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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With Kim Ghattas of BBC


Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Islamabad, Pakistan
October 30, 2009

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QUESTION: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, thank you very much for talking to the BBC here in Islamabad. It’s been a busy few days for you. I’ll go straight to the questions. I know you’re short on time. I wanted to start by asking you, during your time here, you’ve said often that you wanted the Pakistanis to trust America, that America was their friend. But do you trust the Pakistanis, all of them, the government, the army?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, I think that you’ve put your finger on one of the issues that I’m trying to address. I don’t doubt that what we’ve been told here in Pakistan, over and over again, that there exists a trust deficit, is a challenge to the kind of relationship that President Obama and I believe is both possible and necessary with Pakistan. But it is also clear, as I have stated both publicly and privately, that we have questions that we are also seeking answers for. What I’m trying to do is to create a more open relationship, not only between our governments, but between our people.

We have so much in common with the people of Pakistan, and it’s not just the fact that we face a common enemy – violent extremists, al-Qaida and their allies – it’s that we have a long history, going back to the very beginning of Pakistan, that we have an extraordinary presence in our country of a very active, successful Pakistani American community, and that we are committed to this relationship. But in order to have a partnership of the kind that I am seeking, I think we have to be very honest with one another.

QUESTION: You were very honest in your comments here when you said that you cannot believe that there isn’t someone in Pakistan who knows where the top al-Qaida leaders are.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as I’ve said for many months, we have been encouraging and supporting the Pakistani people and their government to address the threat that they face. And we’re very encouraged by the commitment that we are seeing. The Pakistani army has suffered many losses. They’ve made a lot of sacrifice to push back the Taliban advances first in Swat, now in South Waziristan. And that is answering a lot of the concerns that we’ve been expressing to them about the capacity and resolve to take on the threat that was posed to them. We think it’s a common threat. And so of course, we are very encouraged to see what the government is doing.

At the same time, it is just a fact that al-Qaida had sought refuge in Pakistan after the United States and our allies went after them because of the attack on 9/11. And we want to encourage everyone, not just the Pakistani Government or the military, but Pakistani citizens, to realize the connection between al-Qaida and these Taliban extremists who are threatening Pakistan. They are part of a syndicate of terror. So I want to express my hope that we’re going to be successful in finding and rooting out the terrorists who threaten us both.

QUESTION: Are you convinced that the ISI and the Pakistani army are no longer cooperating with militant groups, be it al-Qaida or the Taliban or other such groups?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I believe that there is a great commitment and a sincere resolve. I spent several hours with the Army Chief of Staff, General Kiyani, and the director of ISI, General Pasha last night, and we had a broad-ranging, in-depth discussion. So I am certainly encouraged by their commitment to this struggle that they are waging. And they are aware that even as we speak about the courageous fight they’re waging in South Waziristan, their challenge goes much more broadly than that. But I think that the resolve and capacity that they are demonstrating now leads me to conclude that they are going to see this fight through.

QUESTION: So do you think there’s no collusion at all anymore?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, when you say at all, I mean, there are thousands and thousands of people who work in this government, just as there are in any government. But I am very impressed by the resolve of the leadership.

QUESTION: Do you think that the Pakistani army is interested mostly in tackling those elements of the Taliban that are a nuisance to them, and not so much those that are the real hard-core Afghan Talibans that are a problem for you and your troops in Afghanistan?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s a question of prioritizing. What we’ve seen in the last months, certainly, since I’ve been Secretary of State, is a joint commitment by the democratically elected government and the military and security forces. But their immediate threat are those who threaten them. I understand that completely. But since there is a connection between those who threaten them and those who threaten beyond their borders – not just in Afghanistan, but in the rest of the world – they’re well aware of our concern that attention be paid to the other elements of this terrorist syndicate.

And from my conversations with both the civilian leadership and the security leadership, I believe that they understand that there is a connection, and they’re going to be continuing this effort.

QUESTION: Moving on to Afghanistan, a new defense bill was passed by President Barack Obama just this week, which provides money for the Taliban in Afghanistan, those who switched sides. And I was wondering, as a staunch advocate of women’s rights, how do you feel about making political deals with people who, to say the least, have a very different idea of what a woman’s rights actually are?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we have to be clear about who we’re talking about. The hard-core Taliban leadership are, in my view, not going to be interested in anything other than continuing their efforts against us and against Afghans and our allies. So I don’t think we’re talking about the people who are ideologically committed to their view of the world which is, frankly, repugnant to anyone who cares about human rights and women’s rights, as I passionately do.

