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Diplomacy in Action

Background Briefing: Senior Administration Officials


Special Briefing
Senior Administration Officials
En Route To Kabul
March 25, 2013

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MODERATOR: So just a reminder, this is a background briefing embargoed until we land, which is easy to implement, with [Senior Administration Official One] who will have some opening remarks, and [Senior Administration Official Two]. So I’ll turn it over to [Senior Administration Official One]. Just as a reminder, we’ll just go around. Everyone gets a question after [Senior Administration Official One]’s done.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks, [Moderator]. Let me just try to, in a few minutes, kind of give a broad overview of the trip, and then we’ll get into more detailed Q&As. But obviously, as you all know, Secretary Kerry came to this position with deep experience on Afghanistan and with very established relationships with many of the key leaders, including President Karzai. He was here five times during the course of the first term of this Administration alone, and obviously has worked very closely with the Afghan people and has deep respect for the hopes and aspirations of the Afghan people and understanding of how these hopes and aspirations are connected to our core goals, which at the end of the day is a strong and stable Afghanistan that’s in the national security interests of both the Afghan and the U.S. people.

So --

QUESTION: If you could (inaudible). (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Sorry. I’ll try to – all right.

QUESTION: Did he see Karzai five times?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yes, I’m sure that he is. We’ll confirm, but I’m almost confident that every time he’s come Karzai has been there. I, in fact – in the first term – I traveled with him in two of those times in my current position, and certainly both those times Karzai was there. I’m almost certain that’s the case.

But this is a trip – this is an opportunity for him to meet in person with President Karzai and other officials now in his new position as Secretary, and really to hear directly from Afghans who, while looking forward to a future of a sovereign Afghanistan, are obviously also very concerned about what the transition at the end of 2014 actually entails and what it means in terms of their – the real world implications in their lives. So he particularly wants to discuss progress both with President Karzai and in his other meetings with the whole range of Afghan stakeholders on the ongoing security, political, and economic transitions, and really with a special emphasis on the elections scheduled for next year.

He will make clear that the U.S. will have an enduring commitment in Afghanistan that will last beyond transition, and that there will always be bumps in the road, that it’s a relationship that can withstand those. Look, I want to be as clear-eyed and pragmatic as possible. The process of winding down our current position and role in Afghanistan and stepping into more of a support role as Afghans increasingly take over their own security and development is not going to be a smooth process at all times. Issues of security and sovereignty are always going to be difficult, but the most important thing is that we are honest with each other when there are differences between us, and you’ve seen some of these differences play out recently. So we’ll see more of these, undoubtedly, as a very kind of necessary but complicated processes continue to unfold.

We want to look at, in the broader picture, the more strategic picture. And we believe that we continue to be committed to the same strategy and the same goals of a fully sovereign Afghanistan without al-Qaida and responsible for its own security. We value our partnership with the Afghan people, per our implementation of the Security Partnership Agreement that we signed last year, our continued discussions on a bilateral security agreement, and working to strengthen governance and increase economic opportunity.

Let me run through just highlights of the kind of the key issues on transition. On security transition, he’s obviously interested in hearing how this final phase is going as Afghans take the lead for security across their entire country. As you know, by the end of next year, the security transition is complete, Afghans take full responsibility, and it’s something that should make Afghans very proud.

On the political transition, Secretary Kerry’s very focused on how the U.S. can best support Afghan elections next year. As many of you know, he was very personally engaged in the elections in 2009, and he wants to ensure that the U.S. can help to support and strengthen Afghanistan, keeping faith with the Afghan people.

And on – also with regard to elections, what was signed last year in Tokyo lays out kind of very specific aspects on how we can we best help ensure the conduct of credible, inclusive, transparent elections, and working with really all Afghan stakeholder – not only the government, but independent Afghan electoral institutions, Afghan political parties, civil society – all stakeholders to do what’s necessary for preparation. He will focus on this quite a bit, but we want to make sure that these preparations are in line with the constitution and ultimately result in a process that’s inclusive and consultative and transparent and secure and ultimately something that is hopefully unifying for the country.

