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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Readout Of U.S. Bilateral Meetings With Pakistan and Afghanistan Presidents

Senior Administration Official
New York, NY
September 24, 2012

7:00 P.M., EDT


MODERATOR: Good evening, everyone. This is Alyson Grunder, the Director of the New York Foreign Press Center. And we have [Senior Administration Official] here this evening to provide a background readout of Secretary Clinton’s meetings today with Pakistani President Zardari and Afghan President Karzai. Please note that this briefing is strictly on background, with any quotes used in reporting for attribution only to a Senior Administration Official.

With that, I will turn the call over to our Senior Administration Official, and he will provide a readout before taking any questions. Thank you for your attention. And I just want to note that [Senior Administration Official]’s times is very limited tonight, so I hope you’ll keep your questions very concise. Thank you so much. Bye.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And Alyson, thank you very much. Good evening, everybody. I guess as a Senior Administration Official, let me first of all thank you very much for participating this evening.

Let me first of all talk about the Secretary’s meeting with President Zardari, which took place this morning. President Zardari had invited a number of the leaders of Pakistan’s parties that are in a coalition with him, and he spoke for a few minutes, and then they gave their perspective on what was going on in Pakistan, what was going on in the region, which the Secretary found very useful. The Secretary and the President then took off and had a private session for some considerable number of minutes where they reviewed the state of U.S.-Pakistan relations.

I would say that, to put this into perspective, we have since earlier this year been trying to move forward in our relations with Pakistan, and this has been one of a series of very high-level engagements over the past few months. As you know, Secretary Clinton met with Foreign Minister Khar on the margins of the Tokyo conference on Afghanistan on July the 8th of this year. We continued contact, obviously, in Islamabad. Secretary Clinton met Foreign Minister Khar again in Washington last Friday and was pleased to see President Zardari today.

I think both sides are committed to a relationship that is based upon the capacity, the desire, of both countries to be able to systematically identify shared interests and then to try to act on them jointly. We’ve been working off of a work plan that, as you can imagine, focuses on joint efforts on counterterrorism; joint efforts on Afghanistan; the opening of the ground lines of communication, which we were pleased to do about a month or so ago; and very importantly also, for the Pakistani side and for the United States’ side, an emphasis now on trying to move the relationship on the economic side from a relationship that’s mostly about assistance – economic assistance – to one that’s about trade and market access. And so we talked a little bit about the possibility of signing a bilateral investment treaty with Pakistan and taking some other actions to increase the interest of American and international companies in investments in Pakistan.

One of the other very important issues on the work plan is also the question of counter-IEDs, the improvised explosive devices. And generally, there’s a – as you can imagine – a whole range of counterterrorism issues that have to do with the Haqqani Network and other items of importance.

The Secretary this afternoon had time with the President of Afghanistan, President Karzai. They started first with a conversation about the reaction around the world to the terrible video that has been shown and produced. They talked about the region. They also talked about where we stood in – with the Strategic Partnership Agreement that President Karzai and President Obama signed in Kabul in May, and very importantly, talked about the meeting on October the 3rd in Washington, D.C. between the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan and Secretary Clinton to start the Bilateral Commission, and the beginning then of the talks that are required under the Strategic Partnership Agreement.

As you can imagine, they also talked about the dual transitions in 2014, the Lisbon transition that has to do with the drawdown of foreign forces in Afghanistan and the increasing effort by Afghans to be responsible for their own security. They talked about the other transition as well in 2014, and that’s the constitutional transition in Afghanistan, an election, a new government, new – and President Karzai’s plans in that regard.

We also talked, as you can imagine, about these insider attacks, the green-on-blue attacks, and how much work needs to be done together to try to end those attacks. There was a long conversation about reconciliation, where the purpose of the United States is to encourage Afghans to talk to other Afghans about the future of Afghanistan. And in fact, we had just had, before we saw President Karzai, a meeting of the Core Group of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States. It was the ninth time that the Core Group had met, and we were able to report to President Karzai about some of the discussion there.

Might I also say that, here again, there was a long discussion of the need for foreign investment in Afghanistan to create jobs in Afghanistan. We had, in fact, reported to President Karzai about a breakfast this morning that had been hosted by the Business Council for International Understanding for American companies interested in doing business in Afghanistan. And it’s part of a larger whole, actually, today. We had a meeting today of senior officials of the – at the heart of Asia, there’ll be a Tokyo follow-up meeting over the next couple of days, all to try to continue to generate interest in the future of Afghanistan.

I’ll end here, which is that when we were discussing Afghanistan today, it was a reminder to everyone that we’re coming off of a series of events that’s tried to support Afghanistan, put Afghanistan in its regional context, and those events, as you all know very well, the meeting in Istanbul last November, where the region, the neighbors, the near neighbors of Afghanistan got together to show support for a secure and stable Afghanistan inside of a secure and stable and prosperous region. And then the meeting in Bonn in December of last year, which looked forward to the transformation decade, 2014 to 2024, in Afghanistan showing international commitment for the future; the NATO summit in Chicago, which dealt with some of the security issues of that transformational decade; and then of course on the 8th of July in Tokyo, a development conference to talk about some of the development, economic, private sector, and investment issues that follow on also from the transformational decade.

So she made these two calls today, thought they were both interesting and successful, and with that, I’d be glad to take a few questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you ladies and gentlemen. If you do have a question, please press * then 1. You will hear a tone indicating you have been placed in queue, and you may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the # key. If you’re using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you do have a question, please press * then 1 at this time.

And our first question comes from Anwar Iqbal of Dawn. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: All right. [Senior Administration Official], thank you very much for the briefing.

