Background Briefing on Secretary Clinton's Bilateral Meetings
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: All right, everybody. Thank you for your patience. We are here to give you some background information on some of the Secretary’s bilateral meetings today. I will give you a readout on her meeting with Libyan President of the Governing National Council Magariaf and then [Senior State Department Official Two], who is [title withheld], will give you a readout on her meetings with President Karzai and President Zardari and a little bit of a broader sense of where we are in our relationship with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. I am hereafter Senior State Department Official Number One, and [Senior State Department Official Two] is Senior State Department Official Number Two.
So, first of all, with President Magariaf, I think a number of you got a chance to see the very warm and heartfelt public statements that were made at the top of the meeting, starting with a recognition of the very difficult days for both the United States and Libya following the attack in Benghazi and the loss of Ambassador Stevens and our three other diplomats, and the absolutely firm commitment on both sides, on the American side and on the Libyan side, not, as the Secretary has said, to allow Libya’s hopes and dreams to be hijacked by extremists or hijacked by a mob. In that context, the conversation obviously started on the subject of security. The President and the Secretary reviewed the work that the United States has been doing to try to support Libya’s effort to rein in the militias, to deal with MANPADS and other excess weapons from the Qadhafi era, to ensure that chemical weapons are secured. The Secretary offered to intensify our support and help for the Libyan Government in all of those areas.
President Magariaf spoke of two fundamental threats to Libyan security: the first, the threat from extremists with their own agendas; the second, a threat from remnants of the Qadhafi era, and he said that security is their government’s absolute highest priority. He also spoke about concerns about the borders and the importance of being able to work well with neighbors to secure borders so that they can’t be – the porousness can’t be abused either by Qadhafi era remnants or by extremists, and asked for the United States’ help in their continued effort to build good cooperation with their neighbors in this regard.
They then went on and talked about the economic challenges of, as the Secretary put it, helping Libya to build a 21st century economy. The Secretary talked at some length about our desire to encourage increased U.S. investment in Libya along the lines that we’ve been also doing in Tunisia and in Egypt to bring U.S. business people to Libya again. President Magariaf spoke about wanting to diversify the Libyan economy so it’s not just petrochemical dependent but to make it a truly 21st century economy, picking up on her phrase.
The Secretary also talked about the challenge of writing a permanent constitution that stands ahead of Libya and our hope and expectation that it’ll have strong protections for the human rights of all, the highest rule of law standards and justice. She also raised Pan Am 103, as she does in all meetings with senior Libyans, and requested continued cooperation as we keep working on that issue together.
Why don’t we go to you, [Senior State Department Official Two], on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. Thanks, and sorry to keep everyone waiting. The bilateral with President Karzai actually went quite long, so I just returned from that. Let me give you just kind of broad overviews of both the bilateral meetings today and then try to put it in a slightly broader framework as well.
The meeting with President Karzai lasted, I guess, probably close to an hour. It started off with the discussion about the aftermath of the video incident and our appreciation to the Afghans for helping to keep violence from that incident down to a minimal amount, and President Karzai appreciated that.
It went through kind of an assessment of where we are broadly right now on the road through transition in 2014. Obviously, we just completed the drawdown of the surge troops, and we are continuing our commitments through 2014 and then into the transformation decade that follows.
Obviously, the issue of insider attacks came up, and we talked about the continuing need – although I would defer on this to my Defense Department colleagues on the military end – but the need to continue to work through these issues and the joint interests of Afghans and American citizens in building a strong and stable Afghan National Security Force which can help to – which will contribute to a stable political future for Afghanistan.
Part of that political stability is premised on the Strategic Partnership Agreement which we signed earlier in the year, and that was raised, including next steps from the SPA, as we call it. One of those is that it talked about the beginning of a bilateral security commission, which would start the process of negotiating a bilateral security agreement. And we’ve been working on the very beginning points of that discussion and that will start next week. And on October 3rd, we’ll have our first meeting. It’s still, for those of you who follow the weeds of this, we were given about a year from the time negotiations started – this is not the formal start of negotiations, but it’s the beginning of the path to negotiations on the bilateral security agreement. So another positive development in how we are kind of jointly working through our – the issues of mutual concern.