On the economic transition, we recognize that the long-term interests of the country depend on the ability to continue to attract investment and have a more viable economic stability. Also in Tokyo, you saw that the international community pledged $16 billion to fill what the World Bank hole was of about – close to $4 billion a year through 2015. Some countries committed to pledging far more after that. The U.S. committed to seeking assistance, civilian assistance, from Congress for at least a few years after that. But the important thing is that we will have to be on a glide path away from assistance over the longer term.

So while our commitments to continued assistance are real and will extend beyond 2014, what we really have to do is try to find ways to make the economic situation in Afghanistan more sustainable. So we’re looking at ways to address fraud and corruption and for the Afghans to really take on the reform commitments that they themselves laid out in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.

Let must just say a quick work on reconciliation. We continue to be committed to a peace process between the Afghan Government and the Taliban, and as our presidents confirmed when President Karzai visited in January, Afghan-led peace and reconciliation is the surest way to end violence and ensure lasting stability in Afghanistan and in the region. So we’re looking for any ways we can to support and accelerate the efforts that lead to a strong and a unified Afghanistan. So as we said in January, we support an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the Afghans and the Taliban, and we continue to join with President Karzai in calling on the Taliban to join a political process, including by taking those steps necessary to open that office in Doha.

The very last point I want to make before Q&A is that originally Secretary Kerry was hopeful that he would be able to go to Pakistan on this trip as well, but as the government there really enters a very historic period in this electoral process, we wanted to fully respect those institutions and the ongoing process, and so not travel there this time but go there at an appropriate time in the future.

I think what’s currently occurring in Pakistan is quite remarkable. We welcome the announcement of the caretaker Prime Minister yesterday, and as we will hopefully see with elections scheduled in May, the first-ever civilian-to-civilian government, peaceful transition of power in the country. But during this election period, we also wanted to make sure that we continued our ongoing dialogue with Pakistan on the whole series of shared interests that we have, including combating terrorism and ensuring a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan.

So last night, Secretary Kerry had a unique opportunity to meet General Kayani. They happened to overlap in Amman for an evening. General Kayani was there on an official visit to Jordan to meet with his counterpart today. That was announced by the Pakistanis several days ago. And so given the overlap, they met last night to discuss these range of bilateral security issues, including on counterterrorism, on combating safe havens, and on issues that are important to the future of Afghanistan, to Pakistan, and to us.

This was ahead of, obviously, Secretary Kerry’s meetings with President Karzai today, and so he plans to fully readout his conversation with General Kayani last night, and help to continue to inform the ongoing process of transparency and communication between all three of us. And in that same interest, our acting Special Representative David Pearce is in Kabul, he’ll meet us when we land, and he will go to Pakistan quite soon to continue to engage with the civilian government that’s currently there, at this point the technocratic government, if in fact we don’t yet have caretaker appointments in some of these processes, and continue this process of regional confidence building.

MODERATOR: Great. Why don’t we start here?

Andrea.

QUESTION: How – thank you very much – you think I would know how to use a microphone.

MODERATOR: It’s like a press (inaudible). Go ahead.

QUESTION: How does Secretary Kerry plan to address the most recent comments by President Karzai when Secretary Hagel was there, and in what context can he handle that? Does he have to ignore it, smooth it over, challenge it? I mean, what is the approach to Karzai, given what has happened most recently with the new Secretary of Defense?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Certainly the focus on the bilateral relationship will be one of the critical pieces that they talk about. I think in its – he’s very well served by having the lengthy personal relationship with him. I think that they start from a position of some trust of each other, and at the end of the day, that our interests are still very much aligned and that we are all working towards a sovereign and unified Afghanistan, and that we will continue to work together, which is exactly what I was trying to say kind of at the outset of this. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be problems; there undoubtedly will be. But I think that we will continue to be able to achieve some constructive resolution of them in much the same way that we’ve managed to do just over the course of the last week or two.

