Background Briefing on Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: First of all, let me say that I think it’s important to go back a little bit and give you the background of how this meeting was originally conceived. Secretary Clinton, in looking at her schedule for the United Nations General Assembly, said that she wanted to really sit down with the foreign minister of Pakistan – not for 20 minutes or 30 minutes as just a bilateral, but really sit down and talk and have a conversation about where Pakistan and the United States were headed. And this follows meetings that they had both in Pakistan and, you’ll recall, in Bali during the summer.
And our idea was that if we set aside two or three hours, that it wouldn’t be rushed, that as – and that it would be candid and it would be open, we could review sort of the whole range of activities. And so that’s sort of how we conceived of this session and what we were trying to accomplish. So the idea that there would have been a joint communiqué or some kind of joint statement or any other kind of definitive outcome of this, that was not our goal. Our goal was to have the two ministers sit and really talk to one another. And I know at one point the Secretary was – wanted to make sure that she was given the time and respect to hear Pakistan’s views, and we hope that they would similarly listen to ours.
Needless to say, the attacks in Kabul on the 13th of September changed the nature of the meeting. And although it still lasted a good long time and we did review the whole nature of our relationship, that as you heard before, the issue of counterterrorism and particularly the issue of the Haqqani Network was, as you can imagine, the first thing on the Secretary’s agenda and also the last.
The Secretary’s message was – the clear one, which was that given the efforts of the Haqqani Network on the 13th of September, that this was an issue that we had to deal with and that this is a threat to both Pakistan and the United States.
The foreign minister was quite clear in return that they couldn’t condemn more the attacks of the 13th of September on the U.S. Embassy and ISAF Headquarters, and that this kind of terrorism was a threat to Pakistan and to Pakistanis as well. And just for our American journalists, I think it’s important to remember, as the foreign minister said and we also said, since 2003, almost 19,000 Pakistanis have been killed in terrorist attacks. And so this is something that these terrorists are not just a threat to people outside of Pakistan, they’re certainly a threat to people inside of Pakistan.
That part of the conversation concluded that joint efforts need to be made to end this threat from the Haqqanis, and that Pakistan and the United States ought to be working together on this and not separately. And I thought it was important that both ministers committed themselves to working on this as a matter of priority.
For the rest of the conversation, we then went through the full range of other issues that are important to both Pakistan and the United States. Let me just give you three, if I could. First, there was a considerable discussion, as you can imagine, about Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation. Foreign Secretary Bashir took the opportunity to brief us on the meeting, I guess yesterday or the day before yesterday, on the joint commission between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We talked a lot about our joint goals for reconciliation, our joint support for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process. And we agreed that this was, first of all, extremely difficult, very complicated, but something that certainly the two countries needed to continue to work on.
Second, but in the same, we also talked a lot about the regional aspects of bringing peace to Afghanistan and we reviewed the upcoming meetings in Istanbul on November 2 and in Bonn on December 5 and the role that the United States was trying to play to support Turkey and Afghanistan in the first instance and then Germany and Afghanistan in the second, and the role that Pakistan was interested and could play to support that regional effort as well.
And the theme there was that really there can’t be a secure and stable and prosperous Afghanistan outside of a secure, stable, and prosperous region. Or to put it positively, a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan will exist inside of a secure, stable, and prosperous region. I think there’s general agreement on that.
The final point that I would make is that the economic questions – Secretary Clinton talked about the idea of the New Silk Road, this vision of an economic space between Central Asia and India, Bangladesh that she talked about at the speech in Chennai in India and I was – appreciated Foreign Secretary Khar -- I’m sorry, Foreign Secretary Bashir raising that. And I think also to be fair, very importantly as well is that Foreign Minister Khar raised with us economic issues of very great importance to Pakistan, like market access and the reconstruction opportunity zones. We had a chance to review that part of the agenda as well.
As I say, I would characterize this – that we had had this idea for a long, substantive, honest session. I think that’s what we had. I would say, the nature of it changed because of the need for clarity about what happened on the 13th of September, but we worked through that issue and got, I think, to where we needed to be, and then I'd say, we were able to review the rest of the bilateral agenda.
And so with that, I’d be glad to take a few questions.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Kirit.
QUESTION: Any word of --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Excuse me, I’m going to call questions.
QUESTION: I just want to know, you mentioned that both the Secretary and the minister agreed to work together to counter the Haqqani threat. Can you say whether the Secretary requested and whether the minister agreed to – for Pakistan to take additional action on its own to go after the Haqqani Network?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, there are three things. One is that there are clearly actions that the Pakistanis could take to go after the Haqqani Network, and I thought the minister was quite clear in saying that those were the kinds of things that the Pakistani Government would look at and would take action on. And then secondly, there are those things that it might be possible to do jointly. And so there was a conversation about what those kind of things might entail as well.
QUESTION: And to be clear, she did suggest specific things that they could do?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: The Secretary did suggest specific things that they – that Pakistan could do to go after them more strongly?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, what we said was that this is a huge problem and that Pakistan’s got to deal with it.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, I mean, did the Secretary seek specific commitments – specific commitments, not general commitments – from the Pakistani foreign minister? And did she receive any commitments to take specific action on the Haqqani Network, or was it really just in the realm of generality and these are the kinds of things we’ll take a look at, as you said?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No. It was more specific than that, and I won’t get any more specific than that.