Obviously, as it always does, a political resolution and reconciliation also came up. And on this point, Ambassador Grossman noted that he had just finished convening the eighth meeting of the core group at his level between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the U.S., which in part had follow-up reports from several of the working groups that they (inaudible) at their last meeting. One of these was a meeting of the Safe Passage Working Group, which was first hosted in Islamabad just two weeks ago, and looks at the possibility to facilitate movements of Taliban for those who wish at some point down the road to join any sort of reconciliation discussion.
So at this point it’s working through the theoretical and legal frameworks and seeing where we can continue to – how we can continue to best facilitate any process down the road.
And then I think significantly, because President Karzai talked about the broader political, strategic, and economic issues at play in any sort of longer-term stability for his country, I wanted to make sure that this wasn’t seen as a bilateral meeting in some sort of isolation. There’s actually a number of meetings happening in the course of this week that build on the very firm foundation that we have set over the course of the past year. And many of you will be familiar with the kind of series of major ministerial meetings, summits, and others that we’ve held.
One last Thanksgiving was the Istanbul Conference, which provided a regional framework for including very specific economic and political confidence-building mechanisms. And it was at the beginning of a process that was followed up in Kabul this past summer, and right now in fact, Ambassador Grossman is at a meeting of senior officials to continue with that Istanbul process and assess where we are on some of those confidence-building mechanisms.
Similarly, as you know, we laid the foundation in Chicago for contributions to the Afghan national security forces, and then in Tokyo, we did the complementary piece on the economic and civilian assistance side with commitments of $4 billion a year for four years. So into this transformation decade showing that the international community will continue to stand by Afghanistan. And there was a meeting tomorrow, which will continue to look at the mutual accountability framework, commitments that Afghanistan made, as well as where the international community is.
And President Karzai asked about the possibility of continuing to attract economic investment; there was recently an investment conference in Delhi with over 400 companies there, and in fact, just this morning Deputy Secretary Nides kicked off his day with a meeting of about a dozen American companies who are already investing or are thinking of investing in Afghanistan.
So this is all part of a much broader framework where, as the Secretary noted in the bilateral, there’s been a very steady, positive growth of this state in Afghanistan over the course of certainly the last decade, but even now just the past few years. And our goal now is really to continue to build on that, how to consolidate those gains, and ensure that we build on those successes.
On Pakistan, Secretary met with President Zardari this morning. But it follows on a series of high-level meetings that we’ve had over the course of the last few months, which have really resulted in part by – from the success of reopening the Ground Lines of Communication at the beginning of the summer, and it really paved the way for a kind of reenergized dialogue at senior levels.
So Secretary Clinton last met with Foreign Minister Khar in Tokyo when they were at the Tokyo conference in early July, and had another --
QUESTION: Wait. Didn’t they meet on Friday?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Last – before this past meeting. Sorry, I was just getting to the point where Foreign Minister Khar then came.
After Ambassador Grossman’s visit to Islamabad and Kabul last weekend, then Foreign Minister Khar spent most of last week in Washington. She had a series of, I think, very constructive and very honest meetings with key Senators and House members. She did a range of civil society and think tank meetings, including the Council on Foreign Relations. And then she had about a two hour bilateral meeting with Secretary Clinton on Friday.
And that really covered the waterfront in terms of our issues and many of those were addressed again today with President Zardari. Again, we started off, given the primacy in all of our minds on security of personnel –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Are you on Zardari or Khar now? You’re on Zardari.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’m on Zardari, although I will let you know on the Khar piece of it, which was – because it was a lot longer, was – gone into more of the specific issues as well.
The meeting today with President Zardari started again on the recent violence caused by the video. We have had extremely good support from Pakistani security sources in protecting our posts and our personnel, and we spent quite a bit of time talking about the violence throughout the region. The Secretary was unequivocal in stating that those who provoke violence cannot be tolerated, and it undermines the sovereignty of states, and we all must stand against violence. And there was complete concurrence by Pakistani leadership, not only by President Zardari who was there, but by senior members of his government and senior leaders of coalition parties who joined them, that there was zero tolerance for both violence and extremism. So on this issue, they were very united.
The Pakistanis have said several times that they appreciated very much both the President and the Secretary’s statements about the video and the statements from our senior officials about its offensiveness and how it’s been reprehensible, but that it is no justification for violence. And the first part of our meeting was dedicated to that.
