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Briefing on the Accountability Review Board Report

Special Briefing

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Accountability Review Board Chairman Ambassador Tom Pickering and Vice Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen
Washington, DC
December 19, 2012

MS. NULAND: Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining us. As you know, the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi that the Secretary established has now completed its work, and the classified and unclassified versions have been released to the Hill, and you’ve had a chance to see the unclassified version, as well as the Secretary’s letter to members.

Today, we have invited the Chairman of the Accountability Review Board, Ambassador Tom Pickering, and the Vice Chairman of the Accountability Review Board, Admiral Mike Mullen, to join us here to address your questions. And introducing them will be Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns.

Deputy Secretary.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much, and good afternoon. As all of you know, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen appeared today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the findings and recommendations of the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi. Deputy Secretary Nides and I will testify tomorrow, so I’ll make just two quick points and then give the floor to Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen to discuss the report and take your questions.

First, as Secretary Clinton said in her letter to Congress, we accept each and every one of the board’s recommendations and have already begun to implement them. In accordance with the law, Secretary Clinton ordered this review to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi, because that’s how we can learn and improve. And I want to convey our appreciation to Ambassador Pickering, Admiral Mullen, and their team for doing such a thorough job. The board’s report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable, problems for which, as Secretary Clinton has said, we take responsibility, and problems which we have already begun to fix.

In the hours and days after the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, at the Secretary’s direction, we took immediate steps to further protect our people and our posts. We launched a worldwide review of the Department’s overall security posture. Interagency teams of diplomatic and military security experts gave particular scrutiny to high-threat posts. The Pentagon agreed to dispatch hundreds of additional Marines to posts around the world. We asked Congress for funds to hire new diplomatic security personnel and reinforce vulnerable facilities. We also named the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and we’re updating our deployment procedures to increase the number of experienced and well-trained staff serving at those posts.

Tom and I will be discussing all of this work and more with Congress tomorrow, so for now, let me just make one other point. I have been a very proud member of the Foreign Service for more than 30 years, and I’ve had the honor of serving as a chief of mission overseas. I know that diplomacy, by its very nature, must sometimes be practiced in dangerous places. Chris Stevens, my friend and colleague, understood that our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs.

And we have a profound responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our diplomats and development experts in the field. It’s important to recognize that our colleagues in the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs and across the Department, at home and abroad, get it right countless times a day for years on end in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable. We cannot lose sight of that.

But we have learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better. We have to do more to constantly improve, reduce the risks our people face, and make sure they have the resources they need. We owe that to our colleagues who lost their lives in Benghazi. We owe it to the security professionals who acted with such extraordinary heroism that awful night to protect them. And we owe it to thousands of our colleagues serving America with great dedication every day in diplomatic posts around the world.

And so with that, let me turn to Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Good afternoon, all of you. Thank you very much, Bill, for those wise and cogent words, which I believe very much reflect the spirit in which we worked and, indeed, the focus on which we put our efforts.

I would also like to thank Secretary Clinton for her steadfast support for our efforts and her ambitious approach to implementing our recommendations. And of course, we wish her speedy recovery.

In late September, Secretary Clinton asked me to serve as Chairman of the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi and asked Admiral Mullen to be the Vice Chairman. And let me say what a pleasure it was to work with Admiral Mullen and, indeed, all the other members of the board. But he in particular brought a special perspective, wisdom, and good sense to a very difficult and trying process.

There are three other members of the board who are not with us today but without whom this report would not have been possible: Catherine Bertini, a Professor of Public Administration at Syracuse University, and former Chief Executive of the United Nations World Food Program, and Under Secretary General for Management of the United Nations; Richard Shinnick, an experienced retired senior Foreign Service Officer who served most recently as Interim Director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations; and Hugh Turner, an experienced and retired senior intelligence officer who spent 22 years in the business and served last as Associate Deputy Director for Operations of the Central Intelligence Agency; and to an excellent State Department staff led by FSO Uzra Zeya, who made a major contribution to our work and without whom we wouldn’t be here with you today.

Secretary Clinton convened the Accountability Review Board, or ARB, to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. As you all know, these attacks resulted in the tragic deaths of four brave Americans: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods.

Against the backdrop of so many unanswered questions about what happened at Benghazi, I want first to make clear our board’s specific mandate. We were not asked to conduct an investigation into the attacks to find out who the perpetrators were or their motives. That is the statutory role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community. We enjoyed excellent cooperation with both of them throughout the report.

Under relevant statute, Secretary Clinton asked us to examine whether the attacks were security related and whether security systems and procedures were adequate and implemented properly, the impact of the availability of information and intelligence, and whether anything else about the attacks might be relevant to appropriate security management of U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. We were also asked to look at whether any U.S. Government employee or contractor breached his or her duty. Basically, we wanted to find the lessons to be learned, better to protect Americans from future attacks.

To do all that, we interviewed more than a hundred people, reviewed thousands of documents, and watched hours of video. We spoke with people who were on the scene in Benghazi that night, who were in Tripoli, who were in Washington. We talked to military and intelligence officials, including to many State Department personnel, and to experts who do not work for the United States Government. Throughout this process, we enjoyed superb cooperation from the Department of State and its interagency partners, and the decision to brief you on the report’s findings reflects a commitment to transparency at the Department’s highest levels.

Let me just give you a very brief introduction to events that night and then ask Admiral Mullen if he will share with you the findings of the report, and then I will return briefly to talk about some of the overarching recommendations.

