QUESTION: Joining us now to discuss all this and more, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, it’s great to be back on. Thanks for having me on the show this morning.
QUESTION: Let’s start with the President’s tweet late last night that he has called off the meeting, canceled the meeting with the Taliban that was to be held at Camp David today, a secret meeting, and that he has called off all peace talks, negotiations with the Taliban. Where does that leave the plan to begin to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Chris, remember the principles. President Trump has made clear he wants to reduce risk to Americans. You showed the pictures last night from the dignified transfer of the remains of Sergeant First Class Barreto. I was out there with his family. It’s a reminder to all of us of the enormous cost and sacrifice these heroes make for us each and every day. President Trump is trying to reduce that risk.
At the same time, he is committed to making sure that we reduce the risk that terror should ever strike the United States from Afghanistan again. And so we’ve been working for months for a peace and reconciliation deal. We’ve been working with the Afghan Government, working with other Afghan leaders, been working with the Taliban, to try and reduce the level of violence, to commence – and you would know this, Chris, well. We’ve been trying to get the Afghans to talk to each other, this basic idea, for almost two decades now.
We had the Taliban’s commitment to do that. We had their commitment to break from al-Qaida, publicly. And they would obviously have to deliver on that commitment. So we’ve made real progress, but in the end the Taliban overreached. They forgot that America is always going to protect its interests, that commander – the commander of Resolute Support and the NATO forces there are still at this hard. We killed over a thousand Taliban just in the last 10 days. And while this isn’t a war of attrition, the American people should know we will continue to apply the appropriate pressure to make sure that we are never struck with terror again from Afghanistan.
QUESTION: So are the talks now dead, and what will it take to restart them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, for the time being, they are. We’ve recalled —
QUESTION: They’re dead.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve recalled Ambassador Khalilzad to come back to Washington so that we can begin to think about how we would chart the path forward. And I think – and although the President hasn’t made a final decision, look, what they did here was they tried to use terror to improve their negotiating position. And I think anyone who has observed President Trump knows, whether it was in Hanoi with North Korea, or whether it’s been in how we responded when the Chinese reneged on their commitment in the trade deals; if, in the course of a conversation where we’re trying to improve both teams’ outcomes through a negotiated solution, if the other team commits an act that’s inconsistent with that, President Trump is not going to take that deal. He’s not going to take a bad deal. We’re looking for more than words on paper. We’re looking for real delivered commitment. And the Taliban demonstrated either that they weren’t willing to or couldn’t live up to the commitment they needed to make to reduce violence there.
QUESTION: So the talks are off indefinitely?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope we get them started back. It will ultimately be up to the Taliban. They have got to demonstrate that they are prepared to do the things that we asked them to do in the course of those negotiations.
QUESTION: But the Taliban, as David Spunt just reported, has just come out with a statement.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, a lot of people bluster, Chris. There’s – those words – cooler heads, I hope, will prevail. I didn’t see the full statement. I don’t know its context. I don’t know precisely who issued this. It’s the case that the Taliban is not monolithic.
QUESTION: But let me just say they said Americans will suffer more than anyone else and that this will result in the death of more American troops.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope that’s not the case. We don’t want any loss of American life. Know this: Know that our Department of Defense and General Miller have the full authority to do what they need to do to protect American soldiers, sailors, Air Force folks working in the area, and do everything they need to do to prevent a terror attack from ever coming back to the United States, as it did now almost 18 years ago.
QUESTION: I want to get to the bigger question. Who thought it was a good idea for the President of the United States – you had an agreement in principle already, your envoy meeting with Taliban leaders in Qatar. Fine. Who thought it was a good idea for the President of the United States to meet with Taliban leaders, who have the blood of thousands of Americans on their hands, just three days before 9/11?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We know the history of Camp David. We reflected on that as we were thinking about how to deliver for the American people. And so as we considered the right path forward, your point about an agreement in principle – I think that’s true. We weren’t complete. There were still lots of implementation issues, lots of technical issues that needed to be worked on, even though we’d been doing this for months. President Trump ultimately made the decision. He said: I want to talk to President Ghani. I want to talk to these Taliban negotiators. I want to look them in the eye. I want to see if we can get to the final outcome that we needed so that we could sign off on that deal, so we found that arrangement acceptable, that the verification was adequate. And we concluded this was a perfectly appropriate place. You know the history of Camp David. Lots of bad folks have come through that place. There have been lots of peace negotiations taken place. It’s almost always the case, Chris, that you don’t get to negotiate with good guys. The reason you’re in negotiations to end wars, to end conflict, to end violence, to reduce risks to the American people, is almost always because the person across the table from you isn’t exactly the finest.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that. I don’t want to press the point too much, but Yasser Arafat was there, and obviously, he was responsible with the Palestinian Liberation Organization for the death of many people.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Many, many Americans.
QUESTION: But the Taliban has the – had the death of thousands of Americans, and it’s just three days before 9/11. No concerns about that? And I guess my question is I can understand the envoy talking to him. Why does the President have to confer that status on them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump was very clear. He wanted to make sure we got to the right place. He has always been someone – I’ve observed this now for my entire time working for him, as CIA director and now as Secretary of State. He is willing to take risks if he believes he can deliver a good outcome for the American people. He was hopeful that this conversation would lead – I mean, we’ve been at this now almost two decades, Chris, $30 billion a year, and we’ve got terror risks all across the world, not just in Afghanistan. We’ve got to make sure we have the forces postured right all across the world.
