Interview With Elise Labott of CNN

John Kerry
Secretary of State
St. Briac, France
June 7, 2014

QUESTION: We’re told that these five can roam around the country. Pretty vague on what those restrictions and monitoring are. I mean, tell me about that. And on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most confident --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m not going to --

QUESTION: -- how confident are you that the Qataris are going to be able to keep a close eye on these guys?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they’re not the only ones keeping an eye on them.

QUESTION: The U.S. is going to be monitoring them?

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m just telling you they’re not the only ones keeping an eye on them. And we have confidence in those requirements. And if they’re violated, then we have the ability to be able to do things. I’m not --

QUESTION: What kind of things?

SECRETARY KERRY: I am not – Elise, I’m not telling you that they don’t have some ability at some point to go back and get involved. But they also have an ability to get killed doing that. And I don’t think anybody should doubt the capacity of the United States of America to protect Americans. Nobody.

QUESTION: Meaning you would kill them?

SECRETARY KERRY: No one should doubt the capacity of America to protect Americans. And the President has always said we will do whatever is necessary in order to protect the United States of America. So if these guys pick a fight with us in the future, or now, or at any time, at enormous risk – and we have proven what we’re capable of doing with al-Qaida – let me just finish – with al-Qaida, the core al-Qaida in west Pakistan and Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Some people say Bowe Bergdahl is being swiftboated. Do you agree with that? Did he serve with honor and distinction, as National Security Advisor Rice said?

SECRETARY KERRY: There’s plenty of time – Elise, there’s plenty of time for people to sort through what happened, what didn’t happen. I don’t know all the facts of what…

QUESTION: It sounds like you’re not sure he served with honor and distinction.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, that’s not what I’m saying. That’s not what I’m saying, Elise. What I’m saying is there’s plenty of time for people to sort through that. What I know today is what the President of the United States knows: that it would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what; to leave an American behind in the hands of the people who would torture him, cut off his head, do any number of things. And we would consciously choose to do that? That’s the other side of this equation. I don’t think anybody would think that is the appropriate thing to do.

And it seems to me we have an ability – we know we have the ability – to be able to deal with people who want to threaten Americans or threaten the United States. And if that’s what they go back on their word to do, or if the Qataris don’t enforce what they have done, we have any number of avenues available to us to be able to deal with that.

QUESTION: One of the members of the Taliban, these detainees from Guantanamo, has already vowed to return to Afghanistan, return to the fight and kill Americans, and the head of the Haqqani network who was holding him said, “Look, we have a pretty good idea here now: Let’s kidnap more Americans.” I mean, what do you say to the families of American soldiers that perhaps these guys could go back and kill Americans again?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first of all, propaganda is propaganda, and they’ll say whatever they want to stir the waters. So people should not be lured in by their propaganda, number one. Number two, we are ending our combat role. Our combat role in Afghanistan is over. We’re going to have very few people in that kind of position on occasion where – but I honestly – I just think that’s a lot of baloney, to be truthful with you. And to whatever degree it may be true, they will wind up putting themselves at the mercy of those people who are very effective, who are there, who will deal with those matters.