Television Roundtable With Dawn, ARY, AAJ, Dunya, Geo, Express, and Pakistan TV
Secretary of State
MODERATOR: A very warm welcome to Pakistan, Secretary Clinton. It’s good to have you with us again. You come at a time which is very important for this crucial relationship; troubled times, if you may say. And you’ve had lots of meetings in the last few hours. We hope to get a lot of news out of you during this session. But we do hope that you’ve been able to untie some hard knots. And we’re looking forward to a candid discussion this afternoon.
Let me start by introducing my colleagues. Let’s start on the left. This is Mr. Hamid Mir, anchor person and executive editor from Geo News. His is the longest running show in Pakistan television, Capital Talk. We have Munizae Jhangir. You know her already. She’s an anchor person from Express News. Then we have Arshad Sharif. He’s the bureau chief with the DawnNews. Then on our right is Mazhar Abbas, director ARY, director news. And we have Nadeem Malik. He’s an anchor person and directs the program Aaj News. And then we have Anwar ul Hasan, senior anchor person from PTV. And I am Nasim Zehra, director of current affairs, Dunya News.
So let me start first. I was reading just a few days ago an article that you wrote in Foreign Policy magazine, “America’s Pacific Century,” and it was interesting you had put down the names of your partner countries. There was Mongolia, there was Brunei, there was China, India, and other countries. Pakistan was unmentioned there. You had another category; you had bracketed Pakistan with Iran, with North Korea, and Afghanistan as challenges. So that kind of raises questions about United States strategic intent towards Pakistan.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s fair to say, Nasim, that there – you are both a partner and a challenge. And I think that is true for many countries; China, for example, would be in that category as well. The challenges, unfortunately, sometimes overwhelm the partnership and the opportunities. And so this is a relationship that we are constantly tending to and working on. And certainly the challenges that we face on trying to end the conflict in Afghanistan is one that we both have to address. So it is a strategic objective, it’s a very important partnership, but the challenge part of it, if you look at the balance, is now somewhat higher until we can work our way through how to get back on a trajectory where we’re focused on Pakistan’s economic growth, its social development, and not on the difficulties posed by the terrorist threat.
MODERATOR: So it wasn’t an omission in that article?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. No.
MODERATOR: This is the state of affairs right now.
Hamid, over to you.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, you said in Kabul that talks are still possible with Taliban. And recently on October 5th, Wall Street Journal claimed that U.S. officials tried to establish contact with the Haqqani Network and even met them secretly somewhere. So many people in Pakistan, they raise this question, that on one side United States is trying establish contacts with the Haqqani Network, you want to talk with the Haqqani Network, but you want Pakistan to take action against them. And these people who raise questions, they also say that, “Look, the Americans have a different policy for Taliban and Haqqani Network in Afghanistan and a different policy in Pakistan.” Why Pakistan and U.S. cannot adopt a joint strategy for talks with Taliban and Haqqani Network?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think this is a really important question, and I thank you for raising it because, in fact, we do not see any contradiction. In fact, the Pakistani Government officials helped to facilitate such a meeting. And we want more coordination between the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan for what must be, with respect to the conflict in Afghanistan, an Afghan-led effort. But Afghanistan cannot do it without both Pakistan and the United States. We believe that there is now an opportunity for us to begin talking, but there is no guarantee that the talking will result in anything that will move us toward a peaceful resolution. So as we discussed in my meetings over the last day, we’re going to continue fighting where necessary to protect our interests and so are the Pakistani military, because you cannot allow terrorists to gain ground and to be, unfortunately, inflicting attacks on people.
But we also are open to talking, and we have reached out to the Taliban, we have reached out to the Haqqani Network, to test their willingness and their sincerity. And we are now working among us – Afghanistan and Pakistan and the United States – to try to put together a process that would sequence us toward an actual negotiation. I hasten to say that in my discussions with Pakistani officials, they hold the same view that we do. We don’t know whether this will work, but we believe strongly we must try it. And as General Petraeus has explained, his experience in Iraq – and this is not Iraq, but just from a certain perspective – he both fought and talked at the same time to create an atmosphere that diminished and eventually ended what had become a civil war. And so we see no contradiction. We want to see more talking than fighting, but in order to get to the talking, we have to keep fighting.