What happened on September 11th and 12th in Benghazi was a series of attacks in multiple locations by unknown assailants that ebbed and flowed over a period of almost eight hours. The U.S. security personnel in Benghazi were heroic in their efforts to protect their colleagues, including Ambassador Stevens. They did their best that they possibly could with what they had, but what they had was not enough, either for the general threat environment in Benghazi and most certainly against the overwhelming numbers of attackers and the weapons which they faced. Frankly, the State Department had not given Benghazi the security, both physical and personnel resources, it needed. And on that note, let me ask Ambassador – let me ask Admiral Mullen if he will please relay to you our specific findings. I keep promoting him to ambassador, and I apologize.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Thanks, Mr. Ambassador. I appreciate that. (Laughter.) And I do appreciate your leadership throughout this process as well.

Good afternoon. The board found that the attacks in Benghazi were security related, and responsibility for the loss of life, the injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities rests completely and solely with the terrorists who conducted the attacks. That does not mean there are not lessons to be learned. The board found that the security posture at the Special Mission compound was inadequate for the threat environment in Benghazi, and in fact, grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place that night.

State Department bureaus that were supporting Benghazi had not taken on security as a shared responsibility, so the support the post needed was often lacking and left to the working level to resolve. The buildings at Special Mission Benghazi did not meet Department standards for office buildings in high-threat areas, and in a sense, fell through the cracks bureaucratically by being categorized as temporary residential facilities. While a number of physical security upgrades were done in 2012, at the time of the attacks the compound did not have all the security features and equipment it needed.

The board also found that the rotational staffing system and the inadequacy of the Diplomatic Security staffing numbers in Benghazi to be a major factor behind the weakness of the security platform. The continual rotation of DS agents inhibited the development of institutional and on-the-ground knowledge, and continuity and security decisions and implementation.

The question is not simply whether an additional number of agents would have made a difference on the night of September 11th, which is very difficult to answer, but whether a sustained and stronger staffing platform in Benghazi over the course of 2012 could have established some deterrence by giving it the continuity and experience on the ground to make it a harder target for terrorists.

Another deficit in the Benghazi security platform was the inherent weakness of the Libyan support element. Absence of a strong central government presence in Benghazi meant the Special Mission had to rely on a militia with uncertain reliability, an unarmed local contract guard force with skill deficits, to secure the compound. Neither Libyan group performed well on the night of the attacks.

Overall, the board found that security systems and procedures were implemented properly by American personnel, but those systems themselves and the Libyan response fell short on the night of the attacks. Personnel performed to the best of their ability and made every effort to protect, rescue, and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith. Their decision to depart the Special Mission without Ambassador Stevens came after repeated efforts of many U.S. security agents to find him and Sean Smith in a smoke-filled building still on fire and was precipitated by a second armed attack on the compound from the south.

On the night of the attacks, Benghazi, Tripoli, and Washington communicated and coordinated effectively with each other. They looped in the military right away, and the interagency response was timely and appropriate. But there simply was not enough time for U.S. military forces to have made a difference. Having said that, it is not reasonable, nor feasible, to tether U.S. forces at the ready to respond to protect every high-risk post in the world.

We found that there was no immediate tactical warning of the September 11th attacks, but there was a knowledge gap in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known. In this context, increased violence and targeting of foreign diplomats and international organizations in Benghazi failed to come into clear relief against a backdrop of ineffective local governance, widespread political violence, and inter-militia fighting, as well as the growth of extremist camps and militias in eastern Libya.

While we did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in willful misconduct or knowingly ignored his or her responsibilities, we did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability appropriate for senior ranks in their responses to security concerns posed by the Special Mission.

Now I’ll ask Ambassador Pickering to conclude by giving an overview of some of the board’s more overarching recommendations.

AMBASADOR PICKERING: Thank you, Admiral Mullen. With the lessons of the past and the challenges of the future in mind, we put forth recommendations in several key areas. We are recommending that the State Department undertake an urgent review to determine the proper balance between acceptable risk and mission tasks and needs in high-risk and in high-threat areas. The answer can’t be not to go into dangerous places, but there must be: one, a clear mission; two, a clear understanding of the risks; three, a commitment of enough resources to mitigate those risks; and four, an explicit acceptance of whatever costs and risks cannot be mitigated. This balance needs to be reviewed regularly and continuously because situations change.

Next, we recommend the Department develop a minimum security standard for the occupation of temporary facilities in high-risk, high-threat environments, and that posts receive the equipment and the supplies they need to counter various types of threats. We also believe the State Department must work with the Congress to expand funding to respond to emerging security threats and vulnerabilities and operational requirements in high-risk, high-threat posts. We found that a number of recommendations from past ARBs had not been implemented fully, and they relate very much to some of the recommendations we will be making or we have made to the Secretary that the Congress will have to play its role in fulfilling.

Because Benghazi did not fit the mold of the usual diplomatic post as a result of its temporary status, this meant it was unable to get some of the security upgrades and some of the security oversight which it needed. We recommended various improvements in how temporary and high-risk, high-threat posts are managed and backstopped both on the ground and from Washington so that they have the support they need. There should be changes in the way the State Department staffs posts like Benghazi to provide more continuity and stability, and so that posts have sufficient DS agents, Diplomatic Security agents, with other security personnel as needed.

We also are recommending the Department re-examine the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s organization and management to ensure that all posts get the attention they need from upper management. A special review should urgently look at the use of fire as a weapon and how to counter it. The State Department should establish an outside panel of experts with experience in high-risk, high-threat areas, a kind of red team, to watch changing events and make recommendations to the Department’s security officials.

We are delighted to see that the Secretary is committed to the expeditious and, indeed, urgent implementation of all of our recommendations. And now we would be happy to take your questions and appreciate your giving us this opportunity to brief you on our report.

MS. NULAND: (Inaudible) wait for me to call the questions. (Inaudible.) Let’s start with Matt Lee from AP, please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this briefing. The report, to a layman, seems to indicate either rank incompetence or a complete lack of understanding of the situation on the ground in Benghazi. And my question is: Why is such poor performance like that from senior leaders in these two bureaus that you mention, why is not a breach of or a dereliction of duty? Why is it not grounds for disciplinary action?

And then secondly, after the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the ARB report – the ARB that was formed then came out with a series of recommendations, and many of your recommendations today, the broader ones, are very similar. Those bombings in East Africa were supposed to have been a never-again moment. What happened between then and now that this could possibly have happened?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Without accepting your characterization of the problem, it is very clear that under the law and in connection with the State Department regulatory practice, one has to find willful misconduct or similar kinds of action in order to find breach of duty. And indeed, one of our recommendations is – there is such a large gap between willful misconduct, which leads, obviously, to conclusions about discipline, letters of reprimand, separation, the removal of an individual temporarily from duty, that we believe that gap ought to be filled. But we found, perhaps, close to – as we say in the report – breach, but there were performance inadequacies. And those are the ones that we believe ought to be taken up, and we made recommendations to the Secretary in that regard.

MS. NULAND: Michael Gordon – I’m sorry –

QUESTION: I’m sorry, just the second one – what happened between – how did the lessons of Kenya and Tanzania get forgotten?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Well, I think that – let me just mention that, and then Admiral Mullen may have some things to say. We, of course, have made a recommendation that the unimplemented or only partially implemented recommendations of all previous boards be reviewed rapidly by the State Department Inspector General with the idea in mind of assuring that they are carried out. And if you will read our report, you will see in part recollections from the past leading each chapter, as well as a citation to the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam recommendations that need to be carried out. So we very much agree with the impetus of your question.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: I think it begs the question of why did that happen. I mean, obviously, a lot of time. That’s always a factor. Clearly, no specific follow-up over time. One of the major recommendations was the building plan, which fell off from 10 buildings – 10 new embassies a year to three, tied to budget constraints, et cetera. So I think it was a combination of factors, and while 1999 is certainly close to this decade, I mean, the world has changed dramatically in this decade, and the risks that are associated with that world are – I think we are in a much more difficult and challenging position with respect to meeting the needs to be out there and engage, and doing so in a way that our people are very specifically secure.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Just picking up on that, there’s a specific recommendation for a 10 year program at a very significant level of funding specifically to meet the point that Admiral Mullen made that our building program has fallen off from 10 to three, and it needs to go back to that original target.

MS. NULAND: Let’s go to New York Times. Michael Gordon, please.

QUESTION: Ambassador Pickering, your report was extremely critical of the performance of some individuals in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the NEA, the Middle East Bureau. And – but these bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re part of an hierarchical organization known as the Department of State, and each has a chain of command. The NEA reports up the policy chain, and Diplomatic Security, I presume, reports up the management chain, their Under Secretaries, and indeed deputy secretaries, and the Secretary herself, who oversees these bureaus. What is the highest level at the Department of State where you fix responsibility for what happened in Benghazi?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level, which is in our view the appropriate place to look, where the decision-making in fact takes place, where, if you like, the rubber hits the road. And one of the interesting things about the statutory basis for the Review Board was that it clearly was biased against the idea that one could automatically hold, as one often does, the leader of a particular department or agency responsible without pinpointing the place where the failures took place and where the lessons that we derived from that ought to be important to fixing the problem. And so fixing the problem and finding the locus of the difficulties was the major task we had to undertake.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: And I would add to that, Michael, that, I mean, certainly that was a concern that we had as we initiated the review and we just found. And as someone who’s run large organizations, and the Secretary of State has been very clear about taking responsibility here, it was, from my perspective, not reasonable in terms of her having a specific level of knowledge that was very specifically resident in her staff, and over time, certainly didn’t bring that to her attention.

MS. NULAND: CNN, Elise Labott, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. I was going to ask about these personnel issues, but a couple of others. You offer – the Secretary said in her letter that there were 29 recommendations. And in the unclassified, there were only 24. I’m wondering, without getting into any classified material, if you could at least characterize what these recommendations – do they have to do with intelligence matters that you can’t discuss or at least the area of those recommendations.

And then also you said that there was – in the report that there was no protest, that there was no mob. How did you come to that conclusion?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Two very brief answers. Your suspicion the missing recommendations involved classification is correct. It would not be untoward to assume that some of those involve intelligence. We arrived in October 4th, 2012 for our first meeting. At that point, we found the intelligence community had clearly concluded and provided us that conclusion, that there was no protest.

QUESTION: Can I just quickly follow up on the intelligence? Will you be doing – because it’s – this is – you’re reporting to the Secretary, and you said that perhaps she’s involved intelligence, will you also be reaching out to members of the intelligence community and briefing them and helping them implement some recommendations?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: This report is now the Secretary’s. I think, without stretching a point, we of course remain at the Secretary’s disposal for whatever use she would like to make of us.

MS. NULAND: And she has made it available to all pertinent agencies.

Let’s go to Washington Post, Anne Gearan, please.

QUESTION: Two things: Can you confirm the resignations of Department personnel today in association with this report and give us any detail on that? And secondly, Admiral Mullen, you talked about poorly understood – understanding of – or poor understanding, rather, of the nature of the militia threat. Whose responsibility should that have been to have a better matrix for that?

And if that information had been provided as it should have been provided, do you think it would have been still advisable for Ambassador Stevens to make that trip?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: On the first question, that’s obviously a Department issue and you should address that to the Department of State.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Secondly, the – I mean, it was very clear this is a country in transition. And one of the umbrella organizations that come out with respect to lack of support that night for a security response, which was the expected response, was Feb. 17. But as we dig into – or dug into Feb. 17, it is a very loose group of local militias that float in and out of that umbrella over time. And I think that’s representative of the gaps – the intelligence gaps that existed at that time in eastern Libya broadly – not just for us but for many countries that were out there.

So I think you have to take that into consideration in terms of understanding the environment in terms of what was out there and what the potential was.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: I think you should also take into account the fact that the Libyan Government was almost absent from the scene, in terms of its responsibilities under the Geneva or Vienna Convention, to provide support. And that in many ways, February 17th, as difficult as it was, while it had responded positively to less threatening questions in the past, was the best that anybody could find.

MS. NULAND: Let’s go to CBS, Margaret Brennan, please.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this briefing. In the report, you specifically refer to the idea that the Ambassador did not keep Washington fully informed about his movements. Why is that relevant here? I mean, what role did the Ambassador have being a lead person in Libya in terms of determining security? It’s my understanding that ambassadors don’t normally notify each and every movement. Why was that specifically referred to?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Because, in fact, it is a question that occurred to many people that we felt we should answer it, but particularly because the Ambassador is the person who has the responsibility for security at his post.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: And does not have the requirement and normally does not notify anybody outside the country of his or her movements.

QUESTION: So when you were talking about the understanding of the militias, February 17th, et cetera, is it correct to understand that Ambassador Stevens had a role in deciding their security position?

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Sure. As the chief of mission, he certainly had a responsibility in that regard, and actually he was very security conscious and increasingly concerned about security. But part of his responsibility is certainly to make that case back here, and he had not gotten to that point where you would – you might get to a point where you would be considering it’s so dangerous, we might close the mission – I’m sorry, the compound, or something like that.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: And as you know, on the anniversary day, 9/11, he, on the advice of his security officials, spent his entire day inside the mission with appointments coming to him.

MS. NULAND: Our two principals are little bit time-constrained today, so we’ll just take one more from Fox News, Justin Fishel.

QUESTION: Thanks, Toria. Thank you both for doing this. Just a follow-up on that last question: Would you say then that Ambassador Stevens does share some of the blame here for the lack of security? Is that what you’re saying here?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We very clearly in the report, if you read it, made our indications open and transparent about where we felt the problems were in terms of decision-making. Ambassador Stevens on several occasions was supportive of additional security in addition to watching it very carefully and to knowing what was going on. Ambassador Stevens had perhaps the best knowledge of Benghazi of any American official. And that was taken in Washington, certainly, as a very serious set of conclusions on his part about going.

QUESTION: Okay. And just two follow-ups for Admiral Mullen: Why such a passing reference to military involvement? Can you explain why they couldn’t have done more? And also —

ADMIRAL MULLEN: We looked at the force posture very specifically, and while we had a lot of forces in Europe both at sea and on land, it was not – it is not reasonable that they could have responded; they were – in any kind of timely way. This was over in a matter of about 20 or 30 minutes with respect to the Special Mission specifically. And we had no forces ready or tethered, if you will, focused on that mission so that they could respond, nor would I expect we would have.

QUESTION: And I noticed also that there was no mention of the CIA in the report despite the fact that their post was attacked and they had more personnel there than there were diplomats. Did they share some blame for the lack of security here?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We don’t discuss intelligence questions, unfortunately, in this briefing.

QUESTION: It’s not a classified organization.

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much and thank you to our two, Chairman and Vice Chairman. I’ll see them out.

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Remarks With Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Islamabad, Pakistan
May 27, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Admiral Mullen and I have just completed a very extensive, open, frank, and constructive discussion with the leadership of Pakistan – with the president, the prime minister, the chief of staff of the army, General Kayani, the head of ISI, General Pasha, and with representatives from the foreign office and the interior ministry.I have to begin by expressing appreciation for the warm welcome that we both received and the open dialogue that was the hallmark of our hours together. The United States and Pakistan have been friends for a very long time. We have a relationship that is rooted in mutual respect and mutual interests, so there is always a lot to talk about. But this was an especially important visit because we have reached a turning point. Usama bin Ladin is dead, but al-Qaida and its syndicate of terror remain a serious threat to us both. There is momentum toward political reconciliation in Afghanistan, but the insurgency continues to operate from safe havens here in Pakistan. And the Pakistani people are standing courageously for their democracy and their future, but the country continues to face enormous economic, political, and security challenges.The United States has been clear and consistent about our expectations for this relationship. We have strong interests in the region and we are pursuing them vigorously. These are not uniquely American aims. We believe that Pakistanis pursue the same goals and share the same hopes. We seek to defeat violent extremism, end the conflict in Afghanistan, and ensure a secure, stable, democratic, prosperous future for Pakistan. And we expect to work closely with the government and the people of Pakistan to achieve those ends.

First, the fight against violent extremism. For the past decade, many of the world’s most vicious terrorists, including al-Qaida’s most important leaders, have been living in Pakistan. From here, they have targeted innocent people all over the world – in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and far beyond. But no nation has sacrificed more lives in this struggle against violent extremism than Pakistan has. Extremists have killed women and children, blown up mosques and markets, and shown no regard for human life or dignity.

The United States and Pakistan have worked together to kill or capture many of these terrorists here on Pakistani soil. This could not have been done without close cooperation between our governments, our militaries, and our intelligence agencies. But we both recognize there is still much more work required and it is urgent. Today, we discussed in even greater detail cooperation to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida, and to drive them from Pakistan and the region. We will do our part and we look to the Government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead. Joint action against al-Qaida and its affiliates will make Pakistan, America, and the world safer and more secure.

But I want to underscore a point that I made in public in the last weeks and made again privately today to the president, the prime minister, and others. There is absolutely no evidence that anyone at the highest levels of the Pakistani Government knew that Usama bin Ladin was living just miles from where we are today. And we know that al-Qaida has been a source of great pain and suffering to the leadership that has been in every way attempting to eradicate the threat that is posed. But we know we have to redouble our efforts together. That is the way forward.

Second, on Afghanistan, both our nations have an interest in a safe, stable Afghanistan that is not a source of insecurity for its neighbors or others. And we need to work together to achieve that goal. As part of America’s strategy, we are supporting an Afghan-led process that seeks to split the Taliban from al-Qaida and reconcile those insurgents who will renounce violence and accept the constitution of Afghanistan. And we know that for reconciliation to succeed, Pakistan must be a part of that process. Many of the leaders of the Taliban continue to live in Pakistan, and Pakistan has very legitimate interests in the outcome of this process. And those interests need to be respected and addressed. But we also discussed that Pakistan has a responsibility to help us help Afghanistan by preventing insurgents from waging war from Pakistani territory.

Today, we discussed Pakistan’s perspective on Afghanistan and how it can support the international community’s efforts there. And we look forward to putting those words into action and seeing momentum toward a political resolution. We think that the recently held trilaterals between the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – one here in Islamabad, one in Kabul – are a very important step toward the resolution in Afghanistan.

A third major area where America’s and Pakistan’s interests intersect is the future of this country itself. In recent years, the United States has tried to be a very good friend to Pakistan. We have repeatedly delivered on what we promised by providing billions of dollars in new assistance to address Pakistan’s energy and other economic challenges. We’ve expanded assistance to your security forces. And we led ongoing international relief efforts to respond to last year’s devastating floods. We’ve built the largest educational and cultural exchange program anywhere in the world as an investment in the youth of Pakistan. And we launched a Strategic Dialogue that brings our governments together to discuss the full range of common concerns. And we agreed that this work must continue. It continued today and it will continue tomorrow.

We are prepared to stand by the Pakistani people for the long haul. The United States knows that Pakistan’s future is imperatively important for us, but even more so for the people themselves, and we look toward a strong Pakistan, one that is democratic, one that is prosperous and stable, being a cornerstone for regional stability and global security. That is why the United States will continue to support Pakistan’s sovereignty, its civilian-elected government, and above all, its people.

But let me be clear, as I was today, America cannot and should not solve Pakistan’s problems. That’s up to Pakistan. But in solving its problems, Pakistan should understand that anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make problems disappear. It is up to the Pakistani people to choose what kind of country they wish to live in. And it is up to the leaders of Pakistan to deliver results for the people. There is still a lot of work to be done to reduce corruption and grow the economy, to rebuild from the floods, to get electricity more readily available, to make progress in eliminating extremists and their sanctuaries.

So there are hard choices to make, and we should proceed in a spirit of openness and candor, because part of friendship is speaking honestly and telling each other our perspectives and, where necessary, even difficult truths as we see them. We have shared interests, we have common challenges, and yes, we have areas of disagreement. During Pakistan’s first winter as a young nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah said, “We are going through fire. The sunshine has yet to come.” But his confidence in the resilience and determination of the Pakistani people never wavered. And the years have vindicated his faith.

As we look ahead from this pivotal moment, that determination by the Pakistani people themselves will be more important than ever. I believe that Pakistan’s best days are ahead, and the United States wants to be there as you move into a future that realizes the promise of your beginning. And we will stand with you and support you as you make the tough decisions to have the kind of country and future that the people of Pakistan deserve.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Thank you, Madam Secretary, and thank all of you for being here. I too wish to express my gratitude for the time afforded us by so many of Pakistan’s leaders today. Having been somewhat of a frequent flyer myself to these parts, I know and appreciate how tough it is, especially in times like this to break away from the press of events to hold these sorts of discussions.

And as the Secretary mentioned, they were very candid discussions, the kind of discussions two friends should be able to have at such a critical time. I want to associate myself with everything the Secretary said about the criticality of this relationship and about moving it forward in a positive direction. But in particular, I want to echo her comments about the shared sense of urgency. I think we all realize the challenges under which this relationship now labors, but now is not the time for retreat or for recrimination. Now is the time for action and closer coordination; for more cooperation, not less; for the friendship to get stronger, not weaker.

