Sunday 14 November 2010

US is fighting what US created - Transcript of interview with Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates with Cynthia McFadden

I find it amusing how media, both in Pakistan and India is trying to find their own meaning from the interview with the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when they both sat down with ABC News' Cynthia McFadden on a flight to Melbourne, Australia. Pakistanis are as usual jumping up and down with joy thar Mrs Clinton has once again owned up to creating the menace of Usama Bin Laden and then leaving Pakistan behind to nurture him - visualising Taliban being a product of a broken marriage between the Western father and Eastern mother makes me giggle. Indian media, no doubt is on the hunt for a smoking gun in Pakistani hands not realising that in this sorry eastern tale both countries have been and are behaving like two unruly characters from a western movie about to shoot at eachother dead.

I believe in trying to go to the source material to find out what was being said. And here are the exerpts from the interview. Any one interested in the full conversation can read it at the ABC News site.
McFADDEN: There are so many Americans who feel this is a hopeless cause and that we're spending our treasure both in terms of the money of this nation, which is you know one could argue sorely needed at home right now, and the treasure of our youth . . .

CLINTON: . . . Well to the . . .

McFADDEN: . . . in a hopeless proposition.

CLINTON: Well I know that some have that an opinion, but certainly what we're seeing on the ground is that progress is being made. Is it as fast as any of us want? Of course not. It's a very difficult struggle against the Taliban. But we are making progress. And I think that the sacrifice that we're making this very painful for all of us who are involved in our government. But we know what the downside is of walking away from an area that can once again become a launching pad for attacks against us and our friends and allies around the world.

McFADDEN: So isn't the real problem Pakistan?

CLINTON: Well Pakistan has a a major responsibility, and they need to be working with us, as they are, to root out the Taliban and Al-Qaida. I think in the last 20 months there has been a considerable change in their strategic calculation about what is in their own best interest.

McFADDEN: In what way?

CLINTON: Well, I know when I became Secretary of State, when I was first testifying, the government of Pakistan had made a kind of peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban in an area called Swat. And they were ceding territory in return for basically an understanding that the Taliban would leave everybody else alone. And of course they wouldn't, because they are aggressive in their desire to attack and undermine the Pakistani government as well as to support the activities of the Taliban in Afghanistan. That has changed. The Pakistanis have lost far more military um men and civilians than any of us have in their fight against the Taliban.

McFADDEN: But isn't it a strange, open, duplicitous, bizarre relationship? You go to Congress and ask for $2 billion for the Pakistanis, and we know that in part they're supporting the Al-Qaida.

CLINTON: Well they're not support Al-Qaida. They are...

McFADDEN: . . . They are certainly supporting the Taliban, and the Taliban is supporting Al-Qaida.

CLINTON: Well they have in the past hedged against both India and an unfriendly regime in Afghanistan by supporting groups that will be their proxies in trying to prevent either India or an unfriendly Afghan government from undermining their position. That is changing. Now I cannot sit here and tell you that it has changed, but that is changing. And again . . .

McFADDEN: . . . And if it doesn't change, would you recommend not giving the $2 billion next year?

CLINTON: Well, what we have done is through intensive consultations with both the civilian, the military and the intelligence leadership in Pakistan, you know, had very frank conversations about what we expect. But I think it is important to note that as they have made these adjustments in their own assessment of their national interests, they're paying a big price for it. It's not an easy calculation for them to make, but we are making progress.

We have a long way to go, and we have to -- we can't be impatient. We can't say, well, you know, the headlines are bad, we're going home. We cannot do that. Part of what we are fighting against, right now, the United States created. We created the Mujahideen force against the Soviet Union. We trained them, we equipped them, we funded them, including somebody named Osama Bin Laden. And then when we finally saw the end of the Soviet Army crossing back out of Afghanistan, we all breathed a sigh of relief and said, okay, fine, we're out of there. And it didn't work out so well for us.

GATES: This is a problem that we have with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. First of all I just note, Pakistanis now have 140,000 troops on on their north western border. They've withdrawn the equivalent of about six divisions from the Indian border and moved them, and they are attacking ah Taliban. They're attacking the Taliban, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, and but they are also attacking groups that, in safe havens, that are a problem for us.

But the other piece of this, just to pile onto what Secretary Clinton said, we face in both countries what they call a trust deficit, and it is because they believe we have walked away from them in the past, at the toughest moments of their history. You can't recreate that in a heartbeat. You can't recreate that in a year or two. They both worry that once we've solved the problem in Afghanistan, or if we don't solve it, that either way we will leave, and leave whatever remains in their hands to deal with. Now we're not leaving. We will drawn down our troops over a period of time, but we have every intention of of being active and aggressively involved in Afghanistan and also a long term relationship with Pakistan. But convincing them that we mean that and that we will deliver on that is something we've been working at. And I think we've made some headway, as Secretary Clinton said, but it's a work in progress.

McFADDEN: So not not to in any way underestimate the problem, but the whole problem of Al-Qaida is almost like a game of Whack-A-Mole. I mean, yes, great, Afghanistan. But when you look at Yemen which has, what, five or six times the number of Al-Qaida, why aren't we in Yemen? Why aren't we in Somalia?

GATES: First of all, I think frankly Hillary put it best in the hearing we did together. What what you have seen develop, first of all that border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan is is the epicenter of terrorism, because whether you're in Yemen or Somalia or in Asia or wherever else, they are getting encouragement, they are taking inspiration, and often they are taking guidance from Osama Bin Laden and Zawahiri and their minions who are telling these guys what kind of operations to plan, to keep their focus on the U.S. and so on.

Furthermore, they have created what Hillary calls the syndicate of terror, with it is not just Al-Qaida, it's the Taliban in Pakistan, it's the Taliban in Afghanistan, it's the Haqqani network, it's all these different groups. And a success for one becomes a success for all. So if we don't deal with that problem, then we are going to have a challenge of our own security. And the tentacles spread to a lot of different places, North Africa, Yemen, elsewhere.
Full transcript of Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates interview with Cynthia McFadden of ABC News is available here.