Transcript: Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and Sec. of Defense Robert Gates Speak to Cynthia McFadden


GATES: And if you look at the progress that that General Petraeus and the Afghan troops and our troops have made in clearing the areas around Kandahar that have been Taliban safe havens for years and years, and you read the intelligence about Taliban leaders going back to Pakistan and so on, the signs are encouraging. It's early. It's a tough fight...

McFADDEN: And history's against us, isn't it?

GATES: Actually history isn't against us. The people who have failed in Afghanistan have invaded Afghanistan. They've tried to impose a foreign system of government on the Afghans, and they have acted unilaterally, so . . .

McFADDEN: . . . So when Mr. Gorbachev . . .

GATES: . . . So we are in Afghanistan first of all with the sanction of the United Nations, second with as part of the NATO alliance, third and perhaps most importantly at the invitation of the Afghan government, and and we are there to help the Afghans. This is why civilian casualties are so important and why sovereignty is so important ah and observing their sovereignty, because we are there as their partners in this process, and that's different from foreign presidents ever before in that country.

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.

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