Interview With Kim Ghattas of BBC

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Bait Al Zubair Museum
Muscat, Oman
January 12, 2011

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for your time. We always appreciate interviews you give to the BBC.

I would like to start with Pakistan. The assassination of the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer has really brought Pakistan, it seems, to a turning point. How concerned are you about the direction that Pakistan seems to be going?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Vice President Biden is in Pakistan, and will be meeting with both the civilian and the military leadership. And he will, of course, express our concern, as well as our condolence for the loss of Governor Taseer.

I think that Pakistan is facing some very difficult decisions. They've been making some for the last two years, for which I give the leadership a lot of credit. But they now have to recognize that the real threat to Pakistan's stability and security is coming from within.

QUESTION: It's always been the case in Pakistan that usually the tension in the country is between civilian leadership and military leadership. And now it feels as though they both find themselves overrun by the radical elements of society. Is that a concern for you?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think the facts are that the radicals are still a very vocal and very active -- and, unfortunately, very deadly -- minority. And the leadership, not only elected leadership and military leadership, but leadership of academia, of business, of the professions, of every walk of life, have a stake in banding together, despite political party differences, to stand against this internal threat. And I believe that will (inaudible).

QUESTION: Do you think the military and the civilians are up to the job, that they can stick together in the face of that threat?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think a united leadership in Pakistan is more than up to the job.

QUESTION: But what about the moderates? They really have become very silent in the aftermath of this assassination. We saw thousands of people who demonstrated in supporting the blasphemy law which Governor Taseer stood against. We saw the reaction in the streets, the people who hailed his assassin as a hero. Where does that leave the moderates? I have heard of a lot of people who think it's time for them to leave Pakistan.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that would be a great loss, if people were to leave, instead of banding together and supporting effective action that sends clear messages that Pakistan was created, yes, as an Islamic state – certainly if you go back and look at the founders – as a state that also included minority beliefs and populations. And it would be a real repudiation of that founding principle.

And I think that people are standing up. Minister Bhutto's son, who was the head of her political party, has spoken out. Others will begin to speak out. But the real challenge is how to rein in those who wreak violence and death – people, because of their religious beliefs or their political beliefs – no country can tolerate that.

QUESTION: That brings me to another question. It's always tricky to draw parallels or to come to sweeping conclusions. But with the assassination of Governor Taseer and the shooting of the Arizona congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, it seems as though extremism is on the rise everywhere. Is that the feeling you get?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think when you're in the moment, it feels that way. From a historical perspective, there is a long history in not only my country, but the world, of extreme violent actions occurring. But that doesn't make it any more acceptable because it's got a historic precedent.

And it's time for people across the world to stand against extremism and violence. There is just so much we can do together, and so many opportunities, particularly for young people that we can create, that we cannot allow a small, vocal, violent minority to intimidate the vast majority of people who have moderate views, who want to live their own lives, and who do not want to be put in a position where they are forced to keep silent or to follow a certain religious or political ideology. But people have to be willing to stand up against that.

QUESTION: I would like to ask a question about Afghanistan. There is some suggestion now over the last couple days that American troops could stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Could you clarify whether Washington is, in fact, considering staying in a combat capacity in Afghanistan beyond the date of 2014?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, there is no discussion about staying in a combat capacity. The 2014 date was first suggested by President Karzai and his government as the point at which not only America but international forces would have completely turned over the security of the country to Afghan forces. We embrace that. We embrace it as a nation. We embraced it at the NATO summit in Lisbon.

But just as we have seen in other situations, where combat missions end, there may be a desire on the part of the Afghan Government to have the United States and NATO form a training mission, a logistical support mission. But that's in the future. There has not been any discussion of that.

QUESTION: So training, but not necessarily combat.


QUESTION: That brings me to my last question. The region more -- closer to where we are, Lebanon, and the tribunal, which is expected to, at some point in the near future, issue indictments. You have said that the choice for Lebanon is not between stability and justice. But it is because if Hezbollah members are indicted and Hezbollah takes to the streets and brings down the government of Saad Hariri, what are you going to do?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do not believe it will come to that. And we certainly are doing everything we can --

QUESTION: It’s a crisis --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, yes, it is a crisis. But it is a crisis because there are those who do not wish to bring murderers to justice, or at least to have people who are charged with murder held accountable. They may be found innocent. But you cannot run any society where murder is given impunity.

Remember, it wasn't only former Prime Minister Hariri who was assassinated. Nearly two dozen people were killed. They have families; they have loved ones. They have a right to seek justice for the murder of their family member. So this is, yes, of course, about Prime Minister Hariri's assassination, because he was the primary target of the assassins.

But it's also about whether or not any society can tolerate that level of political violence, and have either justice or stability. So I think it's a false choice. You can have a false sense of stability if you give in to those who do not want to hold murderers accountable. And you can have an effort at justice without stability, and people don't understand how the two are related.

QUESTION: But if Hezbollah takes to the streets, what are you going to do, then?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We, along with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the French, and many others, are going to continue to support the integrity of an independent, sovereign Lebanon. And, remember, people have taken to the streets in the past in Lebanon, and it has given an outlet for expression.

There is no problem with people peacefully demonstrating and protesting. It's going on in Tunisia right now. We support peaceful protest and the right of assembly. So we don't have a problem with people going into the streets to express their political opinions. We have a problem with people picking up arms and murdering and intimidating those who don't agree with them, whether it's in Lebanon or anywhere else.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for your time.


PRN: 2011/T37-08