Interview With Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg News
Secretary of State
Please attribute the following content to an interview with Bloomberg News
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for making the time to join us on Bloomberg Radio. You’ve just come from Pakistan, where you, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the CIA director delivered a clear message to the Pakistanis that they have to wipe out terrorist safe havens now. The Pakistanis said that they’ve decided to seek peace talks with militants before expanding military operations. Did you change their minds?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think there’s a contradiction here, which is why, as you recall, in Afghanistan I said we want to do three things: fight, talk, and build. And we don’t see those as sequenced; we see them as simultaneous. Obviously, the more we talk and we think it’s heading in the right direction, the less we’ll have to fight. So I don’t think that there is any difference in the goals that we share with Pakistan. They have a big set of challenges because over 30 years, these terrorist groups have taken up safe havens inside their country. We have challenges because they launch attacks across the border against Afghans and us. And they know, the Pakistanis, that attacks are launched against them from the Afghan side of the border.
What I wanted to do with a coordinated U.S. Government presence was to make it very clear that we have to heighten and deepen our cooperation and our planning. We do agree on 90 to 95 percent of what needs to be done, but we haven’t really sat down and had the kind of in-depth conversations that we began in Pakistan to say okay, what’s first, second, and third? Now, if you’re in – if you’re sitting in Pakistan, you say we have to prevent the safe havens from being places where attacks are launched against Afghanistan, but we have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t cause chaos in our own country. We appreciate and respect that. So that’s why we’re trying to work through the details of the next steps we take together.
QUESTION: Well, the U.S. has said, you have said clearly, you want to fight and talk at the same time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: The Pakistanis seem to only want to talk, at this point, with the militants. So what’s the price they’re going to pay in Washington if they don’t fight insurgents in tribal areas? Will there be a cutoff in aid, or cross-border attacks from Afghanistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: But there are different ways of fighting besides overt military action, and I think this is an important point of clarification. We have asked the Pakistanis to squeeze the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. We recognize that, given their resources, it would be difficult for them to launch military action at this time. But what we can do is make sure we are totally synced up on all intelligence, to intercept and prevent attacks from – emanating from these safe havens. We can go after funding. We can go after couriers. We can do a lot together that will interrupt their abilities.
Take what they have helped us do with al-Qaida. Because of intelligence sharing and mutual cooperation, we have targeted three of the top al-Qaida operatives since bin Ladin’s death. That could not have happened without Pakistani cooperation. So fighting is not just about battalions of forces moving. It is about using all of our assets effectively to try to squeeze and shut them down.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, it’s been years that the same the message from the U.S. for the spy services in Pakistan not to support insurgents. You said this time there’s no good terrorists and bad terrorists. So is this Pakistan’s last chance? And what happens to them if they don’t do what the U.S. needs? What’s the price?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not – I have made it clear that there will be dire consequences for Pakistan as well as Afghanistan if this threat from the terrorist networks is not contained, at the very least, because there’s no way that any government in Islamabad can control these groups. This is an opportunity, while we are still with 48 nations across the border in Afghanistan, where we have a lot of assets that we can put at their disposal, for us to work to really limit the threat posed by these groups. They understand that.
Now, I’m not going to go to what consequences or actions we would be taking, because there’s a lot that we’re doing that is not necessarily publicly acknowledged or known. But I will say this: I think, following our conversations and the clarity that I believe was created, there’s a much greater understanding and appreciation of what we can do together to deal with these mutual threats.
QUESTION: Did you tell them that the U.S. might have to launch cross-border attacks from Afghanistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: There’s a lot going on that is aimed at these safe havens, and we will continue to work with them on that.
QUESTION: Okay. You acknowledged for the first time that the U.S. had a meeting with the Haqqani faction of the Taliban this summer at the request of Pakistan’s spy service to see if there was any hope for reconciliation. A few months later, the same Haqqanis staged a 19-hour assault on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, attacked a U.S. post in the west of Afghanistan. A suicide bomber killed – posing as a peace negotiator killed Afghanistan’s top peace envoy. Why even bother with peace talks when the efforts have gone nowhere since the U.S. embraced this strategy early last year?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m a student of peace processes. And they often go nowhere for a very long time. (Laughter.) And that’s why it takes the level of patience and persistence that we’re willing to invest in order to determine what’s real and what’s not. And from our perspective, we are exploring. We’re not committed on any track or with anyone until we get more bona fides that this is a process worth pursuing. But remember, we have consistently said we will support an Afghan-led and owned process. President Karzai, even after the terrible assassination of Professor Rabbani – which was probably by the Qaeda Shura, not by the Haqqanis, but six of one, half dozen of the others in terms of the death and destruction they try to inflict – but even President Karzai, in my meetings with him in Kabul, has said, look, we have to go forward to explore what is possible, and we cannot do it unless Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States are all working together.
So this is going to be a bumpy process. I don’t know any peace process that hasn’t been a bumpy process. So we’re going to test and we’re going to probe, and we’ll see where it leads.
QUESTION: In Libya this week, you urged the new leaders to embrace transitional justice for perpetrators of crimes from the previous regime. You told ordinary Libyans to refrain from score settling. Two days later, Qadhafi was killed in what may have been a summary execution. How can the U.S. celebrate the killing – a killing that goes against American values, that everyone get a fair trial? And what does this say about the future for a democratic Libya under rule of law?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I would not accept the word “celebrate.” I think there was an acknowledgement, and certainly a recognition, that this was a pathway to seeing what kind of steps toward democracy the Libyan people will be able to take. I was pleased to hear the TNC say they will launch a full investigation into Qadhafi’s death. I think that’s very important. It sends the right signal that we can’t start on a path toward democracy, rule of law, human rights without trying to understand and hold accountable anyone who acted in a way that violates those precepts. And the international community, too, wants to see the results of such an investigation. So I do appreciate what the TNC said.
QUESTION: Last question, on Iran: What moves is the U.S. taking and pushing its allies to take to punish the regime for the plot against the Saudi ambassador? And what real leverage do you have on a government that you yourself has said is turning into a military dictatorship?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think this has damaged Iran in the eyes of many countries. There is a real growing awareness that Iranian interference in the internal affairs of many countries, and particularly the actions of the so-called Qods Force, poses threats to individuals and institutions that have to be looked at and evaluated, which is a big step for us because we know that Iran has been trying to gain influence, spread its message, whatever form it takes, around the world. And people have been kind of indifferent. Well, so what if they’re building a big embassy? So what if it’s stocked with Qods forces, spies, and all the rest of that? That’s not about us; that’s about the ongoing conflict between the United States and Iran. No, guess what? It is about you.
QUESTION: You’re talking about Latin America here.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, you name it. And so we have had a full court diplomatic press to make sure, number one, people know that these are well founded, provable accusations; number two, that they – that everybody needs to be more diligent and vigilant in dealing with Iran because their motives and actions are not always benign, shall I say; and that number three, the sanctions were imposed need to be enforced. And so we are looking to manage this in a way that lays the groundwork for further cooperation in the future.
QUESTION: But we’re not going beyond sanctions at this point?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. No, I think – and even sanctions, we’ve got a lot of sanctions already in place. What we want to do is convince people that behavior like this is why we need to enforce the sanctions we have. Now, the United States has imposed more sanctions. The European Union has imposed more sanctions. We’re talking to other countries about doing it. But we see this as a part of a long-term effort to raise the alarm about Iranian actions and intentions.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for your time today.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Indira. Good to see you. Back on the road again.