Interview With Kim Ghattas of BBC
Secretary of State
Please attribute the following content to an interview with BBC News.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for talking to the BBC. We’re in Afghanistan, but you’re about to travel to Pakistan with a very high-profile delegation of American officials – the head of the CIA, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – and you are going to push Pakistan very hard; these are your words. Tell us more.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, as you know because you have followed this for quite some time, we have gotten cooperation from Pakistan on some very key counterterrorism objectives, but we cannot any longer tolerate the safe havens that are run out of Pakistan. Now, there are also safe havens on the other side of the border in Afghanistan, but of course, they are more susceptible to Afghan-U.S. coalition efforts. And we want to make it very clear to the Pakistani Government that the time has come for them to make a fundamental choice. They have taken courageous action against the Pakistani Taliban, and they’ve lost 30,000 Pakistanis to terrorism in just 10 years, which is an extraordinary sacrifice. But in our assessment, they can and must do more.
So we want to have a very open, serious conversation about what they are able to do, what they are willing to do, so that there is no misunderstanding between us because we need to simultaneously, as I said at the press conference, be fighting, talking, and building. And in each of those categories, the Pakistanis have a role to play. They can either be helpful, or indifferent, or harmful. And we’re hoping that we can convince them to be helpful in our efforts.
QUESTION: During the press conference, you said it was time for people to declare themselves. Are you going to ask the Pakistanis to clarify whether they’re with you or against you or exactly on whose side they’re on?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are going to ask them publicly to support the process of reconciliation and peace negotiations. We think it’s a very important signal to be sent from the Pakistani Government. We’re going to ask them to squeeze the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network to make it very clear to those groups that there is not going to be continuing acquiescence and maybe even assistance to them coming from Pakistan, and in doing so to send a message not only to Afghanistan but to the larger region that we need to get beyond this conflict. We need to get into a new period of cooperation where we can be engaging in more economic activity, for example. So yes, we’re going to ask them to declare themselves.
QUESTION: But why would you think that they would suddenly see the world through your eyes? They have their own calculations, they have their own long-term objectives, and even President Obama said the Pakistanis are hedging their bets.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we know they are, and they have been, and what we want to do is point out that it’s a bad bet to hedge on, that there are better bets to make, and there are better bets that will more directly benefit the government and people of Pakistan. Now, they’re a sovereign nation; they can make whatever decisions they choose. But they need to know that we are not going to tolerate these safe havens; we cannot afford to do so. We are trying to bring the international operation in Afghanistan to a resolution. I think the timetable helps focus everyone’s attention, and therefore, it is now imperative that people support a peaceful resolution, a negotiation. And those of the Taliban and other groups who are willing to negotiate should be encouraged to do so, and those who are not should be told they’re going to be captured or killed, and that that is the choice to them. So that’s what we’re looking for.
QUESTION: You indeed said in the press conference as well that you will seek the militants, wherever they are, on both sides of the border. What is the U.S. preparing to – what is the U.S. prepared to do to make that happen without a confrontation with the Pakistanis?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have made it clear to the Pakistanis, as we have sought out al-Qaida operatives who directly threaten us, we see a growing threat from these other groups. Historically, that wasn’t the case. They were focused on Afghanistan, some were focused on Pakistan, but now we see as the recent attacks right here on our Embassy certainly convinced us of, that these groups pose a threat to the United States. No country can tolerate that, and we’re going to make that very clear.
QUESTION: You call the Pakistanis your allies and your friends, but you really are at war with them.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No.
QUESTION: Perhaps their proxy, but you are war with them.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no. I think that’s an overstatement, and it is not reflective of reality. They are our partners. They have been very useful partners to us in our struggle against al-Qaida. There’s no doubt about that. That was our highest priority. Remember that our primary goal was the dismantling and eventual defeat of al-Qaida. We are on the path to do that right here in this region. So I want to make it very clear that the Pakistanis have been good partners and very helpful. They also went after the Pakistani Taliban who were connected with the Afghan Taliban, again, at great sacrifice. So yes, they’ve done a lot to protect themselves, and by extension, to assist us.
But now the environment is changing in two important ways. On the one hand, because of the troops that President Obama ordered into Afghanistan, we have reversed the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which is why they’re at all interested in perhaps pursuing peace. But they’re under tremendous pressure from other elements within Pakistan itself not to do so. That needs to change. And secondly, because of the increasing threat from these groups that did not used to target American targets, we have to defend ourselves. And so that must be made very clear to the Pakistanis, and we think that calls for a new level of cooperation, which is what we’re seeking.
QUESTION: And if not, if you don’t get that cooperation, will that visit have been a last-stitch effort at engagement with the Pakistanis?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’d never want to predict what is or isn’t going to happen. I think we have a lot to discuss, and we have a lot of common objectives. We just have to try to get better aligned and make common cause on getting these sanctuaries removed as a threat either to them or to us.
QUESTION: I want to move away or back to where we were when we started this trip to Libya. There are reports that Colonel Muammar Qadhafi may have been captured. I don’t know if you can confirm those.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I cannot confirm. I literally got the same reports as you were walking in. I cannot confirm them at this time.
QUESTION: Regardless of whether he has been captured or not, the Transitional National Council has expressed concern about the instability that Colonel Qadhafi could be sowing in the country. He has apparently hired or recruited fighters to lead a counterrevolution in the country, and that could lead to instability in the country, whether he gets captured or not. We all saw what happened in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad. How concerned are you about this for Libya, and how – to what extent did the Libyan officials that you met with in Tripoli express that same concern?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we discussed it at length because of course it’s a concern. The Libyans know that they have to finish the job, which is why the fall of Sirte, if that is confirmed, is so important. But even with the fall of Sirte and the ability of the TNC to control much of Libya going forward, Qadhafi and his associates pose a threat. So we discussed about the need for there to continue to be vigilance and attention paid to where he is, where his sons are, where other of his associates are. So it’s too soon to tell whether this unconfirmed report might be true, but it’s important that we stay with the Libyans while they try to eliminate those direct threats to their security.
QUESTION: But do you think that he has laid the ground for instability, perhaps for an insurgency in the country regardless of what happens to him?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Unclear. Unclear. I think that he would be the rallying point. Perhaps one of his sons or another associate could as well. It depends upon how much money or gold he has left, because that would be important to those whom he hired, because he clearly would have to rely primarily on mercenary force. So I don’t want to speculate because we are taking this as it goes, trying to get the information and verify it, but I certainly assured the Libyans, as I know the rest of the international coalition that worked to enforce the Security Council resolutions did, that we would remain vigilant and we would remain supportive with respect to their security.
QUESTION: Just a question on North Korea. You’ve announced that there will be face-to-face exploratory talks between American and North Korean officials in Geneva, and American officials have said that’s because it’s important to keep the door open to engagement. Why? I mean, that door has been pretty closed over the last two years. What’s changed?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, we’ve had some preliminary discussions over the last several months, and there has always been a willingness on our part to meet with the North Koreans so long as they met certain conditions. And it had to be closely coordinated with our South Korean ally, it needed to be considered as part of the Six-Party framework. So I think this next meeting demonstrates that there’s a continuing interest and a continuing commitment on both sides to continue the conversation.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Always good to see you, Kim. Thank you.