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Clinton Recounts 'Comprehensive' Talks In Pakistan


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is back in Washington after a grueling week of travel that included a stop in Libya just two days before the death of Moammar Gadhafi. Most of her itinerary focused on two issues: the war in Afghanistan, and frayed relations with Pakistan. NPR's Jackie Northam traveled with Clinton and sat down with her to discuss the trip.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Secretary Clinton touched down in seven countries in seven days. But one of the most dramatic moments came in Islamabad, when Clinton was joined by senior U.S. officials, including CIA chief David Petraeus and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was a high-profile, very public visit to a country where anti-Americanism is rife. Together they sat down for a long, late-night meeting with Pakistan's military and civilian leadership. The U.S. delegation pressed Pakistan for more cooperation, more action on counter-terrorism, and on reconciliation efforts in neighboring Afghanistan. In the weekend interview with NPR, Clinton described the talks as very comprehensive.

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: We had quite a good give and take about how you fight and talk. And I think they're taking onboard everything we had to say. There was a positive tone to the conversations and now we're getting back with the details of how we can proceed together.

NORTHAM: Among other things, the U.S. wants Pakistan to eliminate safe havens for militant groups such as the Taliban and the so-called Haqqani Network, which is believed to be behind several large attacks in Afghanistan, including the sustained assault on a U.S. embassy in Kabul last month. The U.S. is pushing Pakistan to go after the Haqqanis sooner rather than later. State Department officials say the U.S. is willing to help. The urgency stems from the American drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. Washington wants to leave behind a country that is stable and secure when the last American combat soldier departs in 2014. And it worries attacks from insurgents based in Pakistan will undermine that. Clinton said the U.S. made it clear what it's looking for from Pakistan.

CLINTON: That we expect action. We think action is in both of our interests, that we do have some time constraints because of our commitment to transition to Afghan security. So we need to accelerate the planning and working together on what are common objectives.

NORTHAM: But there was no clear confirmation that Pakistan is fully onboard with U.S. demands. Clinton's counterpart, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, said the country will fight terrorism with its national interests in mind, and that a partnership is not based on a to-do list. And she maintains that Pakistan has responded to the terrorism threat that has cost the lives of many of its people. Clinton says she understands both sides look at the problem and its solution from different perspectives.

CLINTON: They've lost, as they always say, 30,000 people, and they look at us and they say, don't you understand how hard this is for us? And we say, yes, we do, but let's try to increase our cooperation because it's also important for us that we move together.

NORTHAM: During the NPR interview, Clinton's language and tone about Pakistan was gentler than it was before the Islamabad meeting. During a press conference in Kabul, she launched a blistering salvo against Pakistan's leadership, warning it faced severe consequences if it didn't eliminate the safe havens and start cooperating with reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. The far more diplomatic responses during the NPR interview indicate that no matter how difficult or strained relations with Pakistan become, it's still a critical partner for the U.S.

CLINTON: Despite the frustration and sometimes the disappointment, we have to be clear that Pakistan must be part of the solution. There is no alternative.

NORTHAM: But there are backup plans being developed, such as more drone attacks against militant groups in Pakistan and expanding existing supply lines into and out of Afghanistan. At the moment, the major supply lines for U.S. operations in Afghanistan run through Pakistan. But there are fears that those lines could be restricted if relations between Islamabad and Washington continue to deteriorate. An option is to increase the supplies coming in from the north. Clinton's last two stops on her trip were Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, two countries that lie on that other supply line. Jackie Northam, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.
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