QUESTION: Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State is our guest tonight. Good evening, Secretary Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good evening.
QUESTION: France and U.S. are involved side by side in two conflicts, Afghanistan and Libya. In the Libyan conflict, France and Great Britain have decided to send some helicopters to help the anti-Qadhafi rebellion. Do you support this decision?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me express how greatly we appreciate France’s participation and also leadership for this mission. And we are working closely together. We support the effort that France has undertaken. I can’t comment specifically on any type of aircraft, but we are very grateful for everything that France is doing.
QUESTION: Does that mean that we are now close to fighting on the ground? And will America commit any troops if France and Great Britain commit to ground fightings?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We will not commit any troops, but I don’t believe that either France or Great Britain are committing troops by adding, if they do, these attack helicopters. They’re clearly meant to support what is happening to protect civilians on the ground and the opposition fighters to protect their positions. But we’ve made clear from the beginning we want to follow the words of the Security Council resolution, and it’s very clear that there is no authority for ground troops, and we respect that.
QUESTION: President Obama said yesterday it will be a long-term process. Is the diplomatic question an option for you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it is. And again, we have worked closely with our French colleagues as well as other members of the NATO alliance and those who are outside of NATO to search for a political diplomatic solution. There’s a lot of activity going on from the Arab League, from the African Union, from NATO, from the EU. And I know that the United Nations, with the secretary general’s appointment of a special envoy, is taking the lead. So I think that we will see some progress.
But what’s been most encouraging is the way that the opposition has become better organized – organized civilian efforts, but also better organized militarily. And the ability to withstand the pounding they took from Qadhafi’s forces in Misrata was a real turning point, and we believe that with the increased military tempo that has been going on – and the United States still flies 25 percent of every day’s sorties, so we are deeply involved in supporting the mission – that we’re going to see some changes in the weeks ahead.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, French people have not been supportive of the Afghan war. We have lost 58 soldiers since 2001. It’s been 10 years. Of course, bin Ladin was killed, but the major part of the country is now in Taliban hands. So what is the exit scenario? What is the next move? More troops, more ally involvement?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say that the NATO international forces agreed on a timetable in the Lisbon summit last year. So we’ve all agreed that we’re moving – starting in the summer ahead, in July – to withdraw our troops, and we will be finished with our efforts in 2014. But I think there’s more encouraging news than is sometimes relayed. Actually, most of the country is now not in the Taliban’s hands, that is in the hands of either local officials or the central government. But of course, the Taliban still tries to stage these very destructive attacks using suicide bombers and going after unarmed people, undefended facilities, as well as military outposts.
But what we have seen is a shift in the momentum against the Taliban. And we’re very grateful for the sacrifice of the French military and the support of the French people and particularly the French Government. But starting in July, we will begin a conditions-based transition to Afghan security. And in fact, there are large parts of Afghanistan that we have no military presence in, and there will soon be more of those.
QUESTION: About Usama bin Ladin, can I show you this picture – and you know it – it’s in the Situation Room.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. I remember. I saw that – I didn’t know it was being taken at the time, but I saw it later.
QUESTION: So you are holding your hand in front of your mouth.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: What did you think at that moment? Were you frightened? What did you see?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know how to describe it other than it was a very intense period. The operation went on for 38 minutes, and we all, as you can look at the expressions on everyone’s face, had been working on this with a very small group of top officials for months, and then it was out of our hands. The very well-trained Special Forces -- Navy SEALs were going to carry out the mission. And it was a breath-holding moment for all of us until we got the final word that their mission had been accomplished and they were safely away.
So I don’t know at what moment that was taken, but I said the other day I don’t know whether it was when something was happening that we were aware of or when I was coughing, as I just did over at UNESCO in the middle of my speech, but there’s no doubt that this was some of the most intense, focused minutes of my entire life.
QUESTION: Ms. Clinton, in Serbia, the president announced today that Ratko Mladic has been arrested. Mladic is charged with war crimes. Can you comment on that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. I would like to commend President Tadic and the Serbian Government and the Serbian people for bringing Mladic to justice. The apprehension of him after all of these years is a great day for justice in the international system, an end to impunity, a time for accountability. And I know that it’s something I’ve personally discussed with President Tadic in the past, that this was a high priority for him and his government to close that chapter so that Serbia can move on, Serbia can work hard to gain admission into the European Union to be a full member of the European community. And this is a very important day.
QUESTION: So let’s talk about a French woman. Yesterday, Christine Lagarde said she was a candidate for the managing of the IMF. Do you know her and do you think she has the necessary experience for that job? And she said she would be a good candidate because she is a woman. What do you think?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Laurence, I actually know her. I admire her. I saw her last night at a dinner that I hosted for all of the ministers attending the OECD 50th anniversary. And I told her privately and I said publicly at a press conference earlier today that the United States has not taken an official position. Obviously, other candidates may come forth. But speaking unofficially and personally, I am a strong supporter of qualified women, of which she is certainly one, being given the opportunities to lead international organizations. So I wished her well last night, and I will be watching closely as this unfolds.
QUESTION: With the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, we have seen some anti-French sentiment in the American media. How serious do you think these feelings are?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I do not place much seriousness on them. This is an ongoing criminal investigation. I cannot comment on any proceeding. But it’s about one person, and it’s not about France and the United States. And I have great confidence in our system of justice and it will proceed.
But I do want to underscore how the IMF is continuing its important work. The highly qualified professional staff that is there is going on, doing what needs to be done. There’s such a big agenda. There is the continuing work in Europe, in now North Africa and the Middle East and beyond. So I have great confidence in the IMF’s professionalism.
QUESTION: And is the same thing between France and America, nothing broken?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I think – you are our oldest ally. You were there for us back in the Revolutionary War, and those wonderful reports from the French Court by Benjamin Franklin, and then our revolutions were within years of each other, our commitments to human rights and human freedom, our aspirations are so common. No two people agree on everything, and certainly no two great nations can agree on everything. But the relationship between France and the United States is deep, broad, enduring, and one that I highly value.
QUESTION: One last question: Can I ask you about the future – your future – because you have announced that you will not be Secretary of State if President Obama is reelected, so what will you be doing? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Probably catching up on my sleep. I – obviously, I serve at the pleasure of the President, and it’s a great honor to work with him and to promote the values and the interests that the United States has in the world, and which we share with France. But I’ve been doing very high-level politics and public service for a long time --
QUESTION: So you need to rest.
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- and – I mean, here I am in Paris it’s a beautiful day, yesterday was even more beautiful, and I have no time to do anything other than my official work. And I would like to get a few more years where I can just wander aimlessly through the beauties of a city like Paris and meet with my friends and just have a life filled with the joys of everyday living. So I’m looking forward to it, but I have no plans.
QUESTION: And you have always been a strong advocate for women and women’s rights.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: You will be maybe a world ambassador for women’s right?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am committed to human rights and women’s rights. And I spoke about both of those at two of the meetings yesterday and today, for the OECD and UNESCO, because I want our world to keep moving toward those ideals of both the American and the French Revolutions. And I want everyone to share in a more prosperous, peaceful world where security and opportunity go hand in hand. And so for me, I will continue to advocate as I always have, even before I was in any official position. So I’m sure whatever the future holds, it will hold work like that, and I look forward to it.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Laurence.
QUESTION: Thank you.