Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton and Admiral Mike Mullen Re: Meeting with Pakistan Leaders

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–May 27, 2011.  

SECRETARY CLINTON: Admiral Mullen and I have just completed a very extensive, open, frank, and constructive discussion with the leadership of Pakistan – with the president, the prime minister, the chief of staff of the army, General Kayani, the head of ISI, General Pasha, and with representatives from the foreign office and the interior ministry.

I have to begin by expressing appreciation for the warm welcome that we both received and the open dialogue that was the hallmark of our hours together. The United States and Pakistan have been friends for a very long time. We have a relationship that is rooted in mutual respect and mutual interests, so there is always a lot to talk about. But this was an especially important visit because we have reached a turning point. Usama bin Ladin is dead, but al-Qaida and its syndicate of terror remain a serious threat to us both. There is momentum toward political reconciliation in Afghanistan, but the insurgency continues to operate from safe havens here in Pakistan. And the Pakistani people are standing courageously for their democracy and their future, but the country continues to face enormous economic, political, and security challenges.

The United States has been clear and consistent about our expectations for this relationship. We have strong interests in the region and we are pursuing them vigorously. These are not uniquely American aims. We believe that Pakistanis pursue the same goals and share the same hopes. We seek to defeat violent extremism, end the conflict in Afghanistan, and ensure a secure, stable, democratic, prosperous future for Pakistan. And we expect to work closely with the government and the people of Pakistan to achieve those ends.

First, the fight against violent extremism. For the past decade, many of the world’s most vicious terrorists, including al-Qaida’s most important leaders, have been living in Pakistan. From here, they have targeted innocent people all over the world – in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and far beyond. But no nation has sacrificed more lives in this struggle against violent extremism than Pakistan has. Extremists have killed women and children, blown up mosques and markets, and shown no regard for human life or dignity.

The United States and Pakistan have worked together to kill or capture many of these terrorists here on Pakistani soil. This could not have been done without close cooperation between our governments, our militaries, and our intelligence agencies. But we both recognize there is still much more work required and it is urgent. Today, we discussed in even greater detail cooperation to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida, and to drive them from Pakistan and the region. We will do our part and we look to the Government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead. Joint action against al-Qaida and its affiliates will make Pakistan, America, and the world safer and more secure.

But I want to underscore a point that I made in public in the last weeks and made again privately today to the president, the prime minister, and others. There is absolutely no evidence that anyone at the highest levels of the Pakistani Government knew that Usama bin Ladin was living just miles from where we are today. And we know that al-Qaida has been a source of great pain and suffering to the leadership that has been in every way attempting to eradicate the threat that is posed. But we know we have to redouble our efforts together. That is the way forward.

Second, on Afghanistan, both our nations have an interest in a safe, stable Afghanistan that is not a source of insecurity for its neighbors or others. And we need to work together to achieve that goal. As part of America’s strategy, we are supporting an Afghan-led process that seeks to split the Taliban from al-Qaida and reconcile those insurgents who will renounce violence and accept the constitution of Afghanistan. And we know that for reconciliation to succeed, Pakistan must be a part of that process. Many of the leaders of the Taliban continue to live in Pakistan, and Pakistan has very legitimate interests in the outcome of this process. And those interests need to be respected and addressed. But we also discussed that Pakistan has a responsibility to help us help Afghanistan by preventing insurgents from waging war from Pakistani territory.

Today, we discussed Pakistan’s perspective on Afghanistan and how it can support the international community’s efforts there. And we look forward to putting those words into action and seeing momentum toward a political resolution. We think that the recently held trilaterals between the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – one here in Islamabad, one in Kabul – are a very important step toward the resolution in Afghanistan.

A third major area where America’s and Pakistan’s interests intersect is the future of this country itself. In recent years, the United States has tried to be a very good friend to Pakistan. We have repeatedly delivered on what we promised by providing billions of dollars in new assistance to address Pakistan’s energy and other economic challenges. We’ve expanded assistance to your security forces. And we led ongoing international relief efforts to respond to last year’s devastating floods. We’ve built the largest educational and cultural exchange program anywhere in the world as an investment in the youth of Pakistan. And we launched a Strategic Dialogue that brings our governments together to discuss the full range of common concerns. And we agreed that this work must continue. It continued today and it will continue tomorrow.

We are prepared to stand by the Pakistani people for the long haul. The United States knows that Pakistan’s future is imperatively important for us, but even more so for the people themselves, and we look toward a strong Pakistan, one that is democratic, one that is prosperous and stable, being a cornerstone for regional stability and global security. That is why the United States will continue to support Pakistan’s sovereignty, its civilian-elected government, and above all, its people.