QUESTION: And one other thing, if I may – or two other things, if I may. You said it was that counterterrorism was the first and the last items on her agenda.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Right.
QUESTION: Was the Haqqani Network literally the first and the last thing that they talked about in this meeting?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I appreciate you raising that. Thank you very much. Because yes is the answer to your question, but I want to be clear that when I use the word counterterrorism, there are lots of other counterterrorism issues as well. So LeT, for example, was part of this conversation. The Pakistani side talked to us about the continuing threat from the TTP on Pakistanis. We talked also about the Taliban, safe havens and enablers that allow them to attack inside of Afghanistan. So I appreciate – that’s a very good question. Thank you.
QUESTION: And then just one last one from me. Ambassador Munter, in an interview that I believe aired yesterday, talked about or said that there is some evidence linking the Pakistani Government to the Haqqani Network. Did the Secretary – I mean, this is not new, but did the Secretary specifically raise that and discuss the evidence and essentially – I mean, it’s one thing to go after a network that you believe to be operating independently and pose a threat to both countries. It is another thing if the person sitting across the table works for a government that you suspect actually has links to it. Did she raise that evidence? Did she specifically talk about the need for Pakistan to disentangle itself with it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I would say first that, as I answered your previous question, we were quite specific. And other than that, you won’t be surprised that it’s not for me to talk, even on background, about intelligence – that kind of intelligence.
QUESTION: But you were quite specific about the relationship of the – the evidence of a Pakistani relationship with --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We were specific about the need for Pakistan to take action on the Haqqani Network.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Sir, behind.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. Other questions?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes, please.
QUESTION: This three and a half hour talks --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: -- how they – what is the really, the crux of the whole thing you have achieved today, both sides have achieved, what Pakistan has achieved out of this talk?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I hope what we achieved was, first and foremost, clarity on the need to do something about counterterrorism and specifically about the Haqqanis, and secondly, that it is possible for the United States and Pakistan to work together to identify those interests that we have in common and then figure out how to act on them together. And I’d say that that – if that – if that could be the overriding philosophy or kind of headline that came out of this meeting, that’d be a very good thing for both sides.
QUESTION: I think at the grass root – common Pakistanis, mostly they have a perception that whenever U.S. wants to talk to Taliban they go and they talk to Taliban, but at certain time they ask Taliban – for Pakistan to cut off their relationship with Taliban, with Haqqani Network, with all that. So it’s a matter of choice, only one choice by the U.S., and there is no choice or no safeguard of the Pakistani (inaudible). This is a common perception (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s – again, I appreciate you very much raising that question, because one of the things that the foreign minister said was that, in Pakistan, Pakistanis don’t believe that the United States is doing anything good for Pakistanis, and certainly the sort of – the Pakistani who’s trying every day to feed their children or be secure. And she was very, I thought, passionate and very good on that subject. We said in return – or not in return, but what we said was we recognize that there’s a – there’s some work to do on America’s image in Pakistan, absolutely.
But we then got to talk about some of the specific things that have been done over the past few weeks. And here again, I leave the 13th of September aside for a moment. First, now we talked a lot about a meeting of the Strategic Dialogue Working Group on the 5th of July to talk about improvised explosive devices. And you’d say, “Well, why are you raising that with me?” Well, I’m raising it with you because Pakistanis are killed by IEDs in very large numbers, and the United States and Pakistan, working together to try to deal with that problem, and that ought to be something, we would hope, that Pakistani citizens would see as a positive.
Same with the issues from the Strategic Dialogue on electricity and energy over the past few days, Tarbela Dam, and – Tarbela Dam – the repair of the Tarbela Dam over the past few days that’s now been open. And I don't know if you saw the pictures of the water coming over the dam. A million more Pakistanis – a million more Pakistanis – will have electricity because of that dam project. And finally – and again, we have great sympathy, obviously, for people who have been displaced and who’ve been killed, and – but if you look at what the United States has done on the recent floods, I would hope also that individual Pakistanis would find that a positive. And I know the United Nations will, over the next couple of days, formally put out a request for more assistance, and you can count on the United States to respond positively.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We have time for one more. Anybody who hasn’t had a chance?
QUESTION: I’ve already got one today, so --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Please.
QUESTION: Ambassador Munter made a statement yesterday about having evidence of Pakistan’s links to Haqqani Network, I think to the Kabul attack. Was that statement specifically discussed in the meeting today? What was Pakistan’s reaction on that? And just yesterday – there are two sides of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship; one is the civil side and the other is the military side. The military leadership has met yesterday in Spain. Was anything from that meeting carried over and discussed in this meeting as well?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: To your first question, the answer is no. To your second question, both Foreign Minister Khar and the Secretary of State had been, obviously, debriefed by their various sides about the meetings in Spain so that they were both fully up to date on those conversations as well.
QUESTION: And --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I get a clarification? What – can I just clarify?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
QUESTION: You had said that they – that the foreign minister had some understanding of the need to take additional steps. Can you say whether she made any – I don't want to say promises, but any pledge to actually do anything further? I mean --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, it goes to this gentleman’s point. I mean, I think that she – they understand that the threat that the Haqqanis pose to them, and I think they recognize it’s time for them to take action.
QUESTION: And what was your impression --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Good. Thanks, everybody.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks a lot.