QUESTION: A very warm welcome to Pakistan.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: My question to you is when you talk about talking to the Haqqani Network, you said you opened some negotiations with them. At the same time, Pakistan is very clear on their position with the Haqqani Network. The Pakistani position is that they will act against the Haqqani Network in their own time, and there seems to be – in no hurry to do so. Now, has the Americans – have you accepted that position of the Pakistani Government that they may not be able to act against them?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s important to define “act,” because we understand that military action is a very difficult decision to undertake. So what we have discussed are other forms of acting, because there are ways through our mutual cooperation. We can share intelligence to make sure that real-time intelligence is pointing the way toward interdicting potential Haqqani attacks. On the other side of the border, we are running a concerted military effort against the Haqqani Network that has taken up positions inside Afghanistan, and our military leadership has shared that with your military leadership. So to cooperate so that we know when people are crossing the border is key, to cooperate so that, as we go after the Haqqani inside Afghanistan, your position to prevent them from coming back into safe havens here, to learn as much as we can, because we’re not in any kind of negotiations.
We had one preliminary meeting to essentially just see if they would show up for even a preliminary meeting, for us to not only share intelligence, but to do everything we can to disrupt their activities. And for example, here is an area where we want greater cooperation between us, and that’s with respect to these improvised explosive devices. The Haqqani Network drove a truck packed with a thousand pounds of explosives into our – one of our forward operating bases. Seventy-seven of our soldiers were injured; thankfully, none were killed because our barriers held. This is a problem for every civilized country dealing with these IEDs.
And so we’re now looking at how we have shared information to help the Pakistani Government deal with the ingredients that go into these IEDs, because we face the same problem in the United States. The first time this became an issue for us was at the Oklahoma City bombing, where a big explosion killed several hundred people, and we realized it was common fertilizer being used. And so we had to take action, which took several years, and so we’re sharing that with the Pakistani Government. So action, it takes many different forms, and it’s not just a call for military action.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, you are credited for being the chief strategist for a second American president. Now, 2012 is again reelection time or election time for the American presidency. Isn’t it right to say that you are looking for the scapegoats where the blame for failure in Afghanistan can be put on Pakistan? And what we are hearing is the, oh, last few years since 2001, the same things coming from the American officials about engagement, they talk about fighting the militants, the Taliban, and in the same conditions holding -- initially there was talk that we won’t talk to Taliban, and then that (inaudible). Isn’t it an admission of defeat, or are you looking for new scapegoats?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. It is neither. And yet I know there are many in Pakistan, and I thank you for raising the issue, because I’d like to address it. We are not looking for scapegoats. We are not looking to place blame. We are looking for the kind of realistic, cooperative relationship that we think is in the best interests of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States. We’ve had a lot of cooperation over the past ten years. Remember, our primary objective was going after al-Qaida. If the Taliban had given up Usama bin Ladin in 2001, when the request was made, history might have been different. But instead, the Taliban sheltered him and continued to work with and support al-Qaida.
Our goal was to go after those who had attacked us. And with Pakistani cooperation and a lot of hard work, we have broken up the core al-Qaida group. However, in the past ten years, what we’ve seen is a syndicate of terrorist groups that have taken root, not only in this region of the world, others as well. So we’ve had to adjust our tactics, and to some extent, look for new ways of being effective. We think we are now at a point where the potential for talking exists, and it took a while to get there, and I give credit to President Obama’s strategy of increasing our military presence in Afghanistan to reverse the momentum of the Taliban, to make it clear to them, at least some of them, that they had a future in Afghanistan if they were willing to abide by the constitution, renounce violence, renounce al-Qaida, et cetera.
So, no, we know how hard this is. This is a challenge to both of us, and I think it’s important to recognize that we want to deepen and broaden our cooperation, because we see the very damaging effect of this kind of ideology mixed with the violence in your country, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
MODERATOR: True of something we understand ourselves. It’s interesting that you think that the Taliban have been put on the back for there’s been a reversal. I’ll come back to that, but Mazhar, your question.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, Pakistan and the U.S. have been strategic partners, and you yourself have said that we have shared a lot of things. What led the U.S. Administration not to share May 2nd operation, and you acted unilaterally without realizing that it’s an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have to be very honest with you. We considered this to be such an important operation vital to our national security that we did not share information even in our own government beyond a very small group of people, and that was for the obvious reasons that this was such a sensitive operation. We had been searching for bin Ladin for a decade. We could not afford to lose him again the way we lost him at Tora Bora, and therefore, we took action that was as limited in scope as possible, aimed solely at the people in that compound with the intention of either capturing, or if he resisted, killing bin Ladin.
We recognized that, of course, it was going to happen on the territory of Pakistan, and we immediately called Pakistani leadership to express to them what we had done and why we thought it was so vitally important. And we don’t see it as the kind of ongoing action against Pakistan that should give rise to any ongoing suspicion, distrust, or problems. But we do know that it was viewed that way by many in Pakistan. But this is an area that we have worked through and talked very candidly about with our counterparts, and we are back to cooperating on the mutual dangers and threats we both face.
MODERATOR: Yeah. Certainly one of the most difficult periods in Pakistan-U.S. relations was the May 2nd – the fallout of that.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you made a very strong statement that, “We are going to seek you in your safe havens on this side of the border or on the other side of the border.” Then there was reporting in U.S. media today that Secretary Clinton has given a very strong message to Pakistani authorities that if you fail to act we’ll act on a unilateral basis. I will combine this statement with one other news item, which appeared two weeks ago. It was related to a meeting in Washington chaired by President Obama regarding national security, where several options regarding not (inaudible) but considered including sending ground troops to Pakistan (inaudible). I want to ask you two specific things here: unilateral action and sending ground troops. Is it an option for United States against Pakistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me say with respect to the ground troops, that may have been raised, but it was not at all considered.
QUESTION: But it was raised.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, everything is raised in a meeting with people sitting around a table, and that has – that reflects the worry and the frustration for this reason. I was just at our Embassy in Kabul. The Haqqani Network bombarded our Embassy for many hours. We were very fortunate that no Americans lost their lives, although some Afghans waiting for visas were unfortunately killed. And I’m the Secretary of State. I’m responsible for the lives and the well-being of the people who are our diplomats and our American employees and our local employees in embassies across the globe. I just want you to put yourself in our position. We have been warning about the Haqqanis, we’ve been warning about safe havens, we have presented information and evidence, we have shared intelligence.
Suppose they had gotten lucky. Suppose that car bomb had killed 77 American soldiers or suppose a car bomb or an effective barrage of assault weapons had killed Americans. Put yourself in the position that suppose that had happened to the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul or some other place. We don’t want to act unilaterally. We want to act in concert with our friends, our partners, our strategic allies in Pakistan, but we don’t want there to be any misunderstanding that we have to act, otherwise there will be perhaps an incident in the future that takes it out of the hands of any president. We don’t want to get to that, and it’s something that we are doing everything we can to avoid.
So when we talk about actions, as I was just talking to Munizae about, we talk about specific things we can do together. But a lot of it depends upon cooperation with our Pakistani counterpart. We think that is far better than having some disaster happen that requires some kind of response, which we are not at all interested in getting to. We want to avoid that.
MODERATOR: So are we saying you are ruling out boots on the ground?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. That has never been a serious consideration.
MODERATOR: So we will not have boots on the ground?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No.
QUESTION: There will be nothing (inaudible) --
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I can’t speak for all the millions of people who work for the United States Government, just as you can’t speak for everybody who works for the Pakistani Government.
QUESTION: Yeah. That’s right. So it’s good to know it’s not --
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, that – no.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, from a common man’s perspective, I am asking this question that the recent trend we are witnessing of very rocky U.S.-Pakistan relations based on strong contradictory and conflicting statements coming from U.S. vis-a-vis Pakistan going toward this terrorism, which has been at least 10 years on this objective. Like, on the one hand, Pakistan has always appreciated that it acted as a frontline state, a strategic ally; but on the other hand, we see that Pakistan is always blamed for working (inaudible) supporting the terrorists, for harboring safe havens in our areas. Don’t you think that sort of provocative relationship, it adds to the trust deficit which already exists between the governments, but it also augments the anti-U.S. sentiment which is very much prevalent in our society?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I very much regret that, but I think your statement is accurate. I think there is a trust deficit. And certainly, I know there is growing anti-Americanism and, frankly, growing anti-Pakistani feelings in my country. And I don’t think that’s particularly productive and I don’t think it’s merited.
Do we have differences? Yes. Do we get frustrated with each other? Yes. There is no doubt about that. If we were not friends and not partners and, yes, not strategic allies, we would both just walk away, and we wouldn’t even have the relationship. But it goes back to the mother-in-law idea. We’re in this together. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: You don’t want to be the mother-in-law in this case?
SECRETARY CLINTON: But the fact is that we know we each have more work to do to deal with this trust deficit. And we think there have been a lot of positive changes and developments in our relationship. But we also face a sense of urgency about this terrorist threat, and we do get concerned because we see it, first and foremost, as a threat to you and to Afghanistan, but then to us and others.
And we sometimes feel as though, because it’s happening up in the border areas, which is a long way from Islamabad and a long way from Lahore and a long way from Karachi, that it’s not taken all that seriously by many Pakistanis. And many Pakistanis wonder why are we so obsessed with this. Something is happening up there, but I have to worry about whether my electricity is on and my kid goes to school and all the things of everyday life.
And we believe that in today’s world you cannot let these terrorists get a foothold anywhere, because they are uncontrollable and they create consequences for countries and the people who live in those countries. Therefore, we are seeking a greater sense of urgency in addressing this and trying to communicate not only with your government but with the people of Pakistan so you don’t think we’re out there just fomenting, that we really see it from a clear perspective.
We’ve had experience in Colombia, where terrorists took up space and pretty soon were controlling 40 percent of the country because initially the government said, well, that’s not in Bogota, that’s far away. And then we spent 10 years and billions of dollars helping the Colombians dislodge the terrorists.
So we have a broader global perspective and we know that these groups can start wars. Suppose they go attack in India again. And I’ve been told by Prime Minister Singh he doesn’t – he wants a positive relationship with Pakistan. If they kill a bunch of people and the signature is somebody in Pakistan did it, it’s going to be very hard to control that reaction.
So I’m only saying this because I want the people of Pakistan to understand we are not making this up, we are not scapegoating, we are not blaming. We are trying to convey a sense of urgency about what could happen inside your own country.
MODERATOR: Yes, I guess, Secretary Clinton, the ball is back in my court. Indeed, what you’re saying is true, but the fact is it’s still distant from where you live. It’s on a day-to-day basis. Every Pakistani I think feels strongly about terrorism, but I think we have just different ways of approaching the issue.
Now you’ve had very important meetings with an important team over the last one day. Tell us something about any forward process that has taken place. Tell us that there’ve been some breakthroughs. Tell us that there is better understanding.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can tell you all of that, Nasim. I can.
MODERATOR: Please tell us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can tell you that I think we’ve done a lot to clear the air. I think that our cooperative relationships between our military, between our intelligence agencies, are back on an upward trajectory. I can tell you that our government-to-government relationship is also very focused in a practical way on outcomes. So Foreign Minister Khar and I have directed our teams to take all the work we’ve been doing in our Strategic Dialogue and put together a work plan, because we got, as you say, diverted over the last months, and we want to get back to business.
We want to look at what we’re doing to help on energy. We’re going to – our technical assistance and financial help is going to add a thousand megawatts of energy to Pakistan to help deal with your electricity shortages shortly. We’re working on water. We’re working on all kinds of issues that are not our priorities; they’re your priorities. And we want to get back to doing them.
But we also have agreed we want as part of that work plan to look at how we sequence a peace and reconciliation process.
MODERATOR: Are we on the same page on that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I will quote General Kayani: We’re 90 to 95 percent on the same page.
MODERATOR: This happened in the last --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
MODERATOR: -- in the last --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. In the meetings that we’ve had, we’ve shared information with each other, we’ve looked at the problems that we both face. Ninety to 95 percent. So now what we want to do is figure out where we might have some differences. And they may or may not be reconcilable, but let’s look at what we can do on the 90 to 95 percent. How do we put together a credible process, Afghan-led, which we both agree on, where both the United States and Pakistan can help bring to the table those Taliban, those Haqqani, who are willing to talk? And until we try it, I cannot sit here and predict to you whether it’s going to amount to anything at all.
MODERATOR: But we’ve passed the deadlock?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: Yes. Today you appreciated the All Parties Conference statement, the APC statement.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: Which was held recently in Istanbul.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: That APC statement also rejected the allegations which were made on the Pakistani security forces and the intelligence (inaudible), like Admiral Mullen accused ISI for supporting Taliban. He said that the ISI supported Taliban in the attack which was made on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. That is a very serious accusation, and many Pakistanis are concerned about that. Would you like to share any evidence? Do you have any evidence against ISI?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that I think that Admiral Mullen’s entire statement should be looked at. It is, yes, clear, unfortunately, that a certain element was pulled out and made very confrontational, inflammatory. And I think we have done a thorough vetting and discussed these matters with the respective Pakistani authorities.
Now, every intelligence agency has contacts with unsavory characters. That is part of the job of being in an intelligence agency. What those contacts are, how they are operationalized, who has them – all of that is what we are now working on together. But I don’t think you would get any denial from either the ISI or the CIA that people in their respective organizations have contacts with members of groups that have different agendas than the governments. But that doesn’t mean that they are being directed or being approved or otherwise given a seal of approval.
So I think what we are saying is let’s use those contacts to try to bring these people to the table to see whether or not they are going to be cooperative. In fact, as I said earlier – and this kind of goes to your point – it was the Pakistani intelligence services that brought a Haqqani member to a meeting with an American team. So you have to know where to call them. You’ve got to know where they are. So those are the kinds of things that we have to examine and understand how they can be beneficial for our mutual efforts to prevent the kind of attacks that threaten Pakistanis and Americans.
QUESTION: So CIA and ISI, they have contacts with different militant groups.
QUESTION: But CIA have no evidence against ISI that ISI helped Taliban to attack U.S. Embassy.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it was actually the Haqqani Network that attacked the U.S. Embassy.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Not that I am aware of. Not that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: You don’t have any complete evidence?
SECRETARY CLINTON: There – look, when we talk about a big organization like the ISI, there are some people who could sit here and absolutely tell you truthfully they know nothing. And there are other people who, again, have contacts, who may know something but certainly had nothing to do with whatever happened.
MODERATOR: Top-level clearance wasn’t there. Something like that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. Yeah, we have no evidence of that.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, now that America is negotiating with the Taliban, are there going to be any red lines? Because I know that you have said that you’re going to fight, you’re going to talk at the same time. At the moment, Mullah Omar has been very clear on his position. He has said that he will not abide by the Afghan constitution and he will not lay down their – his weapons. At the same time, we have seen reports that your government has approached him through Germany through Tayeb Agha, one of his aides. So what really is your position? What is your policy on talking to the Taliban? And are there any red lines?
SECRETARY CLINTON: There are certainly red lines. And this is a potential negotiation, not a negotiation. There is a long way to go before we even can test whether it’s real or not. Remember, Professor Rabbani thought he was meeting with someone who was sincere in pursuing peace on behalf of the Quetta Shura and was killed for his trust in that. So we have no illusions about the difficulty of this.
But we do have three red lines that are shared by the Afghans: Number one, any group that wishes to enter into a peace or reconciliation has to agree to give up violence and abide by the rules and the constitution of the country. And they have to cut ties with al-Qaida. And for me personally, I will tell you that abiding by the constitution and the laws of the country of Afghanistan means respecting the rights of minorities and women. I mean, I cannot in good faith participate in any process that I think would lead the women of Afghanistan back to the dark ages. I will not participate in that.
Young girls deserve to go to school, women in childbirth deserve to see a doctor, they need to be freed of a burqa if that is their choice. So I have not only the red lines of my government, but I enter into this with a sense of obligation, particularly to the women of Afghanistan who have made great progress – everything from the number of girls going to school, going to university, lowering maternal and infant mortality. I could not in good conscience see people come back into power who would say to the two of you, “Get back in your houses and never come out and don’t let me see your face.”
MODERATOR: And truly, yeah.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.
QUESTION: I would just like to ask Secretary Clinton, you are known to be a champion on women’s rights, but how are you going to make sure that the people that you are speaking to, including the aides of Mullah Omar and the people who are now in power, are actually going to respect basic rights and freedoms, especially of women. How are you going to make sure once your troops pull out?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, we are negotiating a strategic partnership document with the Afghans. We are committed to an enduring partnership with the people of Afghanistan, as is NATO. So yes, our combat troops will be transitioning out, the Afghan security forces will be assuming responsibility, but we will still have a presence in Afghanistan for many years to come.
But I think your question goes to the heart of any peace negotiations. Ultimately, you have to make a decision and it’s up to the Afghans to make this decision. We cannot want peace more than they do or less than they do. It is up to them. But if some of the overtures that we have knowledge of prove to be true, where the Taliban may not yet be publicly proclaiming but they’re rethinking some of their policies, particularly on girls and education, then we will explore that. But this is all very premature because we truly do not yet have a negotiation going.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So I don’t want to jump the gun and predict what will or won’t happen, but I thank you for asking about red lines because it’s very, very important to us that we be sure that the gains that Afghans have made not be erased.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, during your last visit, you assured the Pakistan nation that the U.S. wants a long-term relationship with Pakistan, but many others predicted that it was just a matter of convenience, and as long as the U.S. has interest in the region, it would stay with Pakistan. And recent events have again given those critics a chance to say that Pakistan and U.S. have became – become estranged (inaudible). And as you were talking about this 90 percent – 95 percent agreement taking place on this (inaudible), can you tell us what are the 10 -- 5 percent challenges which are remaining in this relationship?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that that is part of the resumption of our strategic dialogue, which we have now begun again to work through that. For example, to go back to the question about fighting and talking, I think that some of our Pakistani counterparts are concerned that that won’t – that’s not an effective way to proceed, that maybe what first needs to be done is try to negotiate a ceasefire. That’s just an example of the discussions that are going to be held.