But let me be clear, as I was today, America cannot and should not solve Pakistan’s problems. That’s up to Pakistan. But in solving its problems, Pakistan should understand that anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make problems disappear. It is up to the Pakistani people to choose what kind of country they wish to live in. And it is up to the leaders of Pakistan to deliver results for the people. There is still a lot of work to be done to reduce corruption and grow the economy, to rebuild from the floods, to get electricity more readily available, to make progress in eliminating extremists and their sanctuaries.

So there are hard choices to make, and we should proceed in a spirit of openness and candor, because part of friendship is speaking honestly and telling each other our perspectives and, where necessary, even difficult truths as we see them. We have shared interests, we have common challenges, and yes, we have areas of disagreement. During Pakistan’s first winter as a young nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah said, “We are going through fire. The sunshine has yet to come.” But his confidence in the resilience and determination of the Pakistani people never wavered. And the years have vindicated his faith.

As we look ahead from this pivotal moment, that determination by the Pakistani people themselves will be more important than ever. I believe that Pakistan’s best days are ahead, and the United States wants to be there as you move into a future that realizes the promise of your beginning. And we will stand with you and support you as you make the tough decisions to have the kind of country and future that the people of Pakistan deserve.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Thank you, Madam Secretary, and thank all of you for being here. I too wish to express my gratitude for the time afforded us by so many of Pakistan’s leaders today. Having been somewhat of a frequent flyer myself to these parts, I know and appreciate how tough it is, especially in times like this to break away from the press of events to hold these sorts of discussions.

And as the Secretary mentioned, they were very candid discussions, the kind of discussions two friends should be able to have at such a critical time. I want to associate myself with everything the Secretary said about the criticality of this relationship and about moving it forward in a positive direction. But in particular, I want to echo her comments about the shared sense of urgency. I think we all realize the challenges under which this relationship now labors, but now is not the time for retreat or for recrimination. Now is the time for action and closer coordination; for more cooperation, not less; for the friendship to get stronger, not weaker.

The killing of Usama bin Ladin has accomplished many things, many necessary things. It has removed permanently the leader of an organization that is avowed to no other end than the killing of innocent people. It has sent that organization into some disarray and most likely disrupted some of its future plans. It has called into question, indeed it has proven false, al-Qaida’s claim and confidence in itself as untouchable or omniscient, just as events throughout the Arab world prove false – prove false al-Qaida’s ideology of extremism and hate.

But bin Ladin’s death, however welcome, has not for the short term eliminated the threats we both face from terrorism. Recent attacks right here in Pakistan over the last few days serve as grim reminders of that fact, and of the sacrifices the Pakistan people – Pakistani people continue to pay at the hands of these criminals. Nor has his death meant the death of al-Qaida altogether or of the alliances that are formed between al-Qaida and elements of the Taliban. We see that collusion persist. We see the desire emerge for longevity and reorganization and perhaps even the desire for closer ties between disparate groups of extremists. To be sure, these groups are weaker, much weaker, and not just as a result of this raid, but as a result of the extraordinary efforts expended by both coalition forces and the Pakistani military over the last several years. There is a much larger struggle afoot, and I would be remiss if I did not applaud the bravery and the skill with which Pakistani troops have engaged the enemy in that struggle, losing thousands of their number in the process.

But in their weakness and in their confusion, the terrorists are lashing out, and so the fight will and must go on, and it must go on with the Pakistani military and the U.S. military acting, coordinating, and leading together. We have come too far and sacrificed too much for it to be any other way for either of us. This isn’t America’s war. This is Pakistan’s war and Afghanistan’s war. It’s a reasonable war against a common enemy, a war in which all of us share a stake and all of us must hazard certain risks.

For our part, my military took many risks going after bin Ladin, risks to the lives of our men and women in uniform, risks to civilian causalities and to collateral damage. We took the risk of being wrong about what we thought we knew of the killer’s whereabouts. And yes, in our desire to preserve secrecy, we incurred a certain risk in our relationships with other nations in the region. But this particular relationship with Pakistan is too critical, and now is too critical a time to allow whatever differences we may still have with one another impede the progress we must still make together.

I harbor no illusions about the difficulties ahead nor do I leave here misinformed about the trust which still needs to be rebuilt between our two militaries. But I do leave here with a sense that General Kayani and other Pakistani military leaders share my commitment to that task and share my desire to look for ways to advance the relationship. There’s no better time for that sort of partnership than right now. Thank you.

