Interview on CNN's Late Edition With Wolf BlitzerSecretary Condoleezza Rice
December 7, 2008
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thanks very much for coming in.
SECRETARY RICE: Pleasure to be with you, Wolf.
QUESTION: You’re just back from the region, India, Pakistan. How concerned are you that these nuclear rivals, that there could be a misconception out there, a miscalculation, and this tension between the two of them, which is real right now, could escalate?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have a lot going for us that we didn’t have in 2001-2002. The relationship between the countries is better. Our relationships with each of them is better. But in fact, the key here is that this investigation needs to go forward. It needs to be transparent. Pakistan needs to act. India and Pakistan are – need to cooperate. And I do believe that if that is done, we can both – they can bring the perpetrators to justice, but they can also prevent a follow-on attack, which has to be of concern.
QUESTION: The Washington Post wrote this yesterday: “In New Delhi, a high-level source in the Indian Government, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said India has ‘clear and incontrovertible proof that an Islamist militant group based in Pakistan, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, planned the attacks and that the group’s leaders were trained and supported by Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI.’”
Is that true?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think there’s no doubt that Pakistani territory was used by probably non-state actors. I don’t think that there is compelling evidence of involvement of Pakistani officials. But I do think that Pakistan has a responsibility to act, and it doesn't matter that they’re non-state actors. There were problems with this from Pakistani territory. There are historic problems from Pakistani territory in this regard. And Americans were killed in this. And I did emphasize to the Pakistani Government that the United States, of course, has a special interest since Americans were also killed.
QUESTION: You used the word “probably.” And you’re a diplomat --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I just – I think that the evidence is that the terrorists did use territory in Pakistan --
QUESTION: They trained in Pakistan. Did they have any cooperation – this group – do you, first of all, believe Lashkar e-Tayyiba was responsible for this assault?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don’t want to go into too much detail here because, obviously, in counterterrorism no one wants to tip the hand of what has happened here and what may happen in the future. The important thing now is to get these perpetrators and to prevent follow-on attacks. And Pakistan’s cooperation, Pakistan’s action, is absolutely essential to doing that.
QUESTION: What is the relationship, irrespective of this group, between Lashkar e-Tayyiba, this terrorist group based on Pakistan, and the Pakistani Government or the intelligence or military services?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, there have been historic ties. There’s no doubt about that. But Pakistan is a different place now with a civilian government and an army leadership that is working in concert to try to bring an end to extremism within Pakistan. We have to remember that Pakistan itself has been suffering at the hands of extremism. So whatever the history here, and there is a history, the important thing is that Pakistan act against those who used Pakistani soil to perpetrate attacks. I don’t --
QUESTION: Are they doing enough – the Pakistani Government – to deal with these terrorists?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, they are certainly, I believe, committed to doing so. But we are awaiting action, and that action needs to take place soon.
QUESTION: The New York Times today, in an article by David Sanger, writes this: “The review contains an array of options, including telling Pakistan’s military that billions of dollars in American aid will depend on the military’s being reconfigured to effectively fight militants. That proposal amounts to a tacit acknowledgement that roughly $10 billion in military aid provided to Pakistan as reimbursements for its efforts to root out militant groups has largely been wasted.” This is a review the Bush Administration is preparing for the incoming Obama Administration.
QUESTION: It is very clear that Pakistan’s principal problem here is not India. The relationship is improving between Pakistan and India, but there are plenty of people who want to see that relationship blown up. And the Pakistanis and the Indians need to continue or to get back on a course of cooperation.
In that regard, the Pakistani army is restructuring and does need to be restructured for different tasks. But it’s not easy, Wolf, to move from the kind of army that Pakistan has had to one that is principally counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.
QUESTION: President Zardari of Pakistan, the newly elected president, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, does he have complete control over all elements of his military and security intelligence services?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we treat the Pakistani Government as an integrated and unified government, and I heard nothing in Pakistan that suggested that there were divisions in this regard between the army and the government. This is an elected civilian government; it has a kind of legitimacy that a Pakistani government has not had since 1999. And I believe that it is in actually a stronger position because of that to act.
But we have been working with the Pakistanis on this for some time – this didn’t start yesterday, it didn’t start with the review – of helping the Pakistanis to think in a more counterinsurgency/counterterrorism way. But we in the United States have found that it’s not easy to restructure your armed forces from forces that are principally aimed at fighting another state actor to forces that can deal with ungoverned regions, safe havens, and not to mention the kind of union of law enforcement and intelligence information that it takes in the war on terrorism.
QUESTION: When you were here on Late Edition back on July 18th, we had this exchange, and I’m going to play it for you. Listen to this:
“SECRETARY RICE: It’s very clear that more has to be done to stabilize that border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. More has to be done.”
“QUESTION: So they’re not doing it?”
“SECRETARY RICE: More has to be done.”
All right. Since then, since July, have they stepped up to the plate – the Pakistani Government – to stabilize its border with Afghanistan?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, more is being done. I think everyone knows that there have been some really dramatic Pakistani fights – the army in parts of the region, Bajaur, for instance. And so yes, they are doing more. But boy, there is a lot more to be done. This is --
QUESTION: What else do you want them to do?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is a very tough problem, and it requires a unity of intelligence and military capability and law enforcement capability that few countries have achieved. And Pakistan needs to do that. But getting back to the Mumbai situation, there are some concrete steps that Pakistan needs to take urgently, quite aside from a lot of restructuring that is going to have to be done. And I might just underscore that the Indians, too, were very focused on restructuring their own response to counterterrorism because one has a sense, as they said, of stove-piping of information, inability to share information, a --
QUESTION: In other words, the left hand of the Indian Government might not know what the right hand is doing?
SECRETARY RICE: And we’ve certainly experienced that. And a focus on prevention has not really been at the core. And so one of the things that we said to the Indians is that we are prepared to share our experiences, our best practices since 9/11, when we have gone a long way to restructuring.
QUESTION: What did they say?
SECRETARY RICE: They were grateful for that offer.
QUESTION: Are they going to accept that?
SECRETARY RICE: I think they are going to accept that.
QUESTION: And Pakistan – are you willing to do the same with them?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are sharing information and working with both Pakistan and India.
QUESTION: Welcome back to Late Edition. Here’s part two of my interview with the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
It seems that Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, is so frustrated about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan right now. He said this, and I’m going to read it to you, on November 27th:
“This war has gone on for seven years. The Afghans don’t understand any more how come a little force like the Taliban can continue to exist, can continue to flourish, can continue to launch attacks, with 40 countries in Afghanistan. The international community didn’t fight the Taliban properly. Give the Afghan people a timeline.”
He wants a timeline for withdrawal of the NATO and U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’ve talked to President Karzai, and I think what he wants to do is to get the job done. And I understand the frustrations. But of course, a lot has gone right in Afghanistan as well. His government has been able to deliver for the Afghan people in ways that a country as poor as Afghanistan is and that has been at civil war for 25 years, it’s pretty remarkable some of the things that they’ve done in education and healthcare.
QUESTION: But it’s gotten worse, and it seems it’s getting worse.
SECRETARY RICE: There’s no doubt that the problem across the border, that region that is ungoverned that we were talking about, has allowed the Taliban to regroup in ways that they were not regrouped a couple of years ago. But there are several answers to that. Yes, the international community is prepared to do more. The United States is going to put more forces in. I believe you will see more contributions from our allies. But it’s also important to build more Afghan forces rapidly, because ultimately the Afghan people have to be the spear of this fight. And frankly, there are things that can be done in terms of governance and fighting corruption and making sure that the Afghan people are protected in terms of counternarcotics.
QUESTION: So he should step up to the plate, too?
SECRETARY RICE: And we’ve had that conversation --
QUESTION: Hamid Karzai.
SECRETARY RICE: And I believe that President Karzai is devoted to doing exactly that.
QUESTION: Can you tell the American public out there, the international community who are watching, that the U.S. is any closer today to finding bin Ladin?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we’re searching for him and do so every day. But this isn’t a one-man organization. Al-Qaida’s dangers come not just from Usama bin Ladin, as much as we all want to bring him to justice. And the United States has taken out an awful lot of their leadership, not to mention masterminds of the plots of September 11th, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It’s a weaker organization today because of what we’ve done, but it’s a different organization that poses other kinds of dangers. And so while the focus on bin Ladin is important, the numbers of field generals that have been taken out, the tracing of their money and making it more difficult, and the worldwide umbrella in terms of law enforcement and information and intelligence, has made it possible to deal with al-Qaida in ways that we could not before September 11th.
QUESTION: Was al-Qaida involved in the Mumbai attacks?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we don’t have any evidence of a direct link there, but I do think that we all know that there are links between these organizations. They tend to travel in the same circles. And the sophistication of this attack is what everyone is focused on.
QUESTION: So Lashkar e-Tayyiba, if, in fact, they were responsible, do they have direct links with al-Qaida?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, they tend to travel in the same circles, and we – again, I don’t want to imply that there is any direct al-Qaida role here.
QUESTION: Let’s move on and talk about something else in the region, Iran and nuclear tensions, specifically with Israel right now. The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday this:
“The IDF,” the Israel Defense Forces, “is drawing up options for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities that do not include coordination with the United States, the Jerusalem Post has learned. While its preference is to coordinate with the U.S., defense officials have said Israel is preparing a wide range of options for such an operation.”
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I can’t comment on unknown sources. I don’t know what those sources are. I do know that we’ve had lots of very important discussions, not just with Israel but with states in the region, about the potential threat from an Iranian nuclear weapons program. The international community is focused on it because just that kind of talk lets you know how serious a matter this is.
The Iranians have to be stopped ultimately from gaining the kind of technology and putting that technology into use to build a nuclear weapons capability. And that’s what we’re all focused on.