The killing of Usama bin Ladin has accomplished many things, many necessary things. It has removed permanently the leader of an organization that is avowed to no other end than the killing of innocent people. It has sent that organization into some disarray and most likely disrupted some of its future plans. It has called into question, indeed it has proven false, al-Qaida’s claim and confidence in itself as untouchable or omniscient, just as events throughout the Arab world prove false – prove false al-Qaida’s ideology of extremism and hate.

But bin Ladin’s death, however welcome, has not for the short term eliminated the threats we both face from terrorism. Recent attacks right here in Pakistan over the last few days serve as grim reminders of that fact, and of the sacrifices the Pakistan people – Pakistani people continue to pay at the hands of these criminals. Nor has his death meant the death of al-Qaida altogether or of the alliances that are formed between al-Qaida and elements of the Taliban. We see that collusion persist. We see the desire emerge for longevity and reorganization and perhaps even the desire for closer ties between disparate groups of extremists. To be sure, these groups are weaker, much weaker, and not just as a result of this raid, but as a result of the extraordinary efforts expended by both coalition forces and the Pakistani military over the last several years. There is a much larger struggle afoot, and I would be remiss if I did not applaud the bravery and the skill with which Pakistani troops have engaged the enemy in that struggle, losing thousands of their number in the process.

But in their weakness and in their confusion, the terrorists are lashing out, and so the fight will and must go on, and it must go on with the Pakistani military and the U.S. military acting, coordinating, and leading together. We have come too far and sacrificed too much for it to be any other way for either of us. This isn’t America’s war. This is Pakistan’s war and Afghanistan’s war. It’s a reasonable war against a common enemy, a war in which all of us share a stake and all of us must hazard certain risks.

For our part, my military took many risks going after bin Ladin, risks to the lives of our men and women in uniform, risks to civilian causalities and to collateral damage. We took the risk of being wrong about what we thought we knew of the killer’s whereabouts. And yes, in our desire to preserve secrecy, we incurred a certain risk in our relationships with other nations in the region. But this particular relationship with Pakistan is too critical, and now is too critical a time to allow whatever differences we may still have with one another impede the progress we must still make together.

I harbor no illusions about the difficulties ahead nor do I leave here misinformed about the trust which still needs to be rebuilt between our two militaries. But I do leave here with a sense that General Kayani and other Pakistani military leaders share my commitment to that task and share my desire to look for ways to advance the relationship. There’s no better time for that sort of partnership than right now. Thank you.

MODERATOR: And the first question is from Baqir (inaudible) from DAWN.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you spoke about your – you spoke about expectations, and you said this in Paris as well before coming here. After your meeting with the Pakistani leadership, what is your assessment that – is Pakistan ready to meet those expectations? And is – and how do you assess the – is Pakistan ready to move away from your – or what your military leadership thinks, exclusion at Haqqani Network and other groups that are of concern to United States and other countries?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me speak first from my perspective. I cannot speak for the Pakistani leadership with whom we met. But certainly, my conclusion is that we are both committed to this relationship. We understand its strategic importance. We have critical interests that intersect in a number of important areas, which we both have mentioned – the issue of extremism, the future of Afghanistan, the economy, long-term stability. And we also have a shared appreciation for the sacrifice that the other has been making and continues to make. When we sit down to talk together across from the leaders of your country, we represent a country that has also been victimized by extremism, that has also lost brave young men and women in uniform, who are fighting against the violent extremists. So we understand the real sense of loss that is expressed to us by the leaders and people of Pakistan about the costs of this struggle against extremism.

But we both know there can be no quarter given, that there can be no peace, no stability, no democracy, no future for Pakistan unless the violent extremists are removed, either by coming to their senses and recognizing that they should be part of a political process if they have a point of view to present and not try to inflict their ideology or their prejudices on an entire nation, or they will have to be killed or captured.

So we came today to talk about all that we have in common, and we did so. And I, for one, came away from our meeting convinced of the importance of this relationship, the significance to my country’s national security, and therefore the need to deepen our cooperation on every level between our governments, our militaries, and our intelligence and law enforcement services, but that we must, at the same time, continue to reach out to the Pakistani people, to cut through what I have talked about on my previous visits are often deliberate misunderstandings, conspiracy theories, accusations and the like which really have nothing to do with how we chart the future that we both hope to see.

So I think that I return to Washington ever more committed to doing whatever I can to make sure that the cooperation we’re seeking is forthcoming and the cooperation that we’ve been asked for by our counterparts is also occurring from our part. But let me ask the admiral to add anything he wishes to add.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: Well, from the military perspective – again, I met with General Kayani and the military leadership and did so at a time of great stress, obviously, in the relationship, which is one of the reasons that we’re here. But we had very frank and open discussions about how to move ahead and about the importance of the relationship and the challenges that we face, the shared challenges that we face. And one of the things that I try to do always is listen to those challenges from the Pakistani perspective, and because we’ve been through the difficult challenges of late, being here now, I thought, was very important.

And from my perspective, no one should doubt for a minute the long-term commitment to this relationship, to the need to rebuild on the trust that certainly was recently shaken, and that the strength of that relationship in the long term will, I think, support a more stable, peaceful, prosperous Pakistan but also a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous region.

MODERATOR: The next question is from Kim Ghattas of BBC.