And that is something that we want to discuss, we want to hear the views of, but it’s done in the context of overall agreement about where we’re trying to head. So I think that the important takeaway from the last 24 hours is that we had very frank, very open exchanges, which I think you do with friends and allies. And I think we heard each other, which sometimes in the din of all of the excitement and the press coverage and the accusations coming in different directions, we can’t hear.
But that doesn’t mean the path forward is easy, because what’s at stake is so important. And therefore we’re going to take it day by day, step by step, but I’m feeling very reassured that I think we’re back on the right track.
QUESTION: One follow-up on this. Secretary Clinton, from the time that President Bush right up to the election of (inaudible) President Obama and (inaudible), pointing out that (inaudible) bordering Pakistan be used (inaudible) and the same accusation is repeated again and again. And we see just so many high-profile visits taking place and similar statements that things are improving, things will get better, like that. Why Americans love Pakistan so much?
SECRETARY CLINTON: What?
QUESTION: Why Americans love Pakistan so much?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Why do we love you so much? (Laughter.) Well, you’re very interesting people for one thing. (Laughter.) And this is an important country with enormous potential. I mean, I’m big on potential. I go around talking about people living up to their God-given potential, countries living up to it as well. And we’ve had a commitment that I think is challenged from time to time because of our respective histories and the way we see things.
But it has continued through many decades. And I was reminded last evening by the much younger foreign minister on the Pakistani side that in the previous generation of Pakistani-American leadership, there was so much cooperation. I mean, the Tarbela Dam, universities built, lots of things that left a lasting impression that we believe helped to contribute to what was a new state that came into being the same year I was born. So I have a special affinity.
I think it’s something that is also fueled by the many Pakistani Americans who make so many contributions to our own country. I have many Pakistani American friends. They go home, as they view it, to Pakistan every year, but they’re very hard-working, very loyal Americans at the same time. So it’s that kind of combination which makes us somewhat unique in our relationship.
MODERATOR: Yeah, and we’ve been great friends, opening up with China, breaking down the Berlin Wall, and so on, so forth. We haven’t done any less.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, is there an agreement between Pakistan and the U.S. on Afghan blueprint? And then secondly, is President Obama coming to Pakistan early next year?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to the Afghan blueprint, that’s part of what we are working on at the two upcoming conferences where all three of us will be present – the Istanbul conference, which is an effort to try to get the region to buy into a vision of the New Silk Road, something that we think can help organize a lot of economic activity through the region. And we want – I mean, we know that without Pakistan’s active support it’s not going to work for Afghanistan. And I have to commend your government, and I told President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani and others that the work you’re now doing with India to open up your borders to trade and commerce is exactly what we believe is going to benefit Pakistan over the next decade.
So we’re looking at a blueprint of which Afghanistan is certainly an important part, but just a part. How do we enhance the economic integration in South and Central Asia, which will be enormously beneficial to Pakistan? You are so perfectly, geographically sited to take advantage of all the increase and trade that we think could come.
The pipeline that we think is a great idea from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan to Pakistan to India that would bring natural gas – now, it’s a geographic and security challenge to build such a pipeline. But are we serious about it? Are we willing to explore it? That’s the kind of discussion we’re going to have, and the blueprint for Afghanistan fits into that.
With respect to President Obama, I cannot say for certain, but I think he’s going to be preoccupied traveling around the United States next year because it is an election year. But as you know, he has very fond memories from the trip he took to Pakistan as a young man, and I’ve heard him say personally he would like to return, but it might have to be a second-term visit instead of a first term.
QUESTION: If you can allow me (inaudible), you have been the political rival of President Obama. Will you be contesting elections against him – (laughter) –
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. No, sir, no. First of all --
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- he will be and deserves to be reelected. And I cannot participate in politics in my current position, but I have said on many different occasions that I think President Obama will be reelected, which I think is good for America.
MODERATOR: Secretary Clinton, just to pick up on something that Mazhar raised about gas pipeline projects, we were told that it was reported that during the last energy talks between Pakistan and the United States, I mean, United States officials advised Pakistan to stay away from the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project. Would you like to comment on that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, we believe that Iran is a very difficult and even dangerous neighbor for all the countries that it borders, and there is an apparently quite unpredictable political and economic situation inside Iran right now. Therefore, we think if there are other routes and other ways of meeting Pakistan’s energy needs, it would be a more likely and enduring commitment.
