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Fox News "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" - Transcript

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Fox News "On the Record" - Transcript

FOX NEWS CHANNEL "ON THE RