Interview With Andrea Mitchell of NBC

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy
Islamabad, Pakistan
July 18, 2010

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for doing this interview today. You have come to Pakistan at a very difficult time. Perhaps it’s always a difficult time in Pakistan, but terror attacks, increasing security threats, and attacks in Afghanistan at the same time, and the relationship between the two. How can you persuade the Pakistanis to step up to the challenge and do more about the insurgents based here who are attacking our forces in Afghanistan?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, I think we’ve made progress in the last 17, 18 months. We have certainly seen a change in attitude on the part of the Pakistani Government. When I became Secretary of State, there was very little action on the part of the Pakistani military against any terrorist group, and I made the case then that we had seen the development of a kind of syndicate of terror and there weren’t the lines between these groups that perhaps in the past there had been.


So we’ve seen a lot of positive action. We are always asking for more, because we think these groups pose a direct threat to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, and then beyond their borders to the United States and others. So we’re not satisfied, but we do see that there’s been progress made.


QUESTION: There’s a lot of mutual suspicion and distrust to overcome. And in fact, we have yet to see them really go after – hard after some of the insurgents who are causing so much trouble in Afghanistan.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ve seen increasing efforts on the part of the Pakistanis. It is not what we want or what we believe is in the interests of stability in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’re all pushing very hard. But in order to fill the trust deficit that I identified during my trip last year, it takes a lot of little steps that add up. So our Strategic Dialogue, which we have enhanced and broadened, is creating confidence and building some trust between our two governments’ experts and others. The constant exchanges of information between our military and civilian leaders with theirs has begun to build a level of candor that, frankly, was missing.


I know how impatient I am and I know how impatient Americans are, because, obviously, we do not want to see another attack coming out of Pakistan and we’ve been quite lucky in foiling a number of them, as you know. But we just have to stay at it every single day. And slowly but surely, we’re beginning to create a relationship that I think will lead to some of the tough choices that have to be made.


QUESTION: General Petraeus was here and has recommended, as has Senator Levin, that we blacklist one group, the Haqqani Network, put them on the terror list. Where do you stand on that, because the Pakistanis are pushing back on that and it would complicate an eventual solution in Afghanistan, according to the Karzai government?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, a number of their leaders are already on our terrorist list, quite a few of them, actually. And we are now very much in the process of examining whether to put the network on the terrorist list. Obviously, I take seriously what my colleagues – my former colleagues from the Senate as well as our military leaders say, and there’s a legal statutory framework we have to fit into, but we’re looking at that very hard right now.


QUESTION: At the same time, we see the Karzai government failing to step up to some really big tests. What is your assessment right now as to whether within the timeframe of withdrawing, beginning a withdrawal by July – next July, a year from now, whether the Karzai government will have asserted enough authority? Because right now, there’s no communication or real governance between Kabul and large stretches of the country.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Which has been the history in Afghanistan, as you know.


QUESTION: Exactly.


SECRETARY CLINTON: I think we have also seen some constructive steps taken by the central government in Kabul and by President Karzai. And a lot of times, the successes that demonstrate that they’re heading in the right direction are overwhelmed by the continuing insurgency. I thought it was a very positive step that President Karzai agreed with General Petraeus to support the creation of local defense forces, because the fact is that this very large land mass which has a lot of quite inhospitable terrain needs to have a presence for security that will be beyond the ability for some time of the national government to provide or the international forces.


So I think we’re moving toward the partnership that is most likely to be successful. It has taken a long time. But to be fair to the Afghans, the expectations were not quite as clear as they have become in the last 18 months. The troops that our own military commanders have been asking for consistently were not provided until President Obama provided them. So we were in a holding pattern and, frankly, losing ground to the resurgent Taliban efforts.


So I think we now really should look at this as what we’ve done in the last 18 months, knowing how hard it will be, but we’ve got good leadership in place. I’ve seen President Karzai make some very tough decisions over the course of the last 18 months. We just have to, again, keep pushing in the direction that we think will lead to a stable, peaceful Afghanistan.


QUESTION: Do you think it’s realistic to think that Afghanistan can be stable enough so that we can start drawing down a year from now?