In a kind of further smaller-group session between President Zardari and Secretary Clinton, they talked about continued counterterrorism cooperation, including our continuing efforts to squeeze the Haqqani Network. And as you all know, we recently designated the Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist organization. There was talk about religious freedoms. There was continued discussion, as there was with President Karzai on Afghanistan, on reconciliation. And again, we spoke about some of the things I just mentioned: the core group, the Safe Passage Working Group. And of note is the last core group before today’s, which was in Tokyo, held at the ministerial level, which, for the first time, all three countries jointly called on Taliban to join the peace process. And building on that statement as well, notably Prime Minister Ashraf made his first foreign trip as Prime Minister to Kabul, and we will continue to look for ways that we cooperate on this issue.
And then lastly, also mirroring the Afghan conversation, was talk of our economic relationship and the relationship between the Pakistani people and the American people. Of note right now is the launch by Secretary Clinton of the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council as part of her event at 4 o’clock, which is meant to build opportunities for Pakistani women and both U.S. and Pakistani businesses. There was discussion of some of the private sector investment vehicles that we’ve tried to design to encourage further investment, including something which we just announced, the PPII, the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative; ongoing civilian assistance that we’re giving to Pakistan, including a recent commitment to help repave some key roads leading to Afghanistan which are particularly used in the movement of supplies to Afghanistan; and the very welcome growing trade relationship between Pakistan and India even as noted in the recent visit of the Commerce – the recent discussion of the Commerce Secretary's (inaudible).
And from all this we are continuing to try to focus and hone and build on our bilateral relationship. Many of you remember the working groups that we established a little while ago. We have committed to three or four of the most significant ones meeting before the end of the year.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The counterterrorism working group?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The first – they’re all working groups. The very first one that I think will meet is the one on counterterrorism and law enforcement, which will address counter IEDs, which came up as well today and on Friday. We’ll also look at – to ones on the economy and market access issues, and we hope to also sign a bilateral investment treaty by the end of the year, as well as issues on the defense consultative group and potentially a nonproliferation group.
So there’s a lot that we’re re-energizing at this point. I don’t think anyone wants to set expectations too high or too broad. But I think the general trajectory is certainly one that we’ve worked very, very hard on, particularly Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Khar, and which we’re all trying to further.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Great. Let’s go to questions. Just to underscore a point that [Senior Department Official Two] made, I think, with regard to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, you have not only these meetings that happen at the level of Secretary, head of state, but you have a huge amount happening at the Marc Grossman level, at the delegation level, particularly as we get these various working groups and security and economic agenda items moved forward.
QUESTION: Can I ask specifically about the meeting with Zardari and your discussion of the Haqqani Network? You said you spoke about your efforts to squeeze them. Since the FTO designation, and even previous to that, there haven’t been any recent comments by Pakistani officials suggesting that they will take any further action against them. What was the message today?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We’ve continued to speak very substantively over the course of at least the last year. And I remember when Secretary Clinton was there last fall, she gave several specific examples of what squeezing the Haqqani Network would look like, and we continue to talk about ways we could pursue that together. And many of these working groups will provide some opportunities to continue to build on that, so –
QUESTION: But the President didn’t say anything today about Pakistan taking any action at all to step up –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think we’re not going to characterize President Zardari’s side of the conversation. We’ll let him do that. But her remarks, obviously, were very much in keeping with where she’s been. Let’s use these working groups to really dig in --
QUESTION: She pressed him. He – you’re not saying what he said?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’re not going to characterize his views.
QUESTION: You – did the – did she raise this Railway Minister offering a $100,000 bounty for the producer of the film, and did she say that that’s out of line and you guys should get rid of him?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The Pakistanis actually raised that at the very outset of the conversation in the general discussion about not tolerating anyone who provokes violence. We’ve said very clearly and explicitly that the statements were inflammatory and a completely unacceptable threat, and we were very pleased with the series of statements that have come back from the Pakistanis. Both the Prime Minister’s spokesman and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have both very publically disassociated the Pakistani Government from those statements.
And as part of the delegation today was the leader of the party, the ANP, which the Railway Minister is part of, who also very explicitly disassociated his party from those statements and said they were absolutely the individual views of a single person, and the party would meet soon to decide what to do with that minister.
QUESTION: In terms of – well, the party would. But what about (inaudible)? Wouldn’t firing the guy be --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, the governments did issue their statement --
QUESTION: Did they say no tolerance? (Inaudible) I know, but I mean that’s – no tolerance would be – I mean, this guy basically called for someone to be murdered.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: And the Prime Minister and the MFA – and I think you’ll see continued statements on this – were unequivocal.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) still have some (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Right, but you have to also look at the --
QUESTION: Well (inaudible) was no tolerance (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: But you also have to look at it in the context of their coalition government. And so they may not --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: They have said --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Matt, I think the expectation, based on the conversation that we had, was that the party will make its decisions and that will have an impact on the larger question of how this is dealt with.