I don’t have any final confirmation of it, but I think while we’ve been in the air, hopefully there’s been a transfer ceremony to take care of the detentions issue at Parwan, which was obviously one of the issues that was a sticking point. Our teams continue to meet about it. We hammered out a resolution to everyone’s satisfaction and in everyone’s mutual interest. And it supports the long-term sovereignty of Afghanistan.

So I think going into it with – on the basis of their history, given the joint interests, and seeing what we can achieve constructively in the time ahead will be very much the kind of touchstone of their conversations.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Andrea, the only thing I’d add is that since many of those comments were first made, both Secretary Kerry has spoken to President Karzai, but more recently and more frequently, Secretary Hagel talked to President Karzai twice. And as [Senior Administration Official One] mentioned, I mean, we’ve moved forward and past several of the issues that were part of that conflation of friction points. The most prominent one that antagonized that period, which was – I don’t want to downplay it – it was – I mean, it was, of course, of concern to us – was the detentions issues. And Ambassador Cunningham and General Dunford have been negotiating almost daily with President Karzai and his advisors to bring this to resolution, and we believe we have a favorable resolution now. So I think we can start to look past this, or at least we’re hopeful that we can.

QUESTION: Just following up on Andrea’s question, I understand that there have now been some private conversations between Karzai and Hagel and Kerry. But publicly are you going to ask Karzai to disavow the claim that the U.S. is somehow collaborating with the Taliban, which seems so far out given the U.S. military and economic commitment to Afghanistan? And further – so does he need to state, “No. I didn’t actually mean that”? And secondly, given what he’s recently said about his plans to go to Qatar in the coming days, tell us a little bit more about reconciliation and what you’re going to advocate for, since he was claiming that the U.S. was secretly negotiating with the Taliban behind his back. So what kind of a private and public conversation can you have about that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Look, I think the response of Americans across the board, whether those in our Congress, whether officials, whether our publics, has made very clear what they thought was some of President Karzai’s comments. And we will see what he has to say in his public comments today at his – at the press availability and others. I think that we are beyond this incident, and we need to continue to focus on what – how we can most effectively work together and be constructive in how we resolve these.

We’re not there to lecture him or chide him. We’re partners in this, and we were quite clear in terms of what the U.S. has and has not done, and obviously we deny that there has been any daily contact with Taliban, which there has not been. But we do support an ongoing reconciliation process, and as we agreed in January, we think that the – that an office in Doha is the best and most effective way to get there. And so President Karzai going to Qatar, which is primarily for a – for bilateral purposes between the Afghans and the Qataris, but it helps to promote that working relationship, and given that a Doha office will undoubtedly be part of the conversations when he’s there with the Qataris, it’s very much in keeping with the goals that we all committed to back in January when he was in Washington. So we see that as quite positive.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: There has been no – as we said, the Taliban broke off contact over a year ago. At this point, there has not been any contact.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: I mean, we’ve addressed this with President Karzai. I mean, to the comment he made that we were meeting with the Taliban daily, we’ve gone privately to him to clarify that – what we’ve told him previously, we’ve been transparent with him throughout and that we haven’t met with them in over a year. And we’ve, of course, corrected the record on that publicly.

I mean, there’s a separate concern about the claim that there’s collusion aside from meeting daily with the Taliban, and I won’t go into all of the particulars of that. I mean, it’s – it was actually fairly – I mean, one has to get into what he actually said in Pashto, how it was translated in English, how it was reported, and so on. But I mean, we’ve gone through some level of detail in clarifying with him already. And like I said, I hope at this point we can begin to move forward and look past this.

QUESTION: This is a follow-up to Andrea’s question. How would you describe your relationship with President Karzai?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Again, on a variation of a theme, it’s not always going to be easy. There’s difficult issues at stake here. We’re going to have differences. But we are committed to working through them as partners and ensuring that we resolve these issues constructively, because that’s what’s in the best interests of both the American and the Afghan people, and we’ll continue to do so.

QUESTION: Just going back to President Karzai’s visit to Qatar, you said most of the issues are bilateral, but the question of opening up a Taliban office is sure to come up. Is there anything particularly significant to the fact that he is going there? Does this imply greater progress towards setting up the office or not? Do you think it is completely irrelevant in some ways? I mean, does this show significant movement or not?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I wouldn’t want to overplay it, but I think that it’s a very positive sign. It’s another step on a continued path towards what we think is the most effective and efficient way of getting to some sort of reconciliation process. So to the degree that Doha itself and the Qataris will play a key role in there, the closer the relationship is between the Afghan Government and the Qataris Government the better. And the fact that he’s going there, I think, is quite positive in trying to continue to build some momentum from what we agreed to with – between our presidents in January. But nobody is expecting that he will open an office there in a week. Nobody’s expecting that he will be sitting down with Taliban in week. This is a long process, and this is one more small but positive step in that ongoing process.

QUESTION: What’s the status of the BSA at this point in time? And in what specific ways will Secretary Kerry try to move that process forward on this trip?

MODERATOR: (Inaudible) BSA.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Status of the bilateral security agreement. Negotiations are ongoing at quite intensive pace between our chief negotiators, Ambassador Warlick for us and Ambassador Hakimi. There’s going to be a lot of difficult issues there as well. We gave ourselves a year to try to negotiate it from the time it started, per the Strategic Partnership Agreement, and we will continue our efforts there.

QUESTION: What specifically is Kerry – Secretary Kerry going to do on this trip to (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I think it’s – it will just be part of the broader strategic conversations with President Karzai on how we continue to align our interests between the two countries and what we can do to continue to support our processes.

QUESTION: Is there a particular (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We’ll have to see.

QUESTION: What’s going to be the impact of the Wardak withdrawal, of the impact of the withdrawal of forces from Wardak?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I actually think – [Senior Administration Official Two] may have something more on what it may mean militarily. From our vantage point, I think it’s another very positive sign in terms of how we’ve resolved ongoing issues. And so to the degree that this was another sticking concern and a potential thorn that we managed to resolve in the interest, again, of kind of Afghan sovereignty, but in a way that both sides felt very comfortable with the result, as General Dunford announced right afterwards, I think it’s a sign that we can continue to resolve and work through our differences constructively.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: I think [Senior Administration Official One]’s exactly right, that I think both sides feel like there was a favorable resolution. Unlike the detentions issue, the debate was kept private, the deliberations were kept private. General Dunford and the Afghan Government reached a resolution. I don’t want to speak for ISAF, but I believe that we’re relatively comfortable with it. And I think it’s important to look at it in the context of transition, which is essentially how it was resolved. I mean, it wasn’t a complete departure of U.S. security forces from Wardak province; it was a transition from U.S. security forces to Afghan security forces in a small section of Wardak in the end. And I think in the end, the potential consequences or implications of that were mitigated to a very manageable level.

QUESTION: Thanks. How many troops would Secretary Kerry like to see in Afghanistan post 2014, and will those be a serious part of the negotiations? And do you have assurances from Karzai that he won’t be releasing prisoners, now that he’s got control of Parwan?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Obviously, anything on troop numbers we can’t speak to. What’s still – decision making that’s still occurring within the interagency, or I wouldn’t speak for Secretary Kerry on that.

In terms of the detention, we have to ourselves actually get – see what happened in kind of the final resolution. But assuming the MOU was executed this morning between the Afghans and the U.S. and the transfer ceremony took place, we felt quite comfortable that the enduring threat, the kind of the detainees that were of most concern would be held according to Afghan law in a humane manner, respecting Afghan sovereignty but also addressing our national security interests.

QUESTION: Thanks. I feel like a tour guide on this. Can you hear me? Okay. Can you hear me? I’m used to working with mikes. Unfortunately, I can’t use this one.