But many people were caught up in the Taliban, young men who were essentially drafted out of their villages because of intimidation and threats, young men who had no other means of livelihood. And what we’re finding, and what our soldiers and our marines are finding on the ground, as they found in Iraq, is we began to watch the change from al-Qaida in Iraq and some of the other groups, that there are a lot of people who are the foot soldiers who are very interested in coming back to society.

QUESTION: But that’s when it relates to military strategy and military thinking, and what they do on the ground. But when it comes to treatment of women, there isn’t that much difference.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but I think there is. I think that there – from all of our work in Afghanistan over the last number of years, the vast majority of people in the country want to see their daughters educated, for example. I was so touched by what happened after the horrible attacks where the Taliban would throw acid at these young girls trying to get an education. And their parents – fathers and mothers – insisted that the schools remain open, that their daughters continue to go.

Now, it will be up to the Government of Afghanistan to make clear that they want to provide services, and this is at the national level, as well as the local level – schools and clinics. But I don’t think the vast majority of the people of Afghanistan want to deny their wives and their daughters access to healthcare. So we just have to separate out what are the most radical elements that terrorize the country. The people of Afghanistan do not want the return of that. In every poll that has been taken, the Taliban are rejected, and people are looking for the security that they need in order to get on with their lives.

So I do think that it’s important – and your question is critical – that we look very carefully at who we would possibly be able to reintegrate into society, and who you have to capture, kill, defeat. And that’s a much smaller group than the people who call themselves or are called Taliban.

QUESTION: I’ll move on to the Middle East because that’s where we’re moving on --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: -- physically. We’re going to – you are going to hold talks with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Is your – are you talks a sign of how bad things are, that you need to intervene personally? Or is it, on the contrary, a sign that perhaps something is moving and you’re going to help edge it along?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s more because we know that this is a high priority for not only our Administration, but for much of the world. It is one of the most common questions that I’m asked. And we started this. We knew it would be a process. We knew that it would be challenging. I think the fact that I’m in the region, I’m able to meet Senator Mitchell and have these conversations, reinforces the seriousness with which we are approaching our desire to get the parties to begin a serious negotiation that can lead to a two-state solution.

QUESTION: The – you know, Washington pressed Israel for a settlement freeze. And so far, you know, you haven’t really been able to deliver. President Mahmoud Abbas will look weak if he agrees to talks now without that settlement freeze. He has also tried to please you by delaying the debate at the human – at the UN Human Rights Council on the Goldstone report, which undermined his position at home. Do you think your policies are undermining President Abbas, your ally?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I think that in any preliminary that leads up to negotiations, people stake out positions. That is the way it’s done, and I appreciate and understand that. I think that what we’re discussing in great detail with both sides is a very clear understanding of what each has to gain by moving forward with the negotiations.

But I wouldn’t question the fact that some of what has happened in the last weeks has made it more difficult. Because the Goldstone report, which you mentioned, was a very important issue to the Israelis and to the Palestinians. It is, as you know, going forward in the United Nations process. We happen to think that’s not particularly fruitful. We think that it was one-sided and it carried recommendations that would be unprecedented for any country, not just Israel. So there are a lot of problems with it.

But we’re going to be sitting down and talking with the leadership of both the Palestinian Authority and Israel to determine what more we can do. Now obviously, we can’t want this more than the parties want it. I mean, that’s just the way negotiations are. But the fact that the United States is engaged, and that we are serious about this engagement, is, in and of itself, I think a very positive message.

QUESTION: On Israeli settlements, the International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that Israeli settlements were in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which clearly states that occupying powers cannot move their population into the territories that they occupy. Do you believe that Israeli settlements are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, what we have said, and what President Obama said again in his speech to the United Nations, is that we continue to have very serious questions about the legitimacy of the settlements that Israel has promoted. We understand that to a large extent, it has to do with their security needs and fears about trying to have a defensible perimeter around Israel.

But we also are committed to a two-state solution. And as President Obama said, that two-state solution will take place in the territory occupied by Israel since 1967. The question is how we get to it. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for your time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Kim.

QUESTION: Thank you. It’s always a pleasure.




PRN: 2009/T14-14



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