MODERATOR: And the first question is from Baqir (inaudible) from DAWN.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you spoke about your – you spoke about expectations, and you said this in Paris as well before coming here. After your meeting with the Pakistani leadership, what is your assessment that – is Pakistan ready to meet those expectations? And is – and how do you assess the – is Pakistan ready to move away from your – or what your military leadership thinks, exclusion at Haqqani Network and other groups that are of concern to United States and other countries?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me speak first from my perspective. I cannot speak for the Pakistani leadership with whom we met. But certainly, my conclusion is that we are both committed to this relationship. We understand its strategic importance. We have critical interests that intersect in a number of important areas, which we both have mentioned – the issue of extremism, the future of Afghanistan, the economy, long-term stability. And we also have a shared appreciation for the sacrifice that the other has been making and continues to make. When we sit down to talk together across from the leaders of your country, we represent a country that has also been victimized by extremism, that has also lost brave young men and women in uniform, who are fighting against the violent extremists. So we understand the real sense of loss that is expressed to us by the leaders and people of Pakistan about the costs of this struggle against extremism.

But we both know there can be no quarter given, that there can be no peace, no stability, no democracy, no future for Pakistan unless the violent extremists are removed, either by coming to their senses and recognizing that they should be part of a political process if they have a point of view to present and not try to inflict their ideology or their prejudices on an entire nation, or they will have to be killed or captured.

So we came today to talk about all that we have in common, and we did so. And I, for one, came away from our meeting convinced of the importance of this relationship, the significance to my country’s national security, and therefore the need to deepen our cooperation on every level between our governments, our militaries, and our intelligence and law enforcement services, but that we must, at the same time, continue to reach out to the Pakistani people, to cut through what I have talked about on my previous visits are often deliberate misunderstandings, conspiracy theories, accusations and the like which really have nothing to do with how we chart the future that we both hope to see.

So I think that I return to Washington ever more committed to doing whatever I can to make sure that the cooperation we’re seeking is forthcoming and the cooperation that we’ve been asked for by our counterparts is also occurring from our part. But let me ask the admiral to add anything he wishes to add.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Well, from the military perspective – again, I met with General Kayani and the military leadership and did so at a time of great stress, obviously, in the relationship, which is one of the reasons that we’re here. But we had very frank and open discussions about how to move ahead and about the importance of the relationship and the challenges that we face, the shared challenges that we face. And one of the things that I try to do always is listen to those challenges from the Pakistani perspective, and because we’ve been through the difficult challenges of late, being here now, I thought, was very important.

And from my perspective, no one should doubt for a minute the long-term commitment to this relationship, to the need to rebuild on the trust that certainly was recently shaken, and that the strength of that relationship in the long term will, I think, support a more stable, peaceful, prosperous Pakistan but also a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous region.

MODERATOR: The next question is from Kim Ghattas of BBC.

QUESTION: Hi. Good afternoon. A question for both of you: You’ve both been to Pakistan several times over the last couple of years, and every time, you ask for more cooperation from the Pakistanis on a variety of issues. Did you hear anything today in your meetings that make you think that you are actually going to get exactly what you want? I mean, I have to say that the meeting – the start of the meeting looked incredibly tense. Did it continue to be tense?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I don’t think it can be characterized as tense. We were just waiting for the press to leave so we could actually – (laughter) – begin our meeting. That was the only tension that I think was in the room.

But to answer your very important question, Kim, look, you’re right; Mike and I have been coming here, and Mike has a long history of commitment to the joint efforts that we are engaged in in Pakistan. And ever since I became Secretary of State, I have tried to develop a strategic relationship that reflects the stakes which are so high between our two nations.

And I think it’s important to remember where we started, because I believe we’ve had significant cooperation, and there has been a tremendous amount of commitment shown by the Government of Pakistan toward this fight against extremism. And we heard today, for short-term cooperation, some very specific actions that Pakistan will take and that we will take together. And we reaffirmed our commitment to the medium and long-term relationship.

But I always wish that we would put into some historical context, even if the history is only two and a half years old, where our relationship was, and what was happening inside of Pakistan when President Obama took office. You had extremists who were controlling territory not very far from Islamabad. And it was a tremendous act of leadership, courageous leadership, for the Government of Pakistan to throw itself into the fight against the extremists who were threatening the Pakistani people and were, unfortunately, expanding their area of influence. That has been reversed.

Now, are there still horrific attacks? Yes, there are. And do the terrorists continue to use the cowardly tool of suicide bombers to blow up the police recruits and take out innocent lives throughout the country? Yes. But I think any fair reading of what Pakistan has accomplished just in the time that I’ve been deeply involved deserves more credit. Now we are at this turning point and we have to do even more together, and I came away convinced that we would be. And obviously, we’ll see how we both are able to implement over the next weeks and months.

MODERATOR: Shaukat Paracha of AHA TV.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am. (Inaudible.) Thank you very much. You talked about conspiracy theories and anti-Americanism in Pakistan. But as we see, the U.S. media and your think tank reports believe that the situation is good on the part of United States. I mean, in one incident, our 80-90 young men, they are killed by the terrorists. Even our bases, Mehran and PNS Mehran, is not safe.

