Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Conversation with Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta

A Conversation with Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta












QUESTION: Tom Nicholson, International College – Industrial College of the Armed Forces. We've mentioned a lot about Iraq and Afghanistan, and it comes to mind our allies and partners in Pakistan are also critical in what's going on with our efforts there and as a strategic partner going forward. What are your thoughts on how we continue to enhance that relationship, especially given the difficulties we've had recently?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying we consider our relationship with Pakistan to be of paramount importance. We think it is very much in America's interests. We think it is in the long-term interest of Pakistan for us to work through what are very difficult problems in that relationship. And this is not anything new. We've had a challenging relationship with Pakistan going back decades.
And we've been – we've kind of been deeply involved with Pakistan, as we were during the '80s with the support for the Mujaheddin, the old Charlie Wilson's war issue. And if you remember the end of Charlie Wilson's War, the Soviet Union is defeated and Charlie Wilson and others are saying, well, now let's build schools, let's work in Afghanistan, let's support Pakistan. And our political decision was we're exhausted, we're done, we accomplished our mission, which was to break the back of the Soviet Union; we're out of there.
So I think the Pakistanis have a viewpoint that has to be shown some respect: Are you going to be with us or not, because you keep in, you go out? And it is –
MR. SESNO: Well, are they partner or adversary?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they are partners, but they don't always see the world the way we see the world, and they don't always cooperate with us on what we think – and I'll be very blunt about this – is in their interests. I mean, it's not like we are coming to Pakistan and encouraging them to do things that will be bad for Pakistan, but they often don't follow what our logic is as we make those cases to them. So it takes a lot of dialogue.
MR. SESNO: Secretary Panetta, let's talk about Pakistan for a minute. I mean, there was a story that the Pakistanis, our adversary – our allies here, handed over parts of the helicopter that went down in bin Ladin's compound or gave access to it to the Chinese. Is that true and is that what an ally does?
SECRETARY PANETTA: As the Secretary has said, it's a – this is a very complicated relationship with Pakistan. (Laughter.)
MR. SESNO: Is that a yes? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY PANETTA: I've got to protect my old hat. (Laughter.) I --
MR. SESNO: It's not a no, though.
SECRETARY PANETTA: Well, I'm not going to comment because it does relate to classified intelligence. But –
MR. SESNO: But are you concerned about this?
SECRETARY PANETTA: -- clearly we're –
MR. SESNO: Are you concerned?
SECRETARY PANETTA: We're concerned with the relationships that Pakistan has. What makes this complicated is that they have relationships with the Haqqanis, and the Haqqani tribes are going across the border and attacking our forces in Afghanistan, and it's pretty clear that there's a relationship there. There's a relationship with LET, and this is a group that goes into India and threatens attacks there and has conducted attacks there. In addition to that, they don't provide visas. They – in the relationship there are bumps and grinds to try to work it through.
And yet there is no choice but to maintain a relationship with Pakistan. Why? Because we're fighting a war there. Because we are fighting al-Qaida there and they do give us some cooperation in that effort, because they do represent an important force in that region, because they do happen to be a nuclear power that has nuclear weapons and we have to be concerned about what happens with those nuclear weapons.
So for all of those reasons, we have got to maintain a relationship with Pakistan. And it's going to be – it is not – as I said, it is complicated. It's going to be ups and downs. I mean, the Secretary and I have spent countless hours going to Pakistan, talking with their leaders, trying to get their cooperation.
MR. SESNO: Take us into – let me ask the two of you to take us into a conversation that you might have together in the privacy of several hundred people and cameras. (Laughter.) This war that you talk about is largely conducted with drones. Those drones are deeply resented and complicate your efforts on the diplomatic front. How do you balance that? Isn't your best asset your worst nightmare?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no. Let me take you back to conversations that are not maybe so current but I think relevant. Shortly after I became Secretary of State, we were quite concerned to see the Pakistani Taliban basically taking advantage of what had been an effort by the government in Pakistan to try to create some kind of peace agreement with the Pakistani Taliban and to, in effect, say to them, look, you stay in Swat, which is one of the territories, you stay there and don't bother us, we won't bother you. And I was very blunt, both publicly and privately, with my Pakistani interlocutors in saying you can't make deals with terrorists. I mean, the very people that you think you can either predict or control are, at the end of the day, neither predictable nor controllable.
And I was very pleased when the Pakistanis moved in to Swat and cleaned out a lot of what had become a kind of Pakistani Taliban stronghold. And then they began to take some troops off of their border with India to put more resources into the fight against the Pakistani Taliban.
Now, as Leon says, we have some other targets that we discuss with them – the Haqqanis, for example – and yet it's been a relatively short period of time, two and a half years, when they have begun to reorient themselves militarily against what is, in our view, an internal threat to them. We were saying this because we think it will undermine the control that the Pakistani Government is able to exercise.
So we have conversations like this all the time, Frank, and I do think that there are certain attitudes or beliefs that the Pakistanis have which are rooted in their own experience, just like we have our own set of such convictions. But I also think that there is a debate going on inside Pakistan about the best way to deal with what is an increasing internal threat.
SECRETARY PANETTA: Let me just add to that. I mean, the reason we're there is we're protecting our national security. We're defending our country. The fact was al-Qaida, which attacked this country on 9/11, the leadership of al-Qaida was there. And so we are going after those who continue to plan to attack this country. They're terrorists. And the operations that we've conducted there have been very effective at undermining al-Qaida and their ability to plan those kinds of attacks.
MR. SESNO: What's left of them?
SECRETARY PANETTA: But let me make this point. Those terrorists that are there are also a threat to Pakistani national security as well. They attack Pakistanis. They go in to Karachi, they go in to Islamabad, and conduct attacks there that kill Pakistanis. So it is in their interest – it's in their interest – to go after these terrorists as well. They can't just pick and choose among terrorists.
MR. SESNO: What's left of the al-Qaida network?
SECRETARY PANETTA: The al-Qaida network has seriously been weakened. We know that. But they're still there and we still have to keep the pressure on. Those that are suggesting somehow that this is a good time to pull back are wrong. This is a good time to keep putting the pressure on to make sure that we really do undermine their ability to conduct any kind of attacks on this country.
MR. SESNO: Will they ever be defeated, or was Donald Rumsfeld right and this is just the long war?
SECRETARY PANETTA: You know, we can go after the key leadership of al-Qaida that I think has largely led this effort, and we have seriously weakened them. We certainly took out bin Ladin, which I think seriously weakened their leadership as well, and I think there are additional leaders that we can go after. And by weakening their leadership, we will undermine al-Qaida's ability to ultimately put together that universal jihad that they've always tried to put together in order to conduct attacks on this country.
So the answer to your question is that we have made serious inroads in weakening al-Qaida. There's more to be done. There are these nodes now in Yemen, in Somalia, and other areas that we have to continue to go after. But I think we are on the path to being – seriously weakening al-Qaida as a threat to this country




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