Going back to the question – [Senior Administration Official One], I think you said with the Taliban there have not been any contact; you said there not had been direct contact. Can you just clarify whether direct contact with the Taliban, U.S. and Taliban, or through a third party, is necessary in this reconciliation process? And can you explain how this Doha center is supposed to work, or how it’s envisioned in terms of reconciliation? What is the process?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’ll defer on some of this to [Senior Administration Official Two], who follows this more closely than I do. But the idea of a Doha office is that there will be a specific place for Afghans to speak with other Afghans, Afghan Taliban, about the future of Afghanistan, ideally through President Karzai’s vision, with the High Peace Council sitting down to meet with the Afghan Taliban. And so the more that we can do to facilitate this forum and venue, the sooner that those key stakeholders can start conversations amongst themselves about what the future may look like and how they can get there.

In terms of contacts, I don’t know how else you want to –

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, no, just that – I mean, we – we’re pretty clear about the direct contacts, obviously, and we can be. The Taliban have continued, since direct talks stopped, continued to talk to other governments. They talk to multilateral kind of NGO fora. Some of that has been covered in the media pretty widely. To say we have indirect access via people they have spoken to more or less goes without saying. But it’s not of interest or deliberate to avoid a direct contact. I mean, it’s just – I mean, indirect – we get indirect readouts of what they tell other people through all manner of sources, so – but the channel of significance, where there was direct, deliberate talks, we’ve been clear, and that has not continued at all.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFFICIAL TWO: I mean, it’s hard to say what’s going to be necessary. And that’s – goes to your second question. I mean, that’s really what about – the Doha office is about. I think at some point effective talks, even though it’s going to take time and considerable effort over time, will involve direct talks between the interested parties. And of course, the United States will remain an interested party. But we continue to maintain that the most interested party is the Afghan Government, and they need to be in the lead, and at some point they need to be in direct talks.

QUESTION: Thanks. Sorry, following on from that: Firstly, to what end these talks would you – what are your redlines? Would you accept the Taliban being brought into the government in some kind of broader reconciliation? And secondly, in your negotiations over the BSA, after Panjwai, immunity seems highly unlikely for U.S. troops. Has that been offered as part of these talks?

MODERATOR: Both of you answer it too.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: What was the first question again?

QUESTION: The first question was: Would you accept Taliban --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Oh, oh, oh. The redlines for the necessary outcomes from a reconciliation process have been consistently the same for many years now, and articulated by Secretary Clinton several years ago and which we maintain, which is that they break from al-Qaida, they lay down arms, and they respect and embrace the Afghan constitution, including its rights of women and minorities. So those have not changed as necessary outcomes for a process.

QUESTION: And to what extent (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: If there – this is – it’s for Afghans --

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: The redlines? Yeah. The redlines have to be said – [Moderator] asked me to repeat our – a break from al-Qaida, laying down arms, and embracing the Afghan constitution, including its rights of women and minorities. If there are ways for them to be engaged in the political process, which is clearly one area that the Afghans themselves have floated as a potential, that’s for them to sort out once conversations actually start taking place.

In terms of the immunity issue, it’s – whether bilateral security agreements, SOFAs, whatever they are, these are going to be extremely contentious documents to negotiate. Immunity is probably undoubtedly, across the world, going to be one of the hardest ones to negotiate within that, and it’s going to be one of many issues that we deal with. But there’s – but beyond taking a very general approach to that, there’s nothing more specific I have on that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: It’s – I honestly couldn’t even tell you what the current state of the negotiations are or what issues they’re focusing on right now. I mean, it’s one of many issues that are on the table.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We’ll have to see. This is still very early days of negotiation.

QUESTION: Can you provide us a bit more detail on how the decision was made for the Secretary not to go to Pakistan on this trip? Did the Pakistani leadership advise that in the current political climate, with attitudes about Americans being what they are, it might make sense for him to stay away? I mean, was there a specific recommendation that he stay in Afghanistan?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: It was purely our judgment call, in consultation with our experts at the State Department, both in Pakistan and the U.S. and elsewhere. He wanted to go. Obviously, he’s got an equally long relationship with Pakistan that he – as he does with Afghanistan, having visited many times, having been responsible for the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, having ties with – many personal ties with many of the civilian and military leadership.

