Interview With Mike Viqueira of NBC News
Secretary of State
Please attribute the following content to an interview with NBC News
QUESTION: Thank you for sitting down with us. First, I’m sure you’re aware there’s some breaking news. What can you tell us about the reported capture of Colonel Qadhafi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We cannot confirm it yet. We have obviously a great interest in knowing whether it is accurate not, because it would be a real turning point for Libya if true.
QUESTION: You spoke when you were there just the other day of the militias and the need to unify them, of the fact that sort of a clock starts when and if Colonel Qadhafi is accounted for. Can you describe the importance of getting this – not this – well, him out of the way, literally?
SECRETARY CLINTON: In my conversations with the TNC leadership, they made very clear that they recognize they have a lot of work ahead of them. They have to try to unify the country, unify all the militias under a unitary command. They have to disarm a lot of people who have acquired the thousands of weapons that Qadhafi had stockpiled. And that they worried that if Qadhafi were still at large, he would be waging guerilla war against them, that he would be recruiting mercenaries, paying with the gold that they believe he had absconded with.
So if he is removed from the picture, I think there’s a big sigh of relief. The job is still daunting, but they won’t be quite as worried that they have to be constantly looking over their shoulder at him. Now, there still maybe be remnants of Qadhafi loyalists and they’ll have to contend with them, but I think removing him as the kind of organizing figure of a resistance is a very positive step if indeed it’s true.
QUESTION: I’d like to move on to Afghanistan, where we are today. Your appearance with President Karzai today – very tough on Pakistan – some of the language that you used with regard to the safe havens (inaudible) the Haqqani Network. My question is this relationship that various officials have described, from you yourself to Admiral Mullen, that the Pakistanis have, I mean, certain elements of the Pakistani military and the ISI have with the Haqqani Network, has existed for a long time. I mean, we can assume that the Pakistanis have this relationship because it’s in their self-interest. Why, with the United States having a definite timetable (inaudible) draw down beginning this year, why should the Pakistanis listen to these pleas or these demands, or however you want to phrase it, for them to cut these relations?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there are a couple of reasons why this has become more urgent. As I said at the press conference, we think we have to fight, talk, and build all at the same time. And we are on a timetable, although the United States and our NATO allies have pledged an enduring commitment to Afghanistan. And the Afghan security forces are becoming much more able.
So what does that mean? It means that we have to fight effectively, and it’s very hard to do with the safe havens. Part of what has happened the last two and a half years, I would argue, is that we reversed the momentum of the Taliban. They do not have the kind of reach in the country that they did before. But the Haqqani Network has become even more active. They’ve always been on the battlefield, but they didn’t target the American Embassy before. I consider that a very important change in their emphasis and one that we cannot ignore and we cannot let the Pakistanis ignore. If their embassy had been targeted somewhere, I’m sure they would also take it personally, which I do, with the hundreds and hundreds of Americans and Afghans who work out of this Embassy.
So our point is very simple: The safe havens on both sides of the border pose a threat to both sides of the border. And the Pakistanis, whatever calculation they made in the past may no longer hold true. They may think it does, but in fact, they are allowing the extremists to gain even greater reach and lethality in their country, which is a threat to them.
So we want to go through the fighting issues with them. We want to go through the talking issues. We want to see them support Afghan peace and reconciliation publicly. And we want to talk about building, because there’s a vision, which we call the New Silk Road vision, that would have Pakistan and Afghanistan trading economically in ways that would benefit both of their people tremendously, and opening up markets all the way into Central Asia and down to the coast.
So our case to them is whatever worked in the past, we do not believe can be permitted to continue. And equally importantly, we don’t think it works for you or for us, and we cannot tolerate it.
QUESTION: The reaction of many of the Afghans – we saw pictures in the previous couple of hours since the press conference – is we’ve all been seeing congressional delegations come here and they talk very tough about the Haqqani Network, and even the Pakistanis, the ISI and that linkage that you outlined, but then they go to Pakistan and they sing a different tune. Will you be tough on the Pakistanis publicly and privately as you were today when you are there?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think if you look at what I’ve said in Pakistan in the last two and a half years, that is pretty much what I’ve tried to do. I try to be as straightforward as I can. It was my first visit to Pakistan when I said I found it hard to believe that nobody in the Pakistani Government knew where Usama bin Ladin was. They were all shocked and surprised, and I was very clear that at some point al-Qaida is our primary target and we are going to seek out and find them. And if they’re here, you need to understand that. And indeed, that is what happened.
Well, similarly now that we’ve got the Haqqani Network trying to assault our Embassy, we cannot act as though that is not a direct threat to the United States. Of course, they have on the battlefield killed Americans in combat, but this is a threat to a symbol of our country in a way that I think elevates the real imperative for us to tell the Pakistanis we have to take joint action, they have to step up and move on these sanctuaries.
QUESTION: I just have – the way you construct that – they’ve attacked the Embassy and therefore we have to go against them – but they’ve existed for a long time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: They have.
QUESTION: We’re here to get bad guys who attacked us to begin with. So why now the escalation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but I mean, first of all, al-Qaida was our primary target. I mean, we all said that. And when President Obama announced his Afghanistan-Pakistan policy, it was focused on dismantling and defeating al-Qaida.
With the killing of Usama bin Ladin, with the killing of the top members with the exception of Zawahiri of al-Qaida, we see that we’ve made real progress on that goal. Now, you would think that the Pakistanis would say to themselves, “The Americans have really done a good job on al-Qaida and we’ve actually helped them,” which they have. So now Haqqani, who we have some contact with, even if it’s only just to figure out what they’re doing, are not only on the battlefield where they’ve been for years, but they conduct this brazen attack on the American Embassy? And we’re going to act like it’s business as usual? I don’t think so.
QUESTION: Earlier today, you had an interesting discussion with President Karzai about American politics, and I’m wondering if I could – (laughter). I wonder if I could pursue that a little bit, because there was a debate last night in the United States in Las Vegas. Every candidate, every Republican candidate on that stage, says they want to cut foreign aid. One of them, Rick Perry I believe it was, wants us to get out of the United Nations, cut foreign aid to everyone but – Israel is one of them. What’s your reaction to that kind of attitude, and are they speaking to a desire on the part of Americans?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know. It’s the heat of a campaign. There are debates going on. A lot of things are said. I’m not going to get involved in the Republican primary. I have every reason to believe and actually --
QUESTION: But does it undercut you as you travel the world and --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, no, because I think President Obama is going to be reelected and therefore we’re going to maintain what I consider to be a robust and effective foreign policy, which includes defense, diplomacy, and development.
QUESTION: We’re out of time, but I just want to – just the fact that President Karzai brought it up --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: -- people are paying attention to that. People think that’s a reflection of some sentiment in the United States. Doesn’t that get in the way of what you’re trying to accomplish?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s a good reminder to all of us back home that the world is watching what we say and they do take it seriously. But I am not going to comment on the Republican primary. I’ll leave that to Republicans.
QUESTION: I knew you’d say that. (Laughter.) Thank you, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to talk to you. Thank you.
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