MODERATOR: So – but Pakistan is our friend -- Iran is our friend, you know that?
QUESTION: Regarding Istanbul conference, is there any possibility of representatives of the Taliban groups participating in that talk?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, because this is too – way too early in the process, and nobody’s even sure who that would be, so no.
QUESTION: And one question relating to that Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, you had talks two months ago (inaudible) U.S. assistance to Pakistan. But what (inaudible), only (inaudible) million dollars have been actually given to Pakistan, (inaudible) million dollars promised in (inaudible) assistance. What happened to that program?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, $2 billion in assistance has been delivered in the last calendar year.
QUESTION: Under Kerry-Lugar-Berman?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, and also under flood relief, so about 900 million in response to the first devastating flood and the rest in civilian assistance under Kerry-Lugar Berman.
QUESTION: If I can duly ask, do you have any favorite groups in Afghanistan as far as the United States is concerned? And similarly, as far as Pakistan is concerned, when will you talk about reconciliation with the Taliban?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Do we have any favorite groups?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. We think that there have been some important contacts within Afghanistan of people representing elements of the Taliban, elements of other terrorist groups, like the HIG, for example. So we know that there are – there’s a lot outreach going on. It’s one
of the things Professor Rabbani was doing. I think it’s part of the reason why we believe the Taliban killed him, because he was being too effective in outreach. He came to Islamabad several times to consult here, and they weren’t ready. And they also thought it would demoralize the Afghans, which it did, because it was such a terrible national blow. So we’re exploring all that.
MODERATOR: Too many follow-ups.
QUESTION: Just wait. (Laughter.) (Inaudible) then on the outcome, I think Pakistan and United States (inaudible) that a strong and stable Afghanistan is in interest of (inaudible) Pakistan as well, then why there are so many strong differences on strategy and tactics?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t – I just said I don’t think there are, once we actually sit down and go through them. I think that there is agreement on everything from squeezing the Haqqani – now, the tactics about doing that are obviously up to each government. There is absolute agreement on trying to move forward on a peace process. The particulars of it have to be worked out, but generally, I think we’re in agreement.
QUESTION: Secretary, today in your press talk along with our foreign minister, you said that – you again emphasized the need to take action against militants and various safe havens in Pakistani-controlled areas. I’m interested to know about the U.S. action of policy regarding Fazlullah, Maulvi Faqir, who are operating from Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan and staging attacks on our border areas from the province from which I belong in Dir, Swat, and Chitral. And in recent attacks, more than a hundred people lost their lives. Should we expect concrete action by the U.S. and ISAF troops in Afghanistan against those safe havens in Afghanistan? And can you give me the time, then? Because you expected us to operate against those elements in days, not in months or years.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as I said at the press conference, I think we have to take action against safe havens on both sides of the border. And we are upping our military tempo against safe havens. I referenced a recent military operation that went after, in particular, the Haqqani Network operatives. But we agree with you that we have to do more on both sides. And it may be that focusing on the safe havens right now is the most effective way, number one, to diminish the attacks and thereby save people’s lives, but number two, send an unequivocal message to terrorists on both sides that they’ve got to come to some kind of negotiation with both the Pakistani Government and the Afghan Government.
QUESTION: Pakistani (inaudible) spokesperson (inaudible) told us that we have always shared information, intelligence information, regarding Fazlullah hiding in Afghanistan. Can you tell us what has been the response of U.S.? Will you help us in getting rid of that terrorist, because when we do programs in Swat, people still have memories of those many days in which women, men, old people were hanged and were killed?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. It was terrible. I remember what was happening in Swat, because it was happening as I was becoming Secretary of State. And I thought the actions taken by your government and your military were absolutely essential in order to dislodge them from territory they were trying to occupy. And we take seriously all of them. Now, look, as you know, on both sides, intelligence is sometimes actionable and sometimes not. And sometimes even when you act on intelligence, you’re not successful. And I won’t go any further than that.
QUESTION: One last question. On (inaudible).
MODERATOR: No, I think – no, no, they’re too many last questions. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: I’ll ask one question, and then Hamid one, and then (inaudible).
QUESTION: Very short.
MODERATOR: Very short.
QUESTION: I would like to inform you about – that today’s headlines in Washington Post and New York Times. These are about your press conference in Kabul.
MODERATOR: Hamid, keep it short.