QUESTION: Hi. Good afternoon. A question for both of you: You’ve both been to Pakistan several times over the last couple of years, and every time, you ask for more cooperation from the Pakistanis on a variety of issues. Did you hear anything today in your meetings that make you think that you are actually going to get exactly what you want? I mean, I have to say that the meeting – the start of the meeting looked incredibly tense. Did it continue to be tense?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I don’t think it can be characterized as tense. We were just waiting for the press to leave so we could actually – (laughter) – begin our meeting. That was the only tension that I think was in the room.

But to answer your very important question, Kim, look, you’re right; Mike and I have been coming here, and Mike has a long history of commitment to the joint efforts that we are engaged in in Pakistan. And ever since I became Secretary of State, I have tried to develop a strategic relationship that reflects the stakes which are so high between our two nations.

And I think it’s important to remember where we started, because I believe we’ve had significant cooperation, and there has been a tremendous amount of commitment shown by the Government of Pakistan toward this fight against extremism. And we heard today, for short-term cooperation, some very specific actions that Pakistan will take and that we will take together. And we reaffirmed our commitment to the medium and long-term relationship.

But I always wish that we would put into some historical context, even if the history is only two and a half years old, where our relationship was, and what was happening inside of Pakistan when President Obama took office. You had extremists who were controlling territory not very far from Islamabad. And it was a tremendous act of leadership, courageous leadership, for the Government of Pakistan to throw itself into the fight against the extremists who were threatening the Pakistani people and were, unfortunately, expanding their area of influence. That has been reversed.

Now, are there still horrific attacks? Yes, there are. And do the terrorists continue to use the cowardly tool of suicide bombers to blow up the police recruits and take out innocent lives throughout the country? Yes. But I think any fair reading of what Pakistan has accomplished just in the time that I’ve been deeply involved deserves more credit. Now we are at this turning point and we have to do even more together, and I came away convinced that we would be. And obviously, we’ll see how we both are able to implement over the next weeks and months.

MODERATOR: Shaukat Paracha of AHA TV.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am. (Inaudible.) Thank you very much. You talked about conspiracy theories and anti-Americanism in Pakistan. But as we see, the U.S. media and your think tank reports believe that the situation is good on the part of United States. I mean, in one incident, our 80-90 young men, they are killed by the terrorists. Even our bases, Mehran and PNS Mehran, is not safe.

But these sacrifices, they do not reflect in the United States media, their think tanks, and their opinion-making process. And sadly, the U.S. Administration cannot get its perspective reflected in the U.S. opinion-making process. Is that in the United States something that Pashtuns should be first called a bad name, then weakened, and then destabilized? What’s the policy in the United States both in the political parties and in the Administration?

Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for asking that question, because I think you’ve put, as we would say, your finger on a very important concern that we both share. It is fair to say that the level of cooperation and hard work that goes on every day at the highest levels of your government and mine in pursuit of these common objectives is often either not understood or not reflected fairly in the political discourse or in the press of either of our countries.

You have a very free press in Pakistan. We have a very free press in the United States. I think it’s one of our strengths. But as a result, you don’t have either government dictating what is going to be said. And we actually talked about that this morning, because I share the concern that your question expresses. We both – both in my country and in your country, we need to do a better job. We need to do a better job of actually getting the story out. People don’t have to agree with us. Now, that’s – in a democracy, which we both are, you are free to disregard whatever position is put out.

But what is not helpful is either not knowing what we are doing on both sides or deliberating distorting what we are doing. So I think we have some work ahead to try to do a better job to just tell the truth about what we are working on together and the level of aid that the United States is providing. I mean, we provide more support than Saudi Arabia, China, and everybody else combined. But I will stand here and admit that I’m not sure many Pakistanis know that. We provided, I think, the most even after all of it came in, in the aggregate, the most aid for the floods. But I bet not many Pakistanis know that.

And on the reverse, as you rightly point out, you have suffered grievously. The loss of those young men who were training to protect their country was a tragedy, and I don’t know that enough Americans understood what that meant.

So we both have work to do. So let’s clear away the underbrush. Let’s have the kind of open, candid conversation that you and I are having now and that we had earlier today, and then let the chips fall where they may. But let’s not be misinterpreting and misrepresenting each other, because then we can never, ever find common ground.

MODERATOR: Karen DeYoung with The Washington Post.

QUESTION: Thank you. You’ve spoken, Madam Secretary, of the work that both sides need to do and you just referenced public opinion. I wonder if, in terms of specifics, you’ve talked about what you would like the Pakistanis to do in counterterrorism fight. What more does the United States need to do to strengthen this relationship beyond public images? And specifically, did you speak about the question of visas, about the presence of U.S. law enforcement, intelligence, and military officials here? Do you expect those numbers to go down?

And finally, again on specifics, Secretary Gates and others in the United States have said that, as you said, there’s no evidence that senior officials here knew of the presence of bin Ladin but that somebody knew. Was that something that you discussed today, and what’s your sense of how far the Pakistani investigations have gone on that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we did. We discussed all of the issues that you just raised, Karen. On the last one, we discussed very frankly, and our counterparts in the government were very forthcoming in saying that somebody, somewhere was providing some kind of support. And they are carrying out an investigation. And we have certainly offered to share whatever information we come across, and we intend to be consulting closely as we go forward with them providing information they are finding and us reciprocating.