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay.
QUESTION: You’re comfortable characterizing what you – what they said, but not what Zardari said about the Haqqanis?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think we’ve given you what we can on this. Anybody else?
QUESTION: Well, can I follow on that? Because I’m, like, not quite sure what all this means. So did the Secretary – you said that they brought it up.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Did – first of all, was it President Zardari that brought it up? And did the Secretary actually ask him to do anything to the Railway Minister or make some statement in his own name disavowing it? And what is your expectation of the Pakistani Government writ large in its responsibility here to follow up on that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The President raised it at the outset of the meeting, as we had the more – the broader conversation about violence and recent protests and the aftermath of it. It was part of the broader discussion when they talked about, as I said, that anyone that provokes violence cannot be tolerated, and that was echoed on by both delegations. And we are in further conversations, including with several of the ministers there and leaders of the various parties. They not only all completely disassociated themselves from it, but said that it was a process, an internal process that would continue to play out and that they were addressing. And we were comfortable with that response.
QUESTION: So that – but that’s your – that’s a global response to that, which is one of the things I asked you. But specifically on Zardari, did he say he would disavow it when she asked him?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It started with this whole conversation in which President Zardari drew her attention to the government’s statements disavowing the comments. So it started on the affirmative with him. And then there were several people in the delegation who spoke to it, including the party leader --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Right.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And as [Senior State Department Official Two] has said, the understanding was that this would now be handled internally, and we’ll see how it goes. Okay?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: But there was certainly – and again, I don’t want to speak for them either, and I think that they will continue to speak to this in the coming days, but they were very clear that they felt that they had taken among the strongest actions possible thus far in terms of repudiating and disassociating the parties and the government from these statements, and that the rest, in terms of whatever may happen on his job, was a matter for their internal domestic processes to take care of.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Let’s go over here. Steve.
QUESTION: I want to go to Libya.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yep.
QUESTION: If anyone wants --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, shall we finish on Pakistan first? Yeah.
QUESTION: On the video itself that – their spokesman yesterday said that they intend to call for international legislation against such incidents, so did they actually raise something like that in the meeting?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That was not discussed in any part of the meeting. I am not aware that it was discussed in any part of the meeting. I know that there have been some suggestions about this, and we’ll have to see how it plays out over the course of this week. But we also talked about our freedoms and the sanctity with which we hold them as well.
QUESTION: Okay. And with regards to Afghanistan and the reconciliation effort, Afghanistan and Pakistan recently have been trading allegations of cross-border insurgency. Was that discussed? And are – or did you raise anything that you’re happy with the cooperation that you are receiving in terms of border cooperation mechanism from Pakistan?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It was part of the broader discussion on their bilateral relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I think we are all working towards continuing the positive trajectory that that is on as well. And certainly, Pakistan has been more engaged on the reconciliation side, including posting this Safe Passage Working Group just recently and Prime Minister Ashraf’s visit to Kabul recently. And we’ll continue to build on that, and I think there’s a recognition of that on the Afghan side as well.
QUESTION: And just lastly, you – earlier you said that in the meeting with the Foreign Minister Khar, there were some specifics that were discussed. So if you could just elaborate on that.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: There’s a whole range of issues. She had spent her – as I mentioned, she had at least three separate meetings with a series of Hill members, and they had raised a number of issues with her, and she discussed some of those. She discussed some of the ongoing civilian assistance and economic initiatives, including energy needs and some of the things that we’ll discuss in the working groups, and then the broader regional issues as well. So it was just – there was a lot covered over the course of that two hours. We didn’t linger on any particular topic, and so those are what she discussed.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Paul.
QUESTION: Did President Zardari or any other Pakistani official urge the U.S. to do anything more to prevent incidents like this film or taking action against the people who created it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Beyond the broad frame that I just told you about, condemning all those who provoke violence, there was not any specific action requested.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Andy.
QUESTION: Did drone strikes come up from either side, either in – with the President Zardari meeting or in the Khar meeting?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: As you know, we don’t talk about such a thing.
QUESTION: Was there conversation in either of the meetings about the impact of the Haqqani designation on reconciliation efforts?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We’ve actually been quite pleased with the response in both countries on the designation, and we’ll continue to build on it.