But given the kind of historic nature of where Pakistan is right now, we wanted to be holier than the Pope on this one on staying away until – while the electoral process unfolded. Given the state of conspiracy theorists, given the state of anything else, we did not want to lead anyone to conclude anything about where our interests may lie. So we’re delighted that this – that the National Assembly served its full five-year term. We’re delighted that the caretaker Prime Minister was appointed per the constitution in a way that is enshrined and that I think strengthens the civilian institutions and the constitutional institutions. We look forward to the elections in May. And as soon as there’s a government in place, I think you can expect to see Secretary Kerry there.

Anne.

QUESTION: I just wanted to go back briefly to reconciliation. The discussion of the Doha office as a future concern sort of seems to skip over the fact that some business being transacted there somehow now – how – do you guys have a view on that? Is what the Taliban is doing in Doha now useful and productive toward opening an office full time? And are you in any way involved in it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: What was – Anne, what was the last part? I want to --

QUESTION: Is the U.S. – is the United States involved at all in sort of these preliminary set-up negotiations?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, on the last part, I mean, of course we’ve been in normal bilateral discussions with a close ally, and it, of course, includes their readiness to host what could be this office and what we’re hopeful will be the office. I mean, we couldn’t have gotten to the point where we’re publicly – the President’s publicly expressing his support for a Taliban office in Doha without having worked with them on a bilateral basis.

As far as what’s going on with the Taliban in Doha before the opening of an office, to be frank, I think that there’s probably a mixture there in – to the extent it’s toward a political process. As long as it’s leading toward a political process, contributing toward an eventual political process, we’re supportive. Otherwise, we’re not, and we take the steps that we would take anywhere, diplomatically and otherwise, to address it depending on how much concern there is.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: But the – so fundraising would be an example. I mean, anything that the Taliban’s doing in furtherance of their cause, outside of steps towards a political process, in our view, is – remains off-limits. And that’s not a change. That’s not isolated to Doha. That would be the case anywhere. The only peculiar status that Doha enjoys is that I think there’s an expectation that some of that presence could contribute eventually to this political process. And as long as that’s the case, there will be continued support. If that’s not the case, then I think it’s pretty clear that we wouldn’t support it.

QUESTION: Just – I wasn’t clear exactly how the issue of the detainees was resolved, and if you could explain that again, and whether they did give you – I know you were asked, but I didn’t hear the answer, whether you were given commitments that these guys would not be released again.

And then given that they – that you’ve resolved this, what do you want to hear from Karzai on this trip? I mean, are you asking for anything specific? What makes this – what would make this a successful trip?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: On the detentions issue, I would point you back to the readout of Secretary Hagel’s call with President Karzai on Saturday, which referenced that they had reached an agreement to transfer, that there will be this transfer ceremony scheduled for this morning, following an intensified round of discussions. And the Secretary welcomed President Karzai’s commitment that the transfer will be carried out in a way that ensures the safety of the Afghan people and coalition forces by keeping dangerous individuals detained in a secure and humane manner in accordance with Afghan law.

QUESTION: So now that you – now that this has been resolved (inaudible) Karzai (inaudible), are you expecting anything different from them (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Again, I don’t want to set the bar too high or too low here. I mean, we – there are some key issues of – that prove to be thorns in the relationship over the course of the last few weeks. Some of them have obviously gone on, like the detainee issue, far longer than that. The fact that we resolved those, I think, is significant.

Does that completely change the calculus? No, not at all, but I think we’re both committed to elevating our conversation at this point, being more strategic about it, and really focusing on what we have to do together in terms of our joint partnership and really trying to ensure that that partnership is enduring.

I mean, I think the thing about transition – I sketched out the three different transitions, but it’s also really an opportunity for all of us, after the SPA, beyond 2014, to enter a new phase in our relationship and one between sovereign nations. And we will continue to focus on responsibility and accountability, and there’s a range of things that we have to continue to talk about as we flesh out the terms of what that partnership will look like. And this is an opportunity to do that.

So if we’re able to do that and continue to be constructive, then I think it would be a success.

MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone.



PRN: 2013/T02-04



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