QUESTION: Well, we always appreciate when the Secretary of State finds a few minutes for us here in Kansas City. Mike Pompeo is on KCMO Talk Radio. Mr. Secretary, great to have you back on, and hope you’re staying safe during these uncertain times.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Pete, thank you. It’s great to be back with you. So far, so good.
QUESTION: Good stuff. Well, Mr. Secretary, kind of getting lost in this coronavirus story is a lot of the work that you are doing right now in getting our troops back from overseas. I know that was a commitment that this President made, and he made when he was campaigning. So what has been the most difficult part in this balancing act between keeping tabs on the successes that we’ve had overseas, not letting those unravel, but also knowing that we want to get our men and women back home?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Pete, it’s a great question. The President’s been very focused on this since the campaign, certainly these three years of – first three years of his administration. I’ve had the privilege to work alongside as part of a team to get it right, and I think we’ve done that. We’ve begun to move our folks back here to take care of America, “America First” campaign, but we’ve done so in a way that’s reflective and responsible. We know we never want something to happen from Afghanistan or from the Middle East, the kind of attack that took place back 20 years ago on September 11th. And so we’ve worked to get it right, to get the structure right, to build up those forces so they can protect themselves, and to perform our counterterrorism mission in a way that protects the American people. And President Trump’s been thoughtful, and we’ve begun to deliver on this and reduce the total cost and the total footprint, as well as to put fewer of our Kansas and Missouri boys and girls in harm’s way.
QUESTION: What, Mr. Secretary, is going to be that line for you where you’re keeping tabs on what’s happening over there? What is going to be that line where you say, “Okay, we’re going to allow X, Y, or Z to happen, but if you cross us on this, we’ve got a problem”? What kind of conversations can you share with us on that front?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hey, look, it’s the right question. Look, in Afghanistan, we’ve said in particular with respect to the Taliban, we’ve said, “Look, you’ve got to break with al-Qaida. Al-Qaida were the ones that came here and struck New York City. You’ve got to break ties with them.” We think we can get this piece right, this counterterrorism piece right. We know that the primary mission we went to Afghanistan for, which was the defeat of al-Qaida – we know that that has happened. There are less than several hundred al-Qaida left in Afghanistan today, just the same way the President took down the ISIS caliphate in Syria and in western Iraq. This was powerful, good work by the President of the United States, but when we’re done with that we need to get our team back home and do everything we can to get that right. We can protect America without having tens and tens of thousands of soldiers stationed in those places.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joining us on KCMO Talk Radio. On that number, then, Mr. Secretary, I mean, what are we looking at from a percentage decrease of troops there that you want to bring back home? Can you share a number? Can you share a percentage that is a goal for you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m going to leave it to the Department of Defense to talk about actual numbers.
SECRETARY POMPEO: But the American people should know President Trump is committed to keeping American secure, to being powerful. You saw it, whether it was Hamza bin Ladin, or the strike against Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or the strike against Qasem Soleimani. This President is going to conduct any terrorism – counterterrorism efforts in a way that is robust and protects the American people, at the same time doing everything we can to focus on keeping American people safe back home.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what – since you’ve been in this role, what has changed for you and just making sure you have the assurances and the confidence and the promises that you need to feel good about a move like this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, you never rely on words or trust.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s always about: What do you see? What are the actions you see taken? And we’ve seen some encouraging signs, both in Afghanistan and now a little bit better inside of Iraq as well. But these threats remain. Make no mistake, there are still people who want to do harm to the United States of America. But we can get this balance right. We can still protect America, and we can take down the risk to American lives. I’m confident that we can strike that right balance. But to your point, it’s not about some statement, it’s not about some agreement. It’s about actual actions on the ground that deliver us the confidence that we have the right force posture to keep America safe.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s our guest. Mr. Secretary, with this coronavirus outbreak pandemic that we’re dealing with, how has your role changed on an either day-to-day, week-by-week basis with this all-hands-on-deck issue that we’re dealing with?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we certainly had to move some of our focus to doing the State Department’s part to push back against this threat. There really have been three pieces of that. One was to make sure that our medical teams could get to where they needed to be to evaluate the risk from this epidemic, so we’ve been part of the diplomatic effort to do that. We’ve also been part of the team led largely by President Trump and the White House and the Vice President’s task force, but where we’ve needed goods to be moved from overseas, the State Department’s had a role in trying to make sure that we got all the access, supply clearances, and all the diplomatic component of making sure we could get those products so that the American people would have what they needed.
And then finally, we’ve had over 60,000 Americans who were trapped overseas who were either on a mission trip, or on business, or on a family vacation, and all of a sudden commercial aircraft stopped flying, or buses and trains stopped moving. They were trapped, they were stranded; they reached out to the State Department. We’ve now brought back over 61,000 Americans from 109 countries on over 500 airplane flights. We’re still at work. We still have lots of folks we need to get back. But I’m really proud of what this team has done with the historic effort to bring Americans back who were trapped as a result of this virus.
QUESTION: No doubt about it. Mr. Secretary, last thing for you. I want to just touch on this debate that’s being had all over the country right now on how you balance the health care side of this with the economic side of things. You’ve worked at many levels of government, both statewide and then federally. How do you see this conversation playing out in the coming days and weeks ahead? How should it play out?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the President and his team have given this a lot of thought, and he will present in the next handful of days the way that we are going to think about getting this economy turned back on. You know this, Pete. I was talking to some friends back in Kansas this weekend. They want to get back to work. They want to get back to church. They want to get back to – kids want to get back to school, all the things that we know and love and value in places like Kansas and Missouri. So we’ll craft a plan that ensures that we have enough testing, enough medical facilities, enough resources, so people can be comfortable to go back into those places.
I know we can do this. Americans have done things like this before. This is a virus that is different, but we’ll make sure and strike precisely the right balance. You know this, too: It’s not binary. We need the economy going for people’s health as well. When you don’t have jobs, when you don’t have income, when your health care systems are this stressed, you need people to get back into society and get back moving again. That’ll keep Americans safe as well, and President Trump is focused on achieving that. I’m confident that we will.
QUESTION: He is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on KCMO. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for (inaudible).
SECRETARY POMPEO: Pete, great to be with you again. Have a wonderful day, sir.
QUESTION: You too. Thank you so much.