CBS: Sec. Clinton on Afghanistan Strategy
From "Face the Nation"

CQ Transcriptswire
Sunday, September 27, 2009 12:30 PM

HARRY SMITH (Host): All right. Let's talk about Afghanistan for a couple of minutes.

General McChrystal made his report to President Obama. One of the things he says is there's a year window in which the United States has to act in order to ensure that the insurgency doesn't basically take over the country.

Do you agree with that assessment?

SEC. OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: Well, let me just put General McChrystal's report into the broader context because it doesn't stand alone. It is part of a process. And let's look at what we've done during the last nine months under President Obama's leadership.

We inherited a situation. We didn't reject it out of hand. We didn't accept it out of hand. We engaged in a very thorough review. We reached some critical decisions, including looking at both Afghanistan and Pakistan together because, of course, the threat goes back and forth across the borders.

We also reaffirmed our commitment to going after Al Qaida, to dismantling, defeating them. We believe, and we've seen just this week here in New York; we believe that Al Qaida poses a direct threat to the United States, to friends and allies throughout the world.

So we are very clear about our mission. Our mission is to protect the United States and protect our friends and allies, and to go after the scourge of Al Qaida and related extremist groups.

Now, the decision that was made to add troops in the spring has not even been fully implemented yet. You know, you don't get up and just deploy the 82nd Airborne and they get there the next day. We are only now reaching the end of the deployment cycle.

We also know that, going hand in hand with our military strategy was our civilian strategy, a much more focused effort, a much more accountable one, dealing with the government of Afghanistan. So we not only saw the change of commanders in the military, we saw a change in our ambassador and a beefing up of the embassy in Kabul.

At the same time, Afghanistan is going through an election. This is not like an election, you know, in Western Europe or in the United States. To carry out an election under these circumstances was going to be difficult under any conditions.

It's not over yet. We have to wait until it is resolved -- hopefully, very soon, then make a new commitment about how we're going to meet our strategic goals. And it's going to be up to the president to determine how best to achieve that.

So, you know, General McChrystal, the new commander, was asked for his assessment. There's other input that's coming throughout the government that the president will take on board. But I think we ought to look at it in context.

SMITH: There's growing, sort of, discontent with sending more troops into Afghanistan. And one of the issues is the Karzai government, which is corrupt, at least, and may, in fact, have tried to steal this most recent election.

Is it worth American blood and treasure to help support a regime like that?

CLINTON: Well, with all respect, we're doing this for the United States. We're doing this because we think that a return to a safe haven in Afghanistan with Al Qaida, with Taliban elements associated with Al Qaida, with the same purpose, to basically run a syndicate of terror out of either Afghanistan or the border region, is something we cannot tolerate.

And, you know, we have to recognize that this was always going to be a challenge.

Now, having said that, does the Karzai government or whoever is the next president have to do more to fulfill the needs of the Afghan people to understand what is expected from the rule of law, transparency and accountability? Absolutely.

But, again, we inherited a situation with a set of expectations and behaviors that we have gone about attempting to influence and change. And one of my highest priorities is, once this election is finalized, to work with our entire civilian team, with Special Representative Holbrooke, with Ambassador Eikenberry and everyone else, to really impress upon the new government what is expected of them.

But let's not forget, Harry, this is about us sitting right here in New York. This is about making sure that we've got the intelligence and the capacity to interrupt potential attacks, that we try to continue our effort to destroy and defeat Al Qaida, which are unfortunately still, to this day, attempting to kill and destroy Americans and others.

SMITH: Najibullah Zazi went to Pakistan...

CLINTON: That's right.

SMITH: ... to the border areas, in order to get bomb training. Is Pakistan doing enough to clean up its own house?

CLINTON: Well, look at -- again, what has happened in the last nine months? Pakistan has increased its commitment in the fight against the Taliban.

SMITH: They were successful in the Swat Valley.

CLINTON: Absolutely successful. A lot of people thought that would never happen. I believe that, if we engaged very intensively with our Pakistani friends -- and we did, through meetings in Washington and in Islamabad -- if we shared information, we listened to each other, that there would be a decision by the civilian and military leadership that the threat was directed at them, that it could undermine their government, in fact, you know, would lead to very dangerous consequences in terms of the survivability of the state in many parts of the country. So, yes, have they taken action? Absolutely.

SMITH: "Have they done enough?" was the question.

CLINTON: Well, you know, we are always working for more. I mean, as I just finished saying, we're -- we're not satisfied with anything. This is not, you know, a check-box kind of experience where, "Oh, we're done with that. We're done with that."

But look at what has been accomplished. And I think that we will continue to see a very close coordination. But it is important for Americans to understand that focusing on Al Qaida and the Taliban -- who are largely, but not exclusively, now in Pakistan -- cannot be done if we allow them to return to a safe haven in Afghanistan. So this has to be viewed as part of the overall strategy.

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