QUESTION: “Clinton Warns Pakistan on Insurgent Havens.” And The New York Times said “Clinton Issues Blunt Warning to Pakistan.” So tomorrow, there will be more headlines about your warnings in the U.S. media. Would you like to tell us about your --
MODERATOR: What headline would you like to see? That’s a good one. What headline would you like to see?
QUESTION: The truth about your warnings.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think I’ve discussed them. I discussed them in a press conference, I’ve discussed them in an interview, I’ve discussed them in this press roundtable. And as I’ve said, I’m not saying anything different than I’ve said in the past or that I said in Pakistan, and --
QUESTION: So these headlines are not correct?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they are correct. I’m warning --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m warning that if we do not handle these safe havens together, the consequences could be drastic for us both.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. On both sides of the border.
MODERATOR: Yeah. Secretary Clinton --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Both sides of the border.
MODERATOR: Let me ask you one final question. This relationship, we were very upbeat two years ago. Now we have been kind of really – it’s a troubled phase. Do you ever reflect in Washington and ask yourselves what mistakes Washington also made to bring us where we are? Because we know there are mistakes that were --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, one thing that I believe – and I have also said this before – I think sometimes our public messaging is not helpful. And therefore, we have to be more thoughtful and careful about what we say and when we say it. Now, I think that the press coverage on both sides, frankly, gets a little hysterical from time to time, which then in – ignites political reaction, which then leads to statements being made on both sides.
And – so yes, I think that we bear a certain responsibility for that, and I think it’s important that there be a real conscious effort. There’s too much at stake, and most fundamentally for the future of Pakistan.
QUESTION: One small question --
MODERATOR: One question – you know they’re telling me they want to get (inaudible). (Laughter.) She’s desperate. Make it very brief, very brief, and then we’ll come to you. Very brief.
QUESTION: I’ll make it very short. But there’s a perception here in Pakistan that America looks at Pakistan from the prism of Afghanistan. Now, ten years ago, you came here to this region to fight the Taliban. Now, you’ve ended up negotiating with the same Taliban. You are going to be leaving Afghanistan, and many people in Afghanistan and Pakistan both feel that you’re going to leave Afghanistan with a structure, which is there’s going to be no political parties there, there’s going to be no independent judiciary there, so there will be no structure to have a transition to democracy.
MODERATOR: This is – okay, too long a question.
QUESTION: Have you failed in (inaudible) Afghanistan --
MODERATOR: Okay. Have you failed in Afghanistan? Okay. The question is as simple as this.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I would say not at all. I would, I think, usefully remind us all that building democracy takes time, and there has been tremendous changes in Afghanistan, but there is much more work still to be done.
MODERATOR: Okay --
SECRETARY CLINTON: And that’s why I said we’re going to have an enduring partnership to work with Afghanistan to make sure that they get the benefit of building institutions. So this is a long-term commitment. But we do not look at Pakistan through the prism of Afghanistan. We look at Pakistan as a very important country with whom we have an important relationship that needs constantly to be replenished by negotiations and discussions and openness and everything that we try to do.
MODERATOR: Well, I think on this --
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, you – just –
QUESTION: You had a 45-minute, one-to-one meeting with President --
MODERATOR: He wants some news. (Laughter.) He’s got to get news. He’s got to get some news. Give him some news.
QUESTION: You had 45-minute, one-to-one meeting with President Zardari. Any specific decisions have been taken? And secondly, there were reports in Pakistani media about President Zardari had wrote a letter to President Obama. Can you confirm or otherwise?
MODERATOR: That’s an important question.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I cannot confirm, because that’s – I would leave that to others, if it happened, to confirm it. Okay? Because I don’t think that’s appropriate for me to say. But I think that President Zardari fully appreciates the relationship between our two countries, and we talked a lot about trade and investment. We talked a lot about the need to keep pushing at market access, which is something that he is totally committed to, and I gave him an update that we’re working on a bilateral investment treaty, which I hope we’ll be able to negotiate to conclusion in the next months. We are working to expand this New Silk Road vision. We’re working to get an enterprise fund passed by the Congress. So I – in response to President Zardari’s very strong appeal for more economic activity and more market access, I gave him an update and told him that we would keep working.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Secretary Clinton. I think on this note, we’ll end this session, and we really are grateful that we had this candid – opportunity for this candid dialogue. Not only do our two countries have a long history of close cooperation, I think both countries at varying degrees have an important role to play both in the region and, I think, within the Asian continent as far as economic and security structures goes. So this is a relationship that must be ongoing. Thank you very much. A pleasure to have you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We agree. Thank you so much.