But these sacrifices, they do not reflect in the United States media, their think tanks, and their opinion-making process. And sadly, the U.S. Administration cannot get its perspective reflected in the U.S. opinion-making process. Is that in the United States something that Pashtuns should be first called a bad name, then weakened, and then destabilized? What’s the policy in the United States both in the political parties and in the Administration?

Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for asking that question, because I think you’ve put, as we would say, your finger on a very important concern that we both share. It is fair to say that the level of cooperation and hard work that goes on every day at the highest levels of your government and mine in pursuit of these common objectives is often either not understood or not reflected fairly in the political discourse or in the press of either of our countries.

You have a very free press in Pakistan. We have a very free press in the United States. I think it’s one of our strengths. But as a result, you don’t have either government dictating what is going to be said. And we actually talked about that this morning, because I share the concern that your question expresses. We both – both in my country and in your country, we need to do a better job. We need to do a better job of actually getting the story out. People don’t have to agree with us. Now, that’s – in a democracy, which we both are, you are free to disregard whatever position is put out.

But what is not helpful is either not knowing what we are doing on both sides or deliberating distorting what we are doing. So I think we have some work ahead to try to do a better job to just tell the truth about what we are working on together and the level of aid that the United States is providing. I mean, we provide more support than Saudi Arabia, China, and everybody else combined. But I will stand here and admit that I’m not sure many Pakistanis know that. We provided, I think, the most even after all of it came in, in the aggregate, the most aid for the floods. But I bet not many Pakistanis know that.

And on the reverse, as you rightly point out, you have suffered grievously. The loss of those young men who were training to protect their country was a tragedy, and I don’t know that enough Americans understood what that meant.

So we both have work to do. So let’s clear away the underbrush. Let’s have the kind of open, candid conversation that you and I are having now and that we had earlier today, and then let the chips fall where they may. But let’s not be misinterpreting and misrepresenting each other, because then we can never, ever find common ground.

MODERATOR: Karen DeYoung with The Washington Post.

QUESTION: Thank you. You’ve spoken, Madam Secretary, of the work that both sides need to do and you just referenced public opinion. I wonder if, in terms of specifics, you’ve talked about what you would like the Pakistanis to do in counterterrorism fight. What more does the United States need to do to strengthen this relationship beyond public images? And specifically, did you speak about the question of visas, about the presence of U.S. law enforcement, intelligence, and military officials here? Do you expect those numbers to go down?

And finally, again on specifics, Secretary Gates and others in the United States have said that, as you said, there’s no evidence that senior officials here knew of the presence of bin Ladin but that somebody knew. Was that something that you discussed today, and what’s your sense of how far the Pakistani investigations have gone on that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we did. We discussed all of the issues that you just raised, Karen. On the last one, we discussed very frankly, and our counterparts in the government were very forthcoming in saying that somebody, somewhere was providing some kind of support. And they are carrying out an investigation. And we have certainly offered to share whatever information we come across, and we intend to be consulting closely as we go forward with them providing information they are finding and us reciprocating.

You may know that today the United States Government got access to the compound, thanks to the cooperation of the ISI and the military. And we are working to try to untangle the puzzle of bin Ladin’s presence in Abbottabad. But I want to stress again that we have absolutely no reason to believe that anyone in the highest levels of the government knew that. In fact, they were quite emotional in conveying how they would have gone after them if they had known he was there, because as the President said, there’s a lot of reason to believe al-Qaida was behind his wife’s murder. So there were common concerns about this, and we had a very forthright discussion.

With respect to visas, look, our security assistance is provided in coordination and at the request of the Pakistani Government and the Pakistani military, and we work closely with Pakistan to try to ensure that they have the training and the equipment and that we have the personnel necessary to support their counterinsurgency efforts. And the size of our presence at any time in Pakistan is a function of the amount and type of work that is needed to be done to meet the Pakistani Government’s request. And we have not noticed any official statement from the Government of Pakistan that in any way would demonstrate that they’re not going to be continuing to request the kind of assistance we provide, and we’re going to continue to offer what we believe is in our mutual best interests.

Mike, do you want to add anything?

ADMIRAL MULLEN: The only thing I’d add, Karen, is certainly I’ve talked with General Kayani and in recent really weeks and months about the level of military support. We’ve been here for some time at the invitation of the Pakistani Government and Pakistani military working a training mission, and those numbers go up and down over time. And there have been requests to reduce those numbers, and those are in considered – and going through the details of what that means and how that looks in the future is something we’re working our way through with them, literally, as we speak.

MODERATOR: Thank you all.