We sometimes singularly focus on Afghanistan because of its deep history and deep connection and what they did on 9/11 that sill angers me to this very moment, and we’ve got to make sure we get it right. And our efforts over the last months have been to do that. President Trump has been very clear about our mission set, and I hope we’ll get the opportunity to continue to head down that path so that we can get the reduction in violence and we can get the Taliban to make a commitment and then live up to it to break with al-Qaida, and that we can get them back at the negotiating table with their Afghan brothers and sisters to reduce the level of violence there.
QUESTION: Iran just announced that it is going to use advanced centrifuges that will allow it to enrich uranium faster. This is at least the third – I don’t have to tell you – the third violation of the nuclear deal that they have made in recent months. All of these are shortening the time that Iran would need to build an atomic weapon, a nuclear weapon, to less than a year. Is the threat of a nuclear Iran increasing? And given the fact U.S. sanctions have hammered the economy but they’re not stopping Iran in this area, what’s the U.S. going to do about it?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Chris, we hope the whole world will join us. President Trump has been very clear. Iran won’t have a nuclear weapon on our watch. We’ll stop it. He’s made clear we’re prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that that’s the case.
The challenge is, of course, we came in after the previous administration had given the Islamic Republic of Iran, the ayatollah, given him billions of dollars in economic wealth with which to build these very programs. And as you see, Chris, they can turn them back on like that. One of the central failures of the JCPOA is that whatever limits there were could be turned back on in a minute. We see this, right? They make an announcement; the next thing you know, they’re spinning centrifuges at higher and higher enrichment rates. This was a crazy failed deal.
And so our approach has been very different: build out alliances with the Gulf states, with Israel, with all the partners around the world who understand the threat of nuclear weapons inside of the Middle East, inside of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to reduce their capacity to execute that. And we’ve done it. We can see it with Hizballah. They have fewer resources. We can see it with the Shia militias in Iraq. They’re scrambling for resources. We think the Iranian Government will shrink, that their GDP will shrink by as much as 12 or 14 percent this year. This will reduce their capacity to purchase the things they need, the equipment they need, the materials they need, to inflict terror around the world. That’s President Trump’s approach. I think we’ve been very successful so far.
QUESTION: President Trump talks about the possibility of meeting with Iranian President Rouhani, possibly at the UN General Assembly later this month. Here he is: “Their inflation is at a number that few people have ever seen inflation at, and it’s a very sad situation. They could solve it very quickly. We could solve it in 24 hours. But we’ll see what happens.”
But Rouhani says no meeting until all U.S. sanctions are lifted first, and President Trump says there’s no way that’s going to happen. What do you put the odds of a Trump-Rouhani summit this month at the UN?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll leave that to the folks in Vegas. Here’s how I know we’ll think about it. President Trump will think about whether it’s appropriate to meet based on whether he thinks we can get an improved outcome for the American people. He has said he’d meet with him with no preconditions. I know the to’s and fro’s inside the Iranian Government: There are those who think it’s wise to meet; there are those who just want to continue to kill people around the world.
We need to make sure that we’re doing all we can to make those that understand that the revolutionary nature of the Iranian regime is unacceptable, that they’ve got to change their behavior, and that America will never permit them to have a nuclear weapon, those inside of Iran that understand that, and I think that’s the majority of the Iranian people as well. Those are the folks who we want to make sure and talk to so that we ultimately get the right outcome. We want a successful Iran. We want them to be part of the community of nations. You can’t do that when you’re building missiles that threaten Europe, threaten Israel, and building out systems that could ultimately create a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: Finally, you spoke at Kansas State University on Friday, which did not exactly dampen speculation that you might run for the Senate next year, which has been, obviously, talked about. In fact, Jerry Moran, the other senator – not the seat that you would be going for potentially – had talked about the prospects of you running the other day. Here he is: “I wouldn’t be surprised but what he would enter that race, and I think he would be a good, solid candidate that would be – have a lot of support in Kansas.”
So you have Jerry Moran’s endorsement. Someone said the other day that you have gone recently from no to no comment. You certainly are not shutting the door.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, that was very kind of Senator Moran. I appreciate the vote of confidence, and I know he was trying to be incredibly helpful, as is Senator McConnell.
QUESTION: Who says you’re his number one choice.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Let’s be very clear. I have given the same message for the entire time I’ve been asked about this. The only people who ask me about this are folks like you, Chris, and that’s just fine. I’m focused on what I’m doing every day. So long as President Trump wants me to be his Secretary of State, that’s what I am intent upon. I’ve given this a lot less thought than it sounds like lots of others may have.
QUESTION: Okay, one last question in this regard, and then I’ll let it go. Because I know that that’s what you always say: Well, I want to do what President Trump wants me to do. What if President Trump comes to you, because of Jerry Moran, because of Mitch McConnell, early next spring and says, you know what, the most important thing you could do for me is to run for the Senate, is to hold the Senate Republican majority? Then what would you do?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Goodness knows, Chris. I mean, I literally – these are impossible to answer because I spend – as you can see, I spend every waking moment trying to deliver American diplomacy around the world. I’m going to keep doing that so long as I’m doing this, and we’ll see. We’ll see what life brings when the next thing in life approaches.
QUESTION: And we want to thank you, and for honoring the service of Sergeant Barreto. We all hold him in our hearts, and we all hold the hearts of his family. You told me his dad was in the military, other relatives in the military. A terrible loss.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, thank you. It was a terrible loss. Thank you for honoring him by bringing this back up. He is a true patriot, and his family have sacrificed so much for our great country.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you. Thanks for your time. Always good to talk with you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir.