Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Brussels, Belgium
December 4, 2009


SECRETARY CLINTON: There was a great deal of commitment expressed, of understanding and solidarity. And the numbers of troops that are being announced is heartening. We heard this morning from – off the top of my head – the Italians, the Poles, the Slovaks. I mean, we had a very good time listening to what was coming forth. And between absolutely brand-new commitments, and a willingness and resolve to leave troops that were going to come out after the election, we are over 5,000. The exact numbers will be totaled up going forward.

QUESTION: But the big countries – Germany, France – have said that they’re going to wait until January. Are you worried at all that there’s some hesitation?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the United Kingdom has come forward with more troops; that makes them the second largest contributor. Both France and Germany wanted very much to have this conference in London at the end of January. And my impression is that we will hear more from them as we move toward the conference.

QUESTION: A lot of European countries talk about sending trainers to Afghanistan, and I wonder – you told us on the airplane that there’s not much of a distinction these days between combat forces and trainers. And I wonder if that’s been a hard sell here at NATO.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, Michele. There is a distinction, but it’s not as clear-cut a one as people sometimes imagine, because there are different phases of training the end of the training is actually taking place in combat, because we can’t just send over people to teach them how to load their guns and then send the Afghan soldiers out into the field. And General McChrystal’s view is that we need people living, working, literally breathing together off the battlefield, on the battlefield, before we can say with confidence that an Afghan security force unit is ready to go on its own.

QUESTION: And that makes a difference for the U.S. schedule for withdrawing?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it does. But it also makes a difference in the need for more combat troops as well as more trainers, and we’re getting both.

QUESTION: The State Department’s also – I don’t know if we want to call it a civilian surge, but planning to send in more civilians, agricultural experts and others. Are you hearing from NATO countries? Are they pitching in more on that front? And is there a real strategy, a development strategy?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, there is. People are coming forward with new contributions, and some of it is very direct, like more money into the Afghan national security force trust fund, and we’ll use that to train the security forces, but others are saying they want to do more on public administration, on agriculture, education. I just want to be sure that we are all part of an international plan. We now have an international military plan under General McChrystal. I’m working to get an international civilian plan, and that’s one of my highest priorities.

QUESTION: I want to ask you on another topic – maybe not one that you’re dealing with today, or maybe perhaps you are – and that is Iran, because President Obama has said that by the end of the year, we should know where we are in this diplomatic effort. So we’re almost at the end of the year. We don’t seem to be in a very good position on this. Are sanctions ready to go? With likeminded nations, or do you also get China and Russia on board for --

SECRETARY CLINTON: The world has to now begin to pressure Iran. And I think we’ll be making that case in the next weeks. We always knew this would be very difficult. Remember, the prior administration didn’t believe in arms control treaties – (laughter) – and so we are pretty much starting from scratch, and these are highly complex technical negotiations.

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PRN: 2009/T16-6

[This is a mobile copy of Interview With Michele Kelemen of NPR]