QUESTION: How much time is there?
SECRETARY RICE: I don’t think it’s worthwhile to try to judge the many different timelines that are out there about when they might achieve that capability. The important thing is that Iran is under a microscope on this issue. Iran is under sanctions on this issue. Many, many companies and banks and institutions are leaving Iran. Iran is becoming more isolated. And there is even a debate in Iran about whether their government’s policies and the isolation that it has brought is worth it.
And so we have built extraordinary pressure on Iran that was not, frankly, there when the President came to office. When the President came to office, nobody really believed that the Iranians were trying to do this.
QUESTION: And you have no doubt that their intent – the Iranians – is to build a nuclear bomb?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have no doubt that they could have a civil nuclear program tomorrow if they wished. We’ve told them, everyone has told them, that the kind of reactor that the Russians built for them at Bushehr, which is a civil nuclear reactor, with a fuel take-back to Russia, is available to them at any time. So if they want civil nuclear power, they’ve got an option. That leaves only the assumption that perhaps they’re not looking for civil nuclear power, but rather for a nuclear weapons program.
QUESTION: You’ve devoted an enormous amount of your energy to trying to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A year ago, on November 27th, this is what President Bush said at his conference, his Middle East conference in Annapolis. Listen to this:
“We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing, and continuous negotiations, and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008.”
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, it’s almost the end of 2008.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we certainly made every effort, and so did they.
QUESTION: Is it a failure, then?
SECRETARY RICE: No, of course not. We said we would make every effort. But look at where we found this thing. We found the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in full force with a second intifada, with hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians dying, with suicide bombings at Israeli restaurants and a Passover massacre, with Israelis running large-scale operations in the West Bank and occupying Palestinian towns, Yasser Arafat stealing the people blind and refusing to make peace.
And now you have a decent Palestinian Government devoted to doing better for its people, at least in the West Bank, with Salam Fayyad and President Abbas. You have the first full-fledged negotiations between these two parties on the core issues, all the core issues, to end the conflict. You have international support for that, including Arab support. After all, the Saudis were at Annapolis under their own flag for the first time. And you have on the ground the training of Palestinian security forces, thanks to a number of generals, including General Jim Jones.
QUESTION: Who’s going to be Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. And you have now decent Palestinian security forces deploying in places like Jenin and Hebron and Nablus. This is a fundamentally different situation than we found. And because of the strong support of President Bush for Israeli security concerns, Ariel Sharon, who was brought to power not to make peace but to defeat the intifada, said that Israel must divide the land. And for the first time, you have a broad acceptance in the international community that a two-state solution is the only solution.
QUESTION: So you think that there’s a potential there --
SECRETARY RICE: I absolutely do.
QUESTION: -- not necessarily on your watch, but under Hillary Clinton’s watch, to --
SECRETARY RICE: The foundation is there. The foundation is there. Many of the pieces are in place. Obviously, the political circumstances in the region and in the countries has made it difficult. Israel is in an election campaign. But I don’t think that there is any doubt that this is so much further along really than it’s ever been.
QUESTION: Have you sat down with Hillary Clinton yet, who’s going to be your successor?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I was leaving town the day after she was named – actually, the day that she was named. I talked with her, and we’re going to sit down, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve known her a long time, and she is someone that I admire.
QUESTION: Do you think she’ll be a good Secretary of State?
SECRETARY RICE: I do.
QUESTION: You have confidence in this new national security team that Barack Obama is putting together?
SECRETARY RICE: They’re all people I know and they are all people of substance, and the most important thing is that they are all people who are going to have the fundamental interests and values of the United States at the core of what they do.
QUESTION: I know you were watching when we reported that Barack Obama would become the 44th President of the United States. What went through your mind as you saw that dramatic, historic moment in the United States?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’ll tell you, from a kid from Birmingham, Alabama, and segregated Birmingham, Alabama, it was quite a moment. It means this country has come an enormous distance. It means that the United States of America is what it claims to be, which is a place of opportunity for all.
I don’t think, by the way, that we are still colorblind. It’s remarkable that we have an African American President. We’ve had back-to-back African American Secretaries of State. We have African American heads of major corporations. But still, we see race. And that’s fine, but increasingly we don’t see race as all-defining of who one is and what one can be. As long as we pay attention to opportunity, to making educational opportunities available, which is really what got me to where I am and I think President-elect Obama would tell you the same thing --
QUESTION: So if he asks you for some help --
SECRETARY RICE: I think we’ll do – I think America will do all right.
QUESTION: Well, you’ve been – but if he asks you for some help, would you be more than happy to help him?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, he’s not going to need my help. He’s got plenty of help. But of course; he’s someone that I admire. He was on my committee, the Foreign Relations Committee. We’ve talked a number of times. He’s going to do very well for the country. But eight years is a long time. The American people are wise in wanting change. Two terms is plenty. And I’m going to go back to California and on to other things.
QUESTION: Good luck to you.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thanks very much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
Released on December 7, 2008