Interview With Jackie Northam of National Public Radio
Secretary of State
Please attribute the following content to an interview with National Public Radio
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, first of all, thank you very much for sitting down with us for this interview. I’d like to ask you first about your visit to Pakistan. You had a full court press of senior American officials there, and you yourself delivered some very strong statements, even warnings, to Pakistan’s leaders about what the U.S. is looking for as far as counterterrorism efforts go and reconciliation in Afghanistan and that. I want to find out that after your meetings with the Pakistan leadership, are you any more confident that they fully understand what the U.S. is looking for, whether they’re on board with that, and that the U.S. will receive Pakistan’s cooperation in these efforts?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jackie, first the meetings we held were very comprehensive and represented a coordinated approach by our government, because I led a high-level delegation which met with our counterparts. We discussed our assessments of where things are right now, and shared information about what we’re seeing happening on the other side of the border in Afghanistan, because we admitted there are safe havens there from which Pakistan is attacked, which I believe it’s important to acknowledge. And I think they’re taking onboard everything we had to say. There was a positive tone to the conversations. And now we’re getting back with the details of how we can proceed together.
QUESTION: So at this point, is it a – do you just wait to see – you’re giving them a waiting a period to think about this, or where does it stand?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, I think what we did which was so important was to reach an understanding that we are 90 to 95 percent in agreement, which sometimes gets lost in all of the back-and-forth and the rhetoric from politicians, press, and others. So let’s establish that base of agreement. Let’s then look at where we have disagreements, which are more disagreements in approach than in substance or outcome. For example, we had quite a good give-and-take about how you fight and talk, and how you do that. And General Petraeus was quite helpful in pointing out what had happened in Iraq. Although it’s not completely transferable, it’s instructive. So that’s the kind of level of conversations we were having, and I came away believing that we’ve cleared the air, we had set some clear parameters, and now we have to get about the hard work of actually operationalizing what our agreement is.
QUESTION: But again, do you wait to see if they – if – that you will receive their full cooperation? What is it – how will you know that you’ve gotten that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I want to clarify that we have been receiving their cooperation. I mean, if you look at the last several months since Usama bin Ladin’s death, and there was a lot of concern raised by the Pakistanis about their sovereignty, which we understand and we respect, but we also worked closely together to eliminate three of the top officials in al-Qaida who would’ve stepped into bin Ladin’s operational roles. So I think that it’s important to underscore that on al-Qaida, which remember has been our primary focus for 10 years, the Pakistanis have been very cooperative. Now we’re looking to expand our cooperation vis-à-vis the terrorist networks – the Taliban, Haqqani, and from their side the Pakistani Taliban – and also looking to figure out how to sequence a peace process that makes sense. And we’ve asked for their advice and their help in doing both of those.
QUESTION: I mean, you sound very confident. You sound pleased with every – how everything went. But when you walked into those meetings, you had a completely different tone, and I’m just wondering what happened in the meantime.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not sure that I did. I mean, I say – I said the same things in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that we expect action, we think action is in both of our interests, that we do have some time constraints because of our commitment to transition to Afghan security. So we need to accelerate the planning and working together on what are common objectives. I think what had been lost in the uproar over several of the controversies during the past year is that we do have common objectives, but we see it differently.
And I think it’s important for us to carefully listen to each other. So when I met, for example, with a group of parliamentarians, two of who are from the FATA and live every day with the threat posed by the extremists and have personally suffered, and their families, because of that. What they were saying is some of the way you talk about things isn’t helpful. As one of them said to me, when we hear from a Western official that you want the Pashtuns to give up their weapons, they will never give up their weapons. I said, well, yes, I come from a country where people won’t give up their weapons. He said what you need to be talking about is stopping the violence. And it – so, I mean, these are subtle things, but it gets people’s backs up. And then you run into problems that really are not of substance but of perception.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. I understand that you do – you all have an abhorrence to terrorism and you want a stable Afghanistan and that type of thing, and that it’s the perspective from how you approach the situation and that. But we’ve watched over the years how even if you do have a different perspective, you do have a different approach, it doesn’t seem to be getting what the U.S. wants out of the Pakistanis.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I know that there is a lot of expectations, but I would ask all of us to take a bit of a step back. And I can speak directly about the last two and a half years. When I became Secretary of State, the Pakistani Government was not even taking on the Pakistani Taliban. They were quite uncertain about what to do. Do you have military action against them? Do you try to ignore them? They were going through a very difficult process of trying to understand what their best approach was. And then they took military action, and they began to clear territory, reclaim it.
And I think it’s important for Americans to recognize that there are different timetables that operate in different countries about how to move effectively. For the Pakistanis, it was moving troops off their border with India, which took a huge decision by their government, their military, but they began to do it. And they lost, as they always say, 30,000 people. And they look at us and they say don’t you understand how hard this is for us? And we say yes, we do, but let’s try to increase our cooperation because it’s also important for us that we move together. So I would only caution that despite the frustration and sometimes the disappointment, we have to be clear that Pakistan must be part of the solution. There is no alternative.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, we’ve got one quick question. (Inaudible.) I just want to ask you about Uzbekistan.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: You’re heading out there --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: -- next and that. And obviously, I wonder if it’s – we’ve just heard from a State Department official that you want to broaden and deepen U.S. cooperation with Uzbekistan.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: And I just – how critical is America’s relationship with that country now, given the situation with Pakistan? In other words, I’m thinking specifically of the supply routes, the Northern Distribution Network. Are you – what are you looking for when you go there from them?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re looking for a comprehensive engagement on all of the issues of concern to us, which we do with so many countries with whom we have agreements and very strong disagreements. There’s no doubt that our disagreements with the human rights record in Uzbekistan is profound, and we have personally, continually, including my visit last year, delivered that message. But we also think to achieve our goals in Afghanistan, the neighbors are important, and Uzbekistan is an important neighbor. And Uzbekistan worries about extremist Uzbek fighters who are based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, causing them a lot of internal problems. And therefore, they want to be part of working with us as we do our transition out, and I think that’s appropriate. So we balance this all the time.
And the Northern Distribution Network, which we have accelerated in developing because we did not want to be totally dependent upon a supply route through Pakistan into Afghanistan, is critical to our getting our troops withdrawing from Afghanistan on the timetable that the President has set forth.
QUESTION: Okay. I think your handlers are going to – (laughter). Okay. We’ve got that. Thank you so much.
# # #