Transcript: Interview With Hillary Clinton

Clinton: I don't know about being deferred, but it makes, you know, the timing of it more challenging. That's obvious. Because the President, when he, uh … made his statements back in March that, uh … we were going to, uh … send more troops and … and, uh … integrate our strategy in the military civilian Afghanistan, Pakistan more clearly, he said we're going to, uh … wait and take stock of this after the election. Well, there is no (laughs) after the election yet. And I think everybody just needs to recognize that, uh … you know, we … we have to be, um … understanding of the challenges we face in making what is a very difficult decision.

CM: President Karzai also said, and I want to read this to you, to Diane Sawyer yesterday; "Al Qaeda was driven out of Afghanistan in 2001. They have no base in Afghanistan. The war against terrorism is not in Afghanistan villages. It is not in the Afghan countryside." If that's true, what are we doing there?

Clinton: Well, I … I think what President Karzai means, because I've had this conversation, um … you know, with him and with others, is there are many elements of the Taliban. There is no doubt about that. Um, the main, um … leadership of the Taliban that is allied with Al Qaeda is in Pakistan.

Now they send people across the border. They help to fund the, uh … uh … Taliban extremists who are, you know , more associated with Al Qaeda than indigenous. Um …

CM: But clearly the Taliban inside of Afghanistan have been at least hiding and helping.

Clinton: Oh, absolutely. But … but what I think he's trying to get at, which is also our analysis, there are people, quote "Taliban" who are hiding because they get paid to fight. They have no other way of making a living. You've got a very poor, uh … population in general.

They get paid more to be in the Taliban than they get paid to be, like say, a local police officer. So that's one element. There's an economic motivation. Another is that there are all kinds of, uh … uh, internal conflicts in Afghanistan between certain tribal groups or ethnic groups, uh … who find it opportunistic to ally with the Taliban.

They're very conservative. Uh, they share a lot of the same, you know, moral or social values. But they're not a direct threat to us. But then there are those who are targeting American soldiers, who are targeting, you know, United Nations or, uh … the Indian Embassy or all kinds of other, uh … targets.

So one … one of the reasons why I think this review, that uh … the President has directed is so important is we're trying to sort out who is the real enemy?

Our goal is to, uh … disrupt, dismantle, defeat Al Qaeda and its extremist allies. But not every Taliban is an extremist ally. So that's what we're trying to make, uh … clear both in our, um … understanding and in our actions.

'An Unfortunate Choice of Words'

CM: But from your perspective, to say that there is no basis of terrorism operating in Afghanistan today is clearly wrong.

Clinton: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. But I know what he's trying to say, it just didn't come across the way that I think it was meant.

CM: I know that you're not, unless you'd like to tell me what's your advice to the President …

Clinton: (Laughs).

CM: But somehow I think you're not going to. But let me ask you the question this way. We … we've all been receiving, uh … releases from the White House, the meetings at the … the pictures of the meetings.

Clinton: Right, right.

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