QUESTION: So it was discussed?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It was –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think that it’s fair to say that it had been discussed before the designation was made, that they could expect this, and that it was something that we felt we needed to do in order to be able to go after the sources of funding, et cetera, for the Haqqani Network. So by the time it actually happened, I think it’s fair to say, [Senior State Department Official Two], that it wasn’t a surprise.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Absolutely. As I briefed immediately after the designation, this was something that we wanted to keep the Pakistani Government in very close touch about. And so we had raised it with a variety of senior civilian, military, intelligence leadership and worked with them through this. So by the time of these meetings of the past few days, it hasn’t been an issue.
QUESTION: Well, isn’t the reason that they’re happy with – or you were happy with their response because – I’m sorry. Let me formulate this again. The Pakistanis are under the assumption that they have zero added obligations as a result of this FTO designation. Have you told them anything to suggest otherwise?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think you’d have to get the Pakistani response on what their obligations are.
QUESTION: I do have – yeah. I mean, in fact, they’ve said that. I mean, the Foreign Minister said that last week, that she doesn’t – they’re – you told them ahead of time that’s done, it was done for U.S. reasons, and boom, so what for them.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: But I mean, I would also look to the press release that the Embassy issued here noting that they were foreign fighters, going squarely into the parliamentary recommendations on the expulsion of foreign fighters and that Pakistani soil should not be used to launch attacks on others. So I think that the response thus far has actually been very constructive.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Anything else on Afghanistan, Pakistan?
QUESTION: Yeah. On Pakistan, can you just clarify –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Can you tell us who you are?
QUESTION: Josh Gerstein with Politico. You said there was a general discussion of not tolerating anyone who provoked violence. Were you intending to encompass in that both the Railway Minister’s comments and the original act of posting this video? And was the theme of this discussion that both kinds of acts should be considered in parallel and similar sanctions should apply to both kinds of acts?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think it was focused much more on the Pakistani side of that at that point in the conversation, although it was part of a broader discussion on the obligations of government leaders to speak out about this writ large. Is that accurate?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That’s about right. Yeah.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion about Pakistani Prime Minister getting onto the national TV one day before the (inaudible) and declaring the holiday to (inaudible)? Was there any discussion about that official action of the Prime Minister?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: There wasn’t in this set of meetings. I think we – I think I said at the time that we weren’t going to get into their internal decisions about holidays, but we wanted to see any protests that occurred be maximally peaceful. I think we have also said, including in the context of this meeting, that we worked very well with the Pakistanis to protect all of our diplomatic missions, and we were very appreciative of the seriousness with which they took security, notwithstanding the fact that there was some violence and some loss of life, obviously.
QUESTION: The other one is about trilateral talks which are going to be held here between UK, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Are you supporting of that talks? And what kind of results you will expect out of those trilateral talks?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Absolutely. We’re completely supportive of any number of other talks that engage the Afghans and Pakistanis. I couldn’t begin to tell you what the expectation is out of them, but as Ambassador Grossman has said many times, the goal in the reconciliation effort is to get Afghans speaking with other Afghans about the future of Afghanistan. And there are many ways and many channels to try to pursue that. And our avenues are one of them, and – but if others have other avenues, we certainly welcome those as well. And the most important piece of it is the Afghan ownership of this, and given that, then we’re extremely supportive of this.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Anne.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion of this being her last meeting with either of them? Is it your expectation that it is, in fact, the last time she will see them?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We didn’t talk about any scheduling issues.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Way, way too much work to do. There was – there were no goodbye hugs here. We’ve got a lot of work to do in the four months ahead.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion on the forthcoming elections in Pakistan?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: There was discussion in general that it’s an electoral season in both countries. Obviously that’s not a surprise.
QUESTION: So is it your sense then that Pakistani-U.S. ties are now much more on an even keel and you’re actually going to move upwards and forwards, or are they still just sort of stagnant and just moving along on a fairly level-?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I would certainly say that they’re moving upwards and in a positive direction. I don’t, again, want to overestimate and oversell what’s occurred. I mean, we’re – I think we’ve been working at a very diligent, disciplined, workmen-like manner over the course of these last 18 months, which have been very difficult, and especially over the last several months, since we’ve had this opening opportunity again, given the Ground Lines of Communication, to get this back on track.
