Interview With ABC's Robin Roberts

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Brussels, Belgium
October 14, 2010

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, it’s good to see you here.




QUESTION: Appreciate your time. Let’s begin with the feel-good moment, Chile. And it was a real “It takes a village” moment --




QUESTION: -- in many ways. Were you glued to the tube like many of us?


SECRETARY CLINTON: I was. And of course, with the time change, that made it even harder, but I couldn’t look away. I was watching as the preparations took place and then as the first capsule went down and the first miner came out. It was a feel-good moment. I thought that the president of Chile and his government and all of the experts, including some of ours from NASA and elsewhere, just had a superb, cooperative effort. And I think the world not only was thrilled to see those 33 men come up safely, but really so gratified to see people working together on something so positive and producing such a wonderful result.


QUESTION: Many lessons we can all learn --




QUESTION: -- from that experience and you bring that here to Brussels, the NATO meeting.




QUESTION: And there are reports that Taliban leaders will be allowed for peace talks into Afghanistan, which will be a hot topic, of course, in the meetings here. How can the American Government allow that to happen, the Taliban to be possibly a part of the Afghan Government again?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Robin, for more than a year, we’ve had a very clear position that we were willing to support what’s called reintegration – namely, people on the battlefield coming off and going back into their society – and reconciliation, which is a much more political process to work out terms of peace with people who had led the Taliban, but only on very clear conditions. They had to renounce violence and lay down their arms, they had to renounce al-Qaida, and they had to be willing to abide by the laws and constitution of the nation of Afghanistan.


So we’ve been consistent. I first laid out those principles more than a year ago. I’m not sure exactly how that will be implemented, because I’m not sure how many of the leaders will agree to those conditions. I am increasingly convinced that many of the lower-level Taliban, young men who frankly went to fight for the Taliban because they got paid more than they could make anywhere else, I believe that they are, in increasing numbers, laying down their arms and coming back into society.


But in a complex conflict situation like the one we see in Afghanistan, you look for openings to see whether the enemy is willing to lay down arms, rejoin society. In every conflict I’ve ever known of or worked in, that has to be the case. It’s very early in the process. And our military troops, the NATO-ISAF troops, our many allied nations, every single day are going out, hunting down and killing Taliban who are killing Afghans and killing our soldiers. So this is at the real beginning of what process might unfold.


QUESTION: Yeah, because I sense that you’re very cautious about this --




QUESTION: -- that you’re going to reserve judgment, but you can understand where the American people, knowing what they do know about the Taliban, and to allow them to again be part of that government, is something that some people find highly objectionable.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m also very cautious about it, as you could tell when I was answering your question. But if you look at conflicts around the world, you don’t make peace with your friends. There has to be either a total defeat and surrender on the battlefield, which is increasingly less common – it’s not World War II where there can be a surrender on a battleship – because of the kinds of enemies and the way they wage war today. It’s what’s called asymmetrical. It’s terrorism, it’s blowing up cars, it’s ideological.


And so what we are seeing is a move by the lower-level fighters, many of them, to leave the battlefield, which is all to the good because they are being convinced that this fight is no longer one they want to be part of. Now, I think it’s highly unlikely that the leadership of the Taliban that refused to turn over bin Ladin in 2001 will ever reconcile. But stranger things have happened in the history of war, but it can only happen if they willing to abide by the red lines that we and the Afghan Government have established.


QUESTION: These meetings are – will set up the NATO meetings that will take place next month, which President Obama will attend.




QUESTION: Is it realistic to think that we’re approaching that point where some districts will be handed back to the Afghan people, that we have reached that point where they can handle that?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s what we’re going to be talking about at the meeting here in Brussels. Both Secretary Gates and I will be attending this meeting. It’s a joint meeting of defense and foreign ministers to review the plans that have been put forth to determine exactly if and how such a transition can occur.


In my conversations with General Petraeus and others of our military leaders, they do believe that there will be places in Afghanistan that can be transitioned over to Afghan control. The Afghan security forces have made really significant progress. They’re not where they need to be yet, and they know that. But in certain areas like Kabul, where they are taking a much greater role in defending the capital city, and some of the other provinces where they have good relations with the local leaders, I think that there can be transitions that do start to occur.


But I think our military and our civilian leadership are very cautious about that. They want to make sure that it’s done right. But we do want to put the responsibility on the Afghans themselves to begin showing that they will stand and fight and defend their country against the threat of the Taliban.


QUESTION: A lot of talk, of course, as we are, about Afghanistan.




QUESTION: Pakistan.




