Briefs the Traveling Press
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Inaudible) appreciably better in tone and substance. I was really pleased by the progress that I see we’re making on not only the Strategic Dialogue but on the building of relationships. So I was very encouraged by the day, and coming on the heels of finally getting the transit trade agreement done, which is a huge breakthrough and speaks volumes about the willingness of both countries to work together. It was, all in all, a very good visit.
QUESTION: What are you hoping to (inaudible) President Karzai in terms of (inaudible)? What is your goal going into Kabul?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we have to put this conference into context. This is probably the first time in more than maybe 40 years where there’s been any kind of international gathering in Kabul, and it’s part of a sequence of actions that include our policy, the inauguration, the London conference, President Karzai’s visit. And an enormous amount of work has been done by the Afghans in preparation for this conference. At last count, there were going to be 60 countries represented, plus the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. And we’ve really worked hard with the Afghans and they’ve worked really hard themselves to present their proposals, their plans, at the conference on everything from improving governance to transition to reconciliation and so much else.
So it’s been very well-prepared. They’ve had a good team working on it. And I’m looking forward to meeting with Ambassador Eikenberry, General Petraeus, and Staffan di Mistura tonight and then having dinner with President Karzai and having a one-on-one with him. And then tomorrow I’ll start my day with a meeting with Afghan women because I am absolutely determined that they’re going to be part of this future in Afghanistan. And so we’ll be meeting with people – with women along with the Danish foreign minister and the high representative from EU, Cathy Ashton, and Mrs. Espersen. And I wanted to start my day that way deliberately so that I can reference back to this during the conference.
And we’ll then go to the conference and I’ll participate in the conference but also have a number of bilateral meetings on a range of matters.
But all in all, it’s been well-prepared and I think it’s going to be very substantive and it’s going to demonstrate more Afghan ownership and leadership, which is something we’ve been pushing for.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ve had a number of very long, substantive meetings with General Kayani and today was the latest. We have very frank and open exchanges. I understand the challenges that they are facing and have a lot of appreciation for how they’re addressing them. We have said repeatedly that we want to work with them to do even more together, and we went into some detail about that today. We discussed the Strategic Dialogue because it obviously has a significant security component. And the work that the Pakistanis returned to us today was very substantial and we kind of – we reviewed that.
So we had a very broad discussion about Afghanistan, what the best way – ways to secure peace and stability in Afghanistan. We talked about the recent dialogue between India and Pakistan and got their views on that. It was a really broad, comprehensive discussion.
QUESTION: You said you had talked about what more we could do to assist them, presumably on a military basis because that’s what he does. What kinds of things (inaudible) talk about? I mean, I think we all have a list of things that they would like to have and there’s some additional things that we would like to be able to do, so can you give us some sense of where there was a meeting of the minds (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Karen, we talked about the status of American aid going forward. We’ve been working on a multi-year package with the Pakistanis. We talked about their request for excess defense assets, something that we think makes a lot of sense and that we’ll be pursuing. We talked about the challenges that they confront militarily in the areas where they’re fighting and how we can better exchange intelligence, support the non-military aspect of this. When I was here in October, General Kayani asked if I could expedite assistance that would go into South Waziristan so that people could see very tangible results of the clearing and holding part of the action and try to demonstrate building and then eventually transition. He thanked me for the expedited work that we’re doing.
So it was a very good exchange of what’s working, what we can do better, and I have a list of things that I’m working on (inaudible).
QUESTION: (Inaudible) frank and open (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Those are diplomatic terms, Karen. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: You can imagine. We covered the waterfront.
QUESTION: At tomorrow’s conference, are you expecting that the result will be something that can begin to address the concerns that have been expressed by Representative Lowey and Senator Kerry and others on the Hill? (Inaudible) the direction and the (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I hope so. I mean, that certainly is one of my goals, because we’ve been working with the Afghan Government and we have a process of certifying ministries so that we can increase the amount of the direct aid that’s going to the government. And we’ve asked for certain steps to be taken and representations made. We’ll see more about that tonight and tomorrow. And we also have to take a hard look at ourselves, because it’s very clear that our presence, all of our contracting, has fed this problem. This is not just an Afghan problem. It’s an international issue.
And we have to do a better job of trying to more carefully channel and monitor our own aid. If you remember the article that got Congresswoman Lowey so agitated with good reason, it wasn’t on the civilian side, it was on our military side, because the military was looking for ways to give safe passage for convoys, and obviously, they want to get things done, they want to move goods and people. So the article basically detailed what the consequences of doing that in a way that basically buys protection. Yet at the same time, look, this is a very challenging environment and I can understand why people make some of the decisions. But that’s no excuse. We have to do better.
And so while we’re pressing the Afghan Government at all levels to be more accountable, to go after corruption, we also have to do an equal job of managing our own presence there.