You may know that today the United States Government got access to the compound, thanks to the cooperation of the ISI and the military. And we are working to try to untangle the puzzle of bin Ladin’s presence in Abbottabad. But I want to stress again that we have absolutely no reason to believe that anyone in the highest levels of the government knew that. In fact, they were quite emotional in conveying how they would have gone after them if they had known he was there, because as the President said, there’s a lot of reason to believe al-Qaida was behind his wife’s murder. So there were common concerns about this, and we had a very forthright discussion.

With respect to visas, look, our security assistance is provided in coordination and at the request of the Pakistani Government and the Pakistani military, and we work closely with Pakistan to try to ensure that they have the training and the equipment and that we have the personnel necessary to support their counterinsurgency efforts. And the size of our presence at any time in Pakistan is a function of the amount and type of work that is needed to be done to meet the Pakistani Government’s request. And we have not noticed any official statement from the Government of Pakistan that in any way would demonstrate that they’re not going to be continuing to request the kind of assistance we provide, and we’re going to continue to offer what we believe is in our mutual best interests.

Mike, do you want to add anything?

ADMIRAL MULLEN: The only thing I’d add, Karen, is certainly I’ve talked with General Kayani and in recent really weeks and months about the level of military support. We’ve been here for some time at the invitation of the Pakistani Government and Pakistani military working a training mission, and those numbers go up and down over time. And there have been requests to reduce those numbers, and those are in considered – and going through the details of what that means and how that looks in the future is something we’re working our way through with them, literally, as we speak.

MODERATOR: Thank you all.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.

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Well, the speculation is over as these photos attest. Mme. Secretary indeed landed in Pakistan early today. These pictures were taken as Secretary Clinton and Admiral Mullen conducted a press briefing that was held at the American Embassy in Islamabad.

This was updated about five hours ago. I hope she is on her way home soon, safe and sound!

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has landed in Islamabad for crucial talks with authorities.

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Well here we are at H-Hour-minus-0ne, and I do not know if Wikileaks is still under attack, but I hope they are. Wikileaks and Al Qaeda are, to my mind, simply different aspects of terrorism. Both have charismatic, clever cult leaders, neither has a specific geographical location as a base of operation*, both attack multiple nations, yet neither is a nation or truly affiliated with one.

On CNN this morning, Mike Mullen explained why and how Wikileaks endangers individuals and groups, military and otherwise. Essentially, he said that one small item, one little factoid, as Hillary Clinton might call it, could be the missing link that connects two sets of dots and points to people or groups who are serving undercover. Given the heft of this upcoming doc-dump (purportedly seven times the size of the previous one) there is no way that Wikileaks or any government could possibly know exactly what is dangerous within the documents or to whom. If that alone is not a definition of irresponsibility and recklessness, I do not know what is. Yet Wikileaks and Julian Assange persist and in much the same way that Al Qaeda and Bin Laden paint themselves as holy warriors, entitle themselves whistleblowers, a term with a generally positive connotation.

Whistleblowers call attention to violations of law and principles. They serve people who are endangered or violated in some way. Ushahidi , of which Secretary Clinton has spoken, can be used by whistleblowers wanting to report corruption, crime, election fraud, a huge range of possible criminal and unethical behaviors. While it is possible and even probable that some of what Wikileaks has released in the past fits the description above, a good deal goes beyond whistle blowing.

In this country, we have a tradition of respecting military intel. The very first violation of that respect actually provided the name we use for traitors. When we read the history of that transaction and its consequences we learn that Major Andre’s executors shed tears for him, but Benedict Arnold survived as does his name in eternal American disgrace.

There is nothing honorable or altruistic in turning over the virtual maps of the West Points of today. I will not speculate as to what this dump contains because it promises to rival The Bible in volume. If some of the material proves embarrassing to our Secretary of  State and her Department, I am sure there is enough international embarrassment to go around and neutralize the remarks to some extent. But if, as Admiral Mullen states, lives are endangered, I think our government, led by the Commander in Chief, should call Wikileaks what it is, a terrorist organization holding nations hostage with purloined communications and documents. They are nothing short of that.


Finally, in light of Mme. Secretary’s focus on internet freedom: Like all freedoms, freedom of communication carries with it responsibilities. I have the freedom to own a gun provided I fulfill the legal requirements in doing so. That does not imply that I may use that gun to murder.

So it is now H-Hour+seventeen minutes and counting.  I hope to God they are still hacked, and I hope our government, perhaps in conjunction with international partners has done it.

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*Hosting for Wikileaks is by a Sweden-based company. That is as close to a “base” as one gets. They say they have servers all over the globe in undisclosed locations. This is not dissimilar to Al Qaeda operating along the Af-Pak border with Secretary Clinton expressing certainty that someone somewhere in the Pakistani government knows the whereabouts of Bin Laden.

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Earlier, in fact while the hearings were still in session, I posted a few photos that came up fast from the hearing room.  I am somewhat amazed at the alacrity with which the photos came up as well as with how quickly the State Department managed to get the video and her remarks posted.  I am accustomed to waiting impatiently.   The video is in a prior post and well worth watching.

Well, the rest of today’s pictures are here.  She looked like a Spring flower among the suits, and they all looked delighted to be with her, and most importantly, very appreciative of her hard work in getting this treaty written.  Her defense, explanations, and presentation were clear as crystal, as usual.  In short, she was awesome while looking absolutely beautiful, which is nothing new for Hillary Clinton.  Enjoy the show!

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