QUESTION: That is where a lot of people feel the emphasis should be right now, in that discussion.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Robin, you’re right. And that’s why when we did the strategic review, right after President Obama took office and he found that we had to look at Afghanistan and Pakistan together – it wasn’t either/or; it was both/and. So we’ve been working very closely with the Pakistani Government, both the civilian democratically elected government and the military leadership, to chart a new way forward, a new partnership that is strategic, focused on what I believe are the threats that we both face.


When I first became Secretary of State, it was clear that there was a transition in thinking going on with – inside Pakistan that they had not come to grips with the internal threat posed by the Pakistani Taliban. That has changed. There’s been a tremendous effort by the Pakistani Government and military to go after those elements of the Taliban that threatened their institutions, where they blow up mosques, they blow up military headquarters and police stations, universities, markets, and so much else that is just violent destruction.


But we’re pressing very hard that they do more with their military forces, their intelligence forces to go after those segments of this Taliban network that is connected with al-Qaida that is crossing the border into Afghanistan, going after our military as well as Afghan targets. And we’re going to keep pressing because we think there’s no way to divide this threat. And I’ve said this publicly in Pakistan, I’ve said it privately many times – this is a threat to the institutions and authority of the Pakistan Government, not just to Afghanistan, not just to the interests of the United States and other countries around the world.


QUESTION: A true package deal.




QUESTION: Let’s talk about the Middle East. Of course, your husband’s administration spent a lot of time and a lot of work with that. We have the so-called one-year plan. But Madam Secretary, we’re virtually at a standstill just weeks into that. I mean, how – what is it going to take?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Robin, there’s a lot of activity going on. I guess you stay behind the scenes where there is a lot of discussion and contact that is trying to put together a way forward. If this were easy, it would have been solved a long time ago. It’s an incredibly complex and emotionally charged situation. And I recognize that, because obviously, for Israel, security is paramount, they have the experience of having left Lebanon and now having Hezbollah and rockets on their border, having left Gaza and now having Hamas and rockets on their border.


So first and foremost, Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu have to believe that any peace deal will lead to greater, not lesser security. The Palestinians, who have long sought the right to have their own state, deserve to have those aspirations satisfied. And they have a lot of concerns about how it will be done and whether it will be viable.


So we start from a very clear commitment that President Obama and I and the United States have made to work with the parties. But I go into this with a lot of prior experience in how difficult this entire situation is. And we’re going to just keep working at it every day. It’s not something that will have press conferences and headlines. We were pleased to see the parties go into direct talks. They each have certain requirements to continue those direct talks. But I think both of them see an eventual agreement that guarantees security and a statehood for each respectively as very much in their interests.


QUESTION: But it continues to seem so fragile.




QUESTION: It seems --


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is fragile. You’re right. And it’s fragile because this is a very complicated situation. And I’m convinced that both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu want to be the leaders that resolve this conflict. But they each have internal and external pressures that are bearing down on them that make it an extremely difficult and sensitive negotiation. But I can assure you and your many millions of viewers that the United States continues to work literally every day to help the parties create the space that they need to have this very serious negotiation.


QUESTION: And compounding that right now, the Iranian President Ahmadinejad --




QUESTION: -- is there in Lebanon for the first time --




QUESTION: -- receiving a hero’s welcome, and again, very harsh comments about the U.S. and Western allies.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, not only that; about the Palestinians and a lot of the Arab leaders who are united against the kind of rhetoric and actions that Iran is taking, and the threat that Iran poses with its pursuit of nuclear weapons and with its support of terrorism. So when the Iranian president goes to Lebanon, and we know that they are supporting financially and in every other way Hezbollah, which is on the border of Israel and the border of the Palestinian areas, then that is a volatile situation.


And Lebanon itself has constructed this very delicate balance over the years where the Sunni and Shiite Muslim populations and the Christian populations try to accommodate each other so that each can live in peace in this really beautiful, historic land of Lebanon. So this man coming and being so volatile and using language that is inflammatory is just true to form. We saw him do it in New York, we see him do it around the world, and it reflects an attitude in the Iranian Government that unfortunately has caused many in the region to be quite concerned about their intentions and their actions. That’s why we worked so hard for the last year to get those sanctions in place. And we have lots of evidence that those sanctions against Iran are working.


Obviously, Iran, on the one hand, says publicly, “Well, we want to return to negotiations with the European leaders and the United States.” And then the other hand, they are defiant and they are incredibly difficult to deal with. It’s what we have to cope with every single day as we try to prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which, in the hands of leadership like we’ve seen, would be incredibly destabilizing.


QUESTION: And continue to send such mixed messages.