And I think they’re reinvigorated, but we’re looking at very specific, discrete, incremental steps that we can show that by acting together jointly, we can pursue many of our shared interests. And that’s what these targeted few working groups are seeking to do. That’s what these continued high-level meetings, working-level meetings are continuing to do. And I’m very comfortable with the direction that this is headed. But we’re not – we want to be realistic and clear-eyed about all this.
QUESTION: Can I ask on Afghanistan, on the Bilateral Security Commission? I got lost a little bit on – you had – you spoke about the talks that are happening next week, which aren’t the start of the formal negotiations but would lead – would be talks to lead to the formal talks?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think that the Strategic Partnership Agreement laid out that the – a bilateral security agreement should be pursued and that it would have – the goal was to have it completed within one year of negotiations starting. And this is just --
QUESTION: This was from the start of the last --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: This is from the – no, no. The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by President Obama when he went there earlier in the year --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: -- called for a bilateral security agreement, which would – with the goal of that being completed one year after negotiations started. To start the bilateral security agreement, we first have to have some meetings with the Bilateral Security Commission. That commission is meeting for the first time next year, and we are each appointing lead negotiators. And that will start the process of leading to the first negotiation of the BSA. So it’s a technical –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s talks about talks.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It’s a technical point, but we’re not starting the tolling of that year next week.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: But it is a positive step that we are going down that road.
QUESTION: Because they’re on track essentially.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yes.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Just remember that – yeah. Just remember that our – we operate in the current security environment under a Status of Forces Agreement that takes you to the time when security is fully in the hands of the Afghans, at the end of 2014. So we need something that will replace that as our sort of permanent security arrangement, if that’s fair to say, [Senior State Department Official Two].
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yes.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And this has to be negotiated, and it has to be negotiated before the end of 2014. And there was – and to try to do it within 12 months from the start of it. So this is preparatory to all of that.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: If that makes sense. Okay. Going back to Libya.
QUESTION: On Libya. The – you mentioned that in the meeting with the President that you discussed reining in militias, MANPADS, the chemical weapons side, and that you wanted to intensify support in all those areas. Other than the Marine FAST team that’s gone in or the FBI, which is conducting the investigation, have you been able to resume any of the military or security cooperation since the attack?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: My understanding – and I don't have as many details as I should; I’ll see if I can get you a few more. But my understanding is that some of these training programs that we have been doing for Libyans have continued through this period. We’d like to do even more. As you know, this has been – we’ve had an interim government and there were some questions about how many decisions they could take about how they were going to approach security.
But it’s certainly clear in all the conversations that we’ve had in the last two weeks and in the way President Magariaf was postured today that there is an appreciation and a commitment to accelerating the work that they are doing internally on their security. And among other things, he spoke very eloquently about the fact that the Libyan people are demanding to have a better sense of security.
QUESTION: Just on a – I don't know if logistical is the right word, but are you able now to get more personnel back into at least the Embassy in Tripoli?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don't think that we’ve got difficulty posting people in Tripoli for these things. And generally, these training programs are done by – teams come in for a short period to do that work or we bring Libyans to the States or to Europe for training, so all of that is continuing.
QUESTION: But let me ask another way. If I recall, right after the attack, you withdrew all but a skeleton crew from –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Oh, I see what you’re saying.
QUESTION: I mean, Benghazi entirely and from Tripoli there were just a few left. Have you now been able to send back a more robust if not complete mission?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don't think we’re back to full staffing in Tripoli, but I don't have any sense that it has impacted negatively on our ability to provide security training to the extent that the Libyans are ready to have it.
QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official One], can I just follow up? I know the constraints that you’re under discussing the U.S. probe into what’s happening in Benghazi, but the Libyans have their own. Did the Secretary ask for – did President Magariaf volunteer where they are with their probe? I mean, he talked on the TV last week about 50 people being arrested. Did they discuss that at all?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We are very focused in our work with them on this investigation, on the work that the FBI will do with them. So to the extent that the FBI leads, they’re the investigative agency, it wasn’t her place to get into the details.
QUESTION: Are there any Americans – American personnel in Benghazi now?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No.
QUESTION: Just on the point that you raised, that the President had said that they see two threats – one is from extremists and they have their agenda, and two is from remnants of the Qadhafi regime – was there any indication that the two are working together or is there any concern that there could be an alliance between the two?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’ll let the Libyans speak to how they might see those things, but he spoke in terms of these two streams that they are watching and working on.
Anything else? Okay, thanks guys. And thank you very much [Senior State Department Official Two].