SECRETARY CLINTON: I think the President has been very clear that in July of 2011, we want to see greater Afghan ownership. The idea behind his 2011 date was to make it clear that we were demonstrating both resolve that we were in this and we thought it was the right strategy, but that we were urgently seeking to see more leadership by the Afghans themselves. That’s a difficult line to walk. It is maybe not satisfying to those who say, “Oh, get out completely,” and those who say, “No end date.” But the fact is what we’re trying to do is to see more leadership by the Afghans.


So starting next July, after a very careful assessment, we hope to be able to turn the lead and maybe exclusive security responsibility in certain parts of the country to the Afghans. There’s a lot of positive reporting coming out of improvements in the Afghan National Army. A lot of work still to do with the police force, but we’re making progress. We just want to make sure that people understand that they’re going to have to step up and take responsibility.


QUESTION: But by setting that timeframe, even though it’s not a hard deadline, there are some who say that if you’re sitting in Kabul, you’re Hamid Karzai, and you’re sitting in Islamabad, you say let’s cut a deal with the Taliban. Those Americans – they’re not going to stick around; they don’t have the commitment to this long-term.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do. We do have a long-term commitment. We have a long-term commitment to a partnership with Afghanistan. I’ve made that very clear, as has the President. The nature of that partnership will alter over time, as it has with many other countries that the United States has been deeply involved in. We want to see a reconciliation process of the right kind so that there can be buy-in to a national government as long as people are willing to renounce violence, renounce al-Qaida, abide by the laws.


But we’re well aware of the fact that this has been and probably always will be a very difficult neighborhood. And what President Karzai is trying to do with our help is to quell the insurgency, to create security and a connection between different parts of the country with Kabul to deliver services so that people feel like their lives are getting better. But he knows he has to get along with his neighbors and he knows even though he can count on an enduring commitment from the United States, that we’re not going to be the only answer to the problems facing Afghanistan. He needs to get better relations, and we’re seeing some signs of that between Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular.


QUESTION: And you’re okay with him making overtures and cutting deals reconciling with some Taliban members?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have an agreement to have transparency and full understanding of what he’s doing and vice versa what we are seeing done or doing ourselves. We’ve said from the very beginning if these insurgent elements, Taliban leaders or groups, are willing to abide by a political process and renounce violence – we’ve seen this all over the world. I mean, when insurgents and governments come together to make a peace treaty and an agreement on the way forward, obviously, it’s a somewhat difficult endeavor. We understand that.


But we do want to encourage him to make peace with those for whom it’s possible. There are a lot of members of the Taliban who will not renounce al-Qaida. They have a very close working relationship with Al-Qaida. They will not agree to give up violence and integrate into the society and they will not agree to abide by the constitution and laws, including the laws protecting women. So I think that the universe of those who are willing to meet the criteria is not as big as some fear it is. But we’re deeply engaged in and working with the Karzai government on this on a regular basis.


QUESTION: Here in Islamabad, the last time, nine months ago, you suggested that you were confident that there were elements of the Pakistani Government, presumably in the intelligence services, who knew where Usama bin Ladin is and could get them – get him if they wanted to. Do you still believe that?


SECRETARY CLINTON: I do. I do. I think that there’s a bit of a debate going on within certain elements of the Pakistani Government. Remember, they also feel they were abandoned by the United States on several occasions, and they don’t know whether they can count on the United States. They don’t know how many fights they can take on at once with the various groups, including al-Qaida, that have found safe havens.


Our argument is very simple: Look, you’ve got to take on every nongovernmental armed force inside your country, because even though you think they won’t bother you today, there’s no guarantee. It’s like keeping a poisonous snake in your backyard. You think, oh, it’ll only go after the stranger or the intruder. You don’t know whether tomorrow it’ll go after you. So we’ve been making that case and I find greater receptivity to it, but we’re still having to really make it strongly.


QUESTION: Speaking of poisonous snakes, you received a letter from the Foreign Secretary William Hague, the UK rejecting any suggestion that BP was at fault or did anything improper regarding the release of Megrahi, the convicted killer, the bomber of Pan Am 103. Does that end it? Does that assertion by the British that they see nothing wrong – it was a mistake, they say, by the previous government, but that there was nothing wrong in the way the Scottish courts handled this release – does that end the case, as far as you’re concerned?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think it will end it in terms of the inquiries that Congress and the Administration have made. It may be that there’s nothing to be done about it, which is deeply frustrating. I spoke out both publicly and privately against the release of Megrahi. But this current UK government, Prime Minister Cameron, Foreign Secretary Hague, has said, look, we were against it, we spoke out against it when we were in opposition, we would not have done it were we in power; however, we didn’t have all the cards because with the devolution of authority that has occurred in the last years in the United Kingdom, the Scottish authorities had the authority to make the decision. And I spoke to Scottish authorities during the time that I knew this was being considered, and they had a very different view and they acted, as we now know, to release someone who they thought was dying and on a humanitarian release.


