Interview With Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Chris. Good to talk to you.
QUESTION: NATO has now agreed to a goal of 2014 for turning over security responsibility to the Afghans. Does that mean that the U.S. will have combat troops there for the next four years and possibly beyond?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Chris, I think what happened today was a real vote of confidence in the strategy that is being pursued by the NATO ISAF coalition. We are following the lead of President Karzai and the Afghans, who have set 2014 as the year during which security will be transitioned to the Afghans. There was discussion today and an agreement by the NATO and ISAF partners that there will be a continuing effort to train and equip and support the Afghans. But the point of the declaration by the NATO ISAF partners is that the transition to lead Afghan security will occur during 2014.
QUESTION: But that means U.S. combat troops will be there for four more years and, as I understand it, possibly beyond.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know quite what you mean by that because, for example, if you are going to continue in a supportive role, whether it’s American troops or one of our other contributing nations, you’re not there for the primary duty of security or combat, you’re there to support the Afghans. But does that mean you’re going to defend yourself? Does that mean you’ll come to the aid of one of your Afghan colleagues in trouble? Of course. But that is not the primary goal. The goal is to transition the security to an Afghan lead.
And what we heard at the ISAF meeting was the contributions from contributing nations to increase the number of trainers and mentors so that we could accelerate the training of the Afghan security forces. So all around, this was a great vote of confidence in President Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan.
QUESTION: You met with Afghan President Karzai the other day. Last week, he said that the U.S. must reduce its military operations, especially its night raids, which are the very tactics that seem to be working. I know you met with him, as I say, a couple of days ago. Did you get him onboard the new aggressive U.S. battle plan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Chris, I think I just want to somewhat take issue with your characterization – a new aggressive American battle plan. I think what you will hear from General Petraeus, President Obama, President Karzai, and all of us is that we now have all of the components of the strategy that President Obama directed a year ago. And we believe it’s working, and not only do we in the American Government believe it’s working; what was particularly reassuring is that the expressions of support that came from the NATO ISAF partner countries also recognized that we are making progress on the ground.
Now, when you are engaged in both trying to kill and capture the enemy and get support from the local population, you have to be always asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing keeping that balance?” General Petraeus understands that probably better than anyone. In my conversation with President Karzai, in the meeting that I just came from that President Obama had with President Karzai, we were very clear in saying we have to continue to do what is working, but we cannot do it to the extent that it turns people against the very strategy that’s working.
QUESTION: And did President --
SECRETARY CLINTON: This is a constant evaluation, and I think it shows the level of real dialogue that’s going on between us.
QUESTION: And did President Karzai agree to that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. He is expressing legitimate concerns that come to him from the Afghan people. I mean, if you have a night raid and you take out a Taliban leader, he’s all for that. If you have a night raid and four or five other people who have nothing to do with the Taliban are collateral damage, that’s a problem. Everybody understands that. So what we’re trying to do, and I think we are succeeding through a lot of hard work by our military and civilian leadership on the ground, is to constantly try to get that balance right.
QUESTION: The Obama Administration is pushing for a vote this year on the New START Treaty agreement with the Russians, but the lead Republican John Kyl says that there’s not enough time in this session, this lame duck session before the end of the year. And the fact is you only have one of the nine Republican votes you need. Aren’t you taking a big chance pushing for a vote this year and running the risk of suffering a major, embarrassing defeat on the world stage?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Chris, I have a great deal of respect for all of my colleagues, Democratic and Republican, in the Senate. And I think that everyone is trying to figure out how to do the right thing on this important treaty. I would just make three quick points.
One, this is in the national security interest of the United States. There’s no doubt about it. In fact, what I was heartened by and even a little surprised by at the NATO meeting was the number of people, like Chancellor Merkel of Germany, like foreign ministers and prime ministers and presidents from the Baltic countries, from Central and Eastern Europe, like the editorial that was written by the foreign minister of Poland – people who are on the ground in Europe, nearby Russia, many of whom were part of the former Soviet Union, who are saying: Please ratify this treaty now, United States Senate.
Now, why are they saying that? Not because they have a dog in the hunt between Republicans and Democrats in our country. It’s because they know that this would be an important treaty for the continuing cooperation between Russia and the United States.
Secondly, we do not have any inspectors verifying what Russia is doing with their nuclear stockpile or anything else that is going on in their sites. We’ve lost that capacity. If you talk to any of our intelligence experts, like General Jim Clapper, the new director of the National Intelligence Agency, they will tell you we cannot go much longer without that capacity restored.
And finally, this is in the tradition of not just bipartisan but nonpartisan action on behalf of arms control treaties, going back to President Reagan, who famously said, “Trust, but verify.” Well, right now, we have no verification. So what we are arguing is that we’ll find the time in the lame duck. I understand the legitimate concern that there might not be enough time to debate, to make sure that everybody is well-informed. But as Senator Lugar, who is one of the leading experts in the world on the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, on the necessity of having more insight into what Russia is doing, he said we cannot wait. I agree with him.
And so we’re continuing to work with all of our Democratic and Republican senators to try to get to a point where we can hold that vote this year.
QUESTION: We got a verdict this week in the big – let me start again. We got a verdict this week in the first big civilian file of a terror detainee who had been held in a CIA secret prison and then transferred to Guantanamo, Ahmed Ghailani, who was convicted on one count but acquitted on 284 other counts, all the other counts. This was supposed to be the easiest trial to conduct.
So I guess the question is, do you have any choice now expect to hold all of these terror detainees at Gitmo and either give them military trials or just hold them indefinitely?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Chris, I think that the verdict needs to be put into a larger context. The sentence for what he was convicted of is 20 years to life. Now, that is a significant sentence.
Secondly, some of the challenges in the courtroom would be the very same challenges before a military commission about whether or not certain evidence could be used.
Thirdly, we do believe that what are called Article III trials, in other words, in our civilian courts, are appropriate for the vast majority of detainees. There are some for whom it is not appropriate. You will get no argument from this Administration on that point.
But when you look at the success record in civilian courts of convicting, sentencing, detaining in maximum security prisons by the civilian courts, it surpasses what yet has been accomplished in the military commissions. So I’m well aware, as a former senator from New York on 9/11, how important it is to get this right. I want to see these guys behind prison or executed, whatever is appropriate in the individual cases.
Now, we are moving to try to do that in the way that maximizes the outcome that is in the best interest of the security of the American people. So I don’t think you can, as a rule, say oh, no more civilian trials or no more military commissions. President Obama’s theory of this is that most should be in Article III courts, some should be confined to military commissions. But as things stand right now, we have actually gotten more convictions, and more people, more terrorists, are serving time in prison right now, because of Article III courts than military commissions.
QUESTION: Secretary, one final question. You made some news recently in Australia when you ruled out running again for office in 2012 and 2016. (Laughter.) Why?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, I love what I’m doing. I can’t tell you what it’s like, Chris, to every day get to represent the United States. And it’s why I feel so strongly about every issue from START to Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Are you categorically saying that you are done with political office, elective office?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have said it over and over again and I’m happy to say it on your show as well: I am committed to doing what I can to advance the security, the interests, and the values of the United States of America. I believe that what I’m doing right now is in furtherance of that, and I’m very proud and grateful to be doing it.
QUESTION: So you’re done with elective office?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am. I am very happy doing what I’m doing, and I am not in any way interested in or pursuing anything in elective office.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, we want to thank you so much. Thank you for talking with us, and safe travels home.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks a lot, Chris. Good to talk to you.
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