QUESTION: A little bit closer-to-home politics. The couple, the Texas couple, who went jet-skiing in Mexico; she says that her husband was killed by pirates. There was a witness to this. The person in Mexico that was heading the investigation was beheaded. The family is saying they’re not getting help from the State Department to find his body, David Hartley’s body. Where do you stand on that?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are helping. The United States Government is supporting local law enforcement, supporting the authorities on the border, doing everything that we know to do to try to assist in helping to find the body and helping to find the perpetrators. This is a terrible tragedy, and obviously, we are sickened by it, as we are with the spike in violence that has gone on in Mexico directed primarily against innocent Mexicans as well as the inter-tribal warfare, if you will, among the drug clans and crime organizations.


And unfortunately, it is along our border, which is why, for the last year, I’ve been very outspoken that we have to do more. We have to do more. We have to work with the Mexicans so that we increase their cooperation with us and help them increase their capacity. But to be fair, we also have to stop the huge demand for drugs that fuels these drug wars and this terrible violence, and we have to stop the constant flow of arms. It’s terribly distressing to me and to people along the border and to our Mexican friends that so many of these drug killers are armed with weapons that come from the United States.


So there’s an incredible effort underway. Secretary Gates and I, Secretary Napolitano, the highest levels of our government, we are all engaged in trying to do more along this border. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that going out on a beautiful afternoon to go across a lake that has been used by Mexicans and Americans peacefully for so many years would result in this horrible crime. We have to do even more to try to stem this violence.


QUESTION: The mother made a direct plea to you, as she said, mother-to-mother, to help her bring her son’s body back.


SECRETARY CLINTON: And I hope that we can. I hope that we can. I mean, the beheaded body of the brave Mexican investigator that just showed up shows what we’re dealing with. The absolute barbarity that we’re seeing by criminals and terrorists in the world today should shock the conscience and require a concerted effort to defeat these violent, terrible actors that upset lives from Mexico to Africa to Afghanistan and beyond. I see this as one struggle where we have to, as people of conscience standing together, work very hard to defeat these extreme criminals and these extreme terrorists.


QUESTION: People want to hear that. In the remaining minutes, few minutes that we have with you, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, this is your life as a travelogue, so to speak.




QUESTION: We know that you (inaudible) over 80 countries as First Lady, approaching that as Secretary of State. We want to bring you back to one of the first international trips that you took. I think we remember – Americans remember it fondly.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, the Taj Mahal with Chelsea, yeah, that – I remember it fondly. That was a wonderful trip not only for us personally, but for our country because it really started the ongoing efforts that the Bush Administration and now President Obama have undertaken to strengthen and deepen our relationship with India, a great partner, the world’s largest democracy. And President Obama will be going to India next month.


QUESTION: But for you personally, I think that was one of the first times that we saw Chelsea on the international stage like that.




QUESTION: You all had been – and had been so protective of – oh, I don’t mean --


SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, and there’s the elephant. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: I didn’t mean for it to continue. I was trying to hit the --


SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s (inaudible).


QUESTION: I was trying to hit the stop button. But could you have imagined all those years ago that you would have seen as much of the world as you have seen?


SECRETARY CLINTON: I would not have imagined it. I certainly could not have imagined being Secretary of State. I couldn’t have imagined, when I was Chelsea’s age growing up in Park Ridge, Illinois, that I would have been married to the President and First Lady, and I certainly wouldn’t have imagined the great honor I had of serving New York as senator. But that’s what’s so great about our country. I mean, you’re a girl from Mississippi --




SECRETARY CLINTON: -- and here we are, sitting, talking about these important issues in the world.




SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s why I love every minute that I get to represent the United States, because I’m a product of how great our country is, and that’s why I care so deeply that we get out there and try to manage and solve the problems that could perhaps narrow the opportunities for own children – and I hope someday, grandchildren – in the future.


QUESTION: Now, you’re not giving us any news, are you? (Laughter.)


SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I’m not. No news, just hope. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: As every mother would do. Just very quickly, the first thing you put in your luggage to pack? Because you pack so much, what are your – what’s your must-have?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, my gosh. Well, I have a list and it includes, obviously, makeup because – (laughter) – when you get as little sleep and you’re as jetlagged as I am, it’s very hard not to scare the children in the morning. No, it’s just become a routine. (Laughter.) You get up and you get going.


But it’s exhilarating work. And I also am inspired by the stories of people around the world who overcome unbelievable odds. I look at their lives and I am just really humbled. And I think that the United States still represents such hope and possibility for the world. And even though we have a very complex, difficult economic and political environment to navigate, I have enormous confidence in our country. So I get up every day and suit up and go on out.


QUESTION: A gracious ambassador as always.




QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, it’s such a pleasure. Thank you. Take care.


QUESTION: Good to see you here in Brussels.


SECRETARY CLINTON: I know. Who would have think --


QUESTION: (Laughter.) Who would have thought? Thank you very much.




QUESTION: And I mean that. You’re just so – always so gracious --




QUESTION: -- with your time. Thank you.

PRN: 2010/T34-11