QUESTION: Knowing what you know now from the doctor’s report and BP’s own admission that they were involved in discussing commercial interests and prisoner transfer agreements, do you personally have any doubt that BP tried to influence that release?


SECRETARY CLINTON: I can’t – I don’t have enough information, Andrea. I mean, they, on their own words, have said, look, they raised the issue. But both the British and the Scottish governments have said that wasn’t in any way a contributing or certainly not a determinant factor. The problem is I don’t know how you put the genie back in the bottle. I think that this should be an object lesson for any country that when people have been convicted of such horrific crimes as the Lockerbie bombing was for Pan Am 103 with all those young people, many of whom I had a connection to because I represented New York – I got to know their families, I got to know their friends, there were so many who came from Syracuse University – that you have to act out of not just an abundance of caution, but a resistance to the entreaties to in any way undermine justice. And that’s what I thought occurred here. Now, if the Scottish ministers were sitting here, they would tell you something very different, but I deeply regret that they took the action they took.


QUESTION: And on a happier note, here you are in Islamabad and in two weeks your daughter is getting married. (Laughter.) How do you arrange all that? You’re the mother of the bride and I know how meaningful it is to you.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, it’s so exciting. We are – every minute that gets closer, I get more excited. But thankfully, we’ve got a lot of people helping who are doing a terrific job. My daughter has really taken hold of it. She knows what she wants and how she wants to have it come off. But I will be very happy when I get back and I can concentrate on all those last-minute decisions that have to be made in the lead-up to any wedding.


QUESTION: Well, you handle a lot of state secrets and classified information – (laughter) Iran, nuclear weapons --




QUESTION: Whatever China is up to at this moment with Pakistan. There is no more closely guarded secret than what – the locale has leaked out, but the guest list, the arrangements. What has gone into keeping this so private?


SECRETARY CLINTON: My lips are sealed, Andrea. I am under very strict orders not to talk about it, and I think for the right reason, because --


QUESTION: This is Chelsea’s wedding.


SECRETARY CLINTON: It is hers and it’s a family wedding, and the people coming are her friends and people that have been meaningful in her life, as it should be.


QUESTION: Your message to all those people out there waiting for that invitation, A-listers, B-listers?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we love you all, but this is her wedding.


QUESTION: And finally, she has known her fiancée for many, many years. They grew up together.




QUESTION: This is a very interesting experience for you. You and your family have deep faith. You’re Methodist. You’re marrying – Chelsea’s marrying in an interfaith context.




QUESTION: What does that say about her? We know her values; we’ve watched her grow up.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. Well, I think it says a lot about not only the two young people involved and their strong love, but also their deep faith – both of them. But it says a lot about the United States. It says a lot about this wonderful experiment known as America, where we recognize the right that every single person has to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And over the years, so many of the barriers that prevented people from getting married, crossing lines of faith or color or ethnicity, have just disappeared, because what’s important is are you making a responsible decision, have you thought it through, do you understand the consequences. And I think that in the world that we’re in today, we need more of that, and I’m very grateful that my daughter and her fiancée are living in a country and have families that support their incredible commitment to each other.


QUESTION: And your former husband – I mean your husband – (laughter) – excuse me, the former president, your husband, performed a wedding ceremony --




QUESTION: -- a very close – it’s really family --




QUESTION: Your closest aide.




QUESTION: Should we assume that he’s not going to be officiating at the ceremony?


SECRETARY CLINTON: You should assume that if he makes it down the aisle in one piece, it’s a major accomplishment. (Laughter.) And he is going – he is going to be so emotional, as am I. But we’re both looking forward to it and very, very happy about it.


QUESTION: We thank you very much. Thank you, Hillary Clinton.



PRN: 2010/T32-10