Did you – did, I mean, the Secretary – also discuss this thing about the blasphemous film with the Pakistani President, and did he express any concern of the statement of a Pakistani minister who has offered a bond fee for killing the person who made the film?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, thank you very much for your question, Mr. Iqbal. Yes, they did discuss the film. The Secretary repeated to President Zardari many of the points that she has made in public.

On the question of the Railway Minister’s comments, President Zardari kind of raised that issue himself, noted the statements of the Prime Minister’s spokesman, the minister’s own party disassociating the Pakistani government from these statements. We obviously considered them both inflammatory and unacceptable, but it was President Zardari who raised them and he pointed out exactly what had already been said by the Government of Pakistan.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And our next question comes from Akmal Dawi, with the Voice of America. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: [Senior Administration Official], this is Akmal Dawi of the Voice of America. I’ve got two questions. The first is regarding Haqqani Network, which was recently designated as a terrorist network. Did Secretary Clinton press the Pakistani President to take more concerted action against this network, which is widely known to be based in Pakistan?

And my second question is regarding the latest tensions between Karzai and Administration officials regarding the Bagram jail. President Karzai seems to be wanting to control the jail and put a stop to detention by American forces on the ground. Was this issue discussed?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. I thank you for both questions. I hope I understood the first; just let me answer. If I did not, you can come back to me. Your question was on the Haqqani Network and on the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation that Secretary Clinton made. I think President Zardari, and actually the Pakistani government, has been quite clear in their statements. They said that this was an internal matter for the United States of America, that the Haqqani Network are not Pakistanis, and so that this was something that – a decision that the United States of America took. And I think their statements on this, their official statements and their private statements, have been quite consistent.

On the question of detentions from President Karzai, this is obviously an issue that’s being discussed between the two governments, and our objective at the moment is to make sure that we work together to have a process that’s – that is acceptable to both sides. And so there was a long conversation today about how to move forward on all kinds of issues between the United States and Afghanistan, and I’m sure that this one, with a lot of work and good faith, will be worked out as well.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Huma Imtiaz, Express News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: [Senior Administration Official], thank you for doing this teleconference. I had a question about Afghanistan. You mentioned the Core Group working meeting. If you could tell us a little bit about if the U.S. – the UK, Pakistan, and Afghanistan also want to have a trilateral on Wednesday on reconciliation. If you would explain a little bit more where we can – what we can update on the reconciliation process, what kind of support has Pakistan offered, and what exactly does the U.S. want from Pakistan in terms of helping with the reconciliation in Afghanistan? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, thank you very much for your question. First of all, I’m not exactly sure the time or the venue for the UK-Pakistan-Afghanistan trilateral. It’s something we certainly welcome, and we think more of this conversation – the more of this conversation there is, the better.

Secondly, in terms of Pakistan and what it is doing, I would refer you first of all to the Core Group statement by ministers on the 8th of July in Tokyo, where I think that Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States together made a very important call on the armed insurgence, on the Taliban, to get into a political process. I also think that the fact that the new Pakistani Prime Minister, Prime Minister Ashraf, made his very first visit outside of Pakistan up to Afghanistan to support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, Afghan peace process was a positive thing.

In terms of the core group itself, as you know, the Pakistanis were the hosts of the first meeting of the Safe Passage Working Group early in September, and they issued a public statement at that time about the importance of that group, why it was useful, what it was doing, so I would refer you to their statement, which I certainly agree with.

And in terms of what we want, I think the important thing here is what the Afghans want, and what the Afghans want is support from Pakistan and from the United States and from, really, the international community. But let’s focus on Pakistan and the United States. The Afghans want our support for an Afghan peace process, for Afghans talking to other Afghans about the future of Afghanistan. And so when we sit at the core group, one of our jobs is to listen carefully to the Afghans and try as Pakistanis and Americans to do what they are asking us to do to support this effort.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And our next question from Azim Mian, Geo TV. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: [Senior Administration Official], thanks for briefing us. The – as you know, that this Afghan dialogue is progressing incremental, and Pakistan is heading towards elections, so there is an election season here, election season in Pakistan. If there is any transition or any change of government (inaudible), how these Afghan – this trilateral process will go on? And number two, did we discuss anything – both of them – did they discuss anything about upcoming elections during today’s meeting?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you for your question. In terms of elections, no. Of course, there’s elections in the United States, there are elections to be scheduled in Pakistan in 2013, elections in Afghanistan. I think everybody at the Core Group today was just trying to focus on issues of safe passage, issues of working together, and as I said to your colleague from Express News, trying to do what Afghans need us to do to support an Afghan process.

So no, I would say that the idea that there are going to be elections was not a relevant factor to what the Core Group was doing. In all these countries – I mean, the issue of the need for a political process and the need for support for Afghans talking to other Afghans about the future of Afghanistan I think is something that we’re all just – we’re all just working on as we go along.

MODERATOR: And we have time for one more question. That question comes from Jamal Baluch of ARY News. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: [Senior Administration Official], my question is this: Did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raise question about Dr. Shakil Afridi and his release from prison, and was she concerned about Dr. A.Q. Khan, the nuclear scientists? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we’ve always, of course, been concerned about Dr. A.Q. Khan. On the question of Dr. Afridi, Mr. Baluch, yes, in all of our interactions with Pakistani officials, whether it’s the President of Pakistan or last Friday when the Secretary saw Foreign Minister Khar in Washington at the State Department, we try to raise the question of Dr. Afridi. Our position on this, I think, is very well known, and you’d expect us to do so today, and she did.

MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for participating, and thank you especially to [Senior Administration Official], our Senior Administration Official for the readout and the Q&A.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, thank you very much.

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