demand more from their own leadership, which has, obviously, from the outside, appeared to have failed the Iranian people and failed the very principles that they claim to govern by. So the voices of protest, the voices of opposition, are going to continue to challenge this regime in Iran.
But the outside world is not involved in that. This is an internal societal matter for Iranians to decide. What the outside world is concerned about is their nuclear program. Absent a nuclear program, we would still be expressing our regrets and our condemnation of their behavior toward their citizens, but we would not be looking for sanctions. We are looking for sanctions because their nuclear ambitions threaten the rest of the world.
QUESTION: Well, Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, good to talk to you.