QUESTION: On that --
QUESTION: I’m sorry, just to follow up on that same thing. The military has got a number of task forces that they’ve launched in order to examine on their side these kinds of contracts. What is the State Department doing?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Same thing. I mean, we have an ongoing scrubbing of issues. I mean, as many of you know, Jack Lew has been heading up our internal efforts to really ask all the hard questions, to force decisions to be made, to implement measures of accountability. And we will continue that as Jack moves on to OMB. But between State and AID we have a – we don’t have a task force. We have a directive in the Department and the Agency about what’s expected and then we have oversight of that.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, did you detect in the town hall and the interviews you did with Pakistani journalists any sign that you were beginning to move the needle on attitudes of Pakistanis towards (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that was my impression. It was the impression of people who were with me in October, people from our Embassy, people who follow this very closely.
QUESTION: Vis-à-vis October?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, vis-à-vis October. Yes, I do. And I mean, in fact, one of the journalists after the roundtable said, well, that wasn’t so bad, that was really substantive, don’t you think? The temperature was much lower. And I (inaudible). Yeah, I thought that it was. I thought that there – there was a seriousness about it. There’s going to be the hot-button issues. That’s just what you guys do. I understand that. But in addition to those, there were a lot of substantive concerns. And similarly at the town hall, the range of questions was much broader than I answered last October.
And the government officials also believe that we are moving the needle. Now, I don’t want to overstate this, but (inaudible) President Zardari or Prime Minister Gillani or Foreign Minister Qureshi or General Kiyani, they all said we really believe that the people are understanding that the United States wants to be a real partner to us, that it’s not just about killing terrorists. And I happen to think one of the best ways to kill terrorists is by being a good partner and by creating an atmosphere in which people have trust and confidence that what you are doing is in their interest as well and therefore they are prepared to support their own government in those efforts.
So I thought – I could – I can feel a change and I think our guys who were with me in October remarked on it as well.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible) what struck me was that a lot of questions were more about asking the U.S. for help – how can you help us solve this problem, how can you help us solve that problem . I wonder whether you ever get tired of being asked for help.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well --
SECRETARY CLINTON: But I often try to turn it around, Kim, because I understand the impetus behind that. In our Strategic Dialogue today – the finance minister is very impressive – Minister Shaikh gave a kind of 30-second rundown of American-Pakistani modern history. He said you’ve been with us whenever there’s been a war – 1960s the Cold War, 1980s the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, post 9/11. He said we want to know that you actually care about us beyond times when there is conflict.
That’s a general attitude on the part of Pakistanis. They really are not prepared to believe that we want to make a long-term commitment and work together. So when they say, well, what about this and what about that, I will come back and say, look, you have to have tax reform, you’ve got to tax yourselves, people have to get to be entrepreneurs, you’ve got to do more for women. So I kind of push back and I think it’s a good, honest dialogue between us.
QUESTION: How about funding the production of South Pacific?
QUESTION: Of what?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Of South Pacific.
QUESTION: No, no, Nanette? Did you suspect she had an ulterior motive in asking that question? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Only you would have really picked up on that, Matt. No, but I – for example, there’s a lot of money in Pakistan. Why don’t they have a law that encourages private donations to their culture activities? And I bit my tongue. I didn’t say, well, of course, a tax-deductible charitable contribution assumes you pay taxes against which you can deduct it. (Laughter.) But --
QUESTION: Are you aware that while you were at those meetings and the dialogue today that the North Korean ambassador was meeting with others – were you or anybody in your delegation aware of that and was there any connection to your upcoming (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I mean, they --
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) The Pakistanis are not serving as mutual --
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, that’s totally unconnected.
QUESTION: But you were aware?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I knew, but I mean, it was not anything that we had any involvement in.
QUESTION: There are reports – or actually, there was an investigation by the (inaudible) that showed that government offices in Pakistan and the army have unpaid bills worth (inaudible). When you talked to them about pouring money into projects to help their energy sector, do you tell them perhaps (inaudible) pay for the (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, their response to that, because this is part of our intensive analysis, is, well, we’re government offices; if we don’t have the money, how can we pay the bills? And that’s part of the financial problem that the finance minister and others are trying to sort out.
And the energy sector is particularly complicated because they have subsidized electricity for so long that now that they’re, I think, quite rightly removing those subsidies, they can begin to see what kind of market exists. And obviously, the army and the government are big users of energy.
STAFF: We’re about to take a very steep descent, so --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh yes, don’t forget we have to go down like that.
QUESTION: Did you get any confirmation that the Iranian foreign minister was going to be in Kabul tomorrow?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I heard that. What did you hear?
QUESTION: I mean, they’ve said that before and then they don’t show.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Why don’t you guys go try to interview him?
QUESTION: Why don’t you meet with him?
QUESTION: So you’ve heard it, but no confirmation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I’ve definitely heard that he was coming, but I have no confirmation.
QUESTION: How concerned are they about security (inaudible)?
QUESTION: Do you want (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Very concerned. Very. Obviously, everybody is concerned about security.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that it’s something that can be sequenced. I mean, we want to be able to certify agencies so that we can put money through them. We’ve certified, I think, four now. We want to certify more of them, but there are certain criteria that have to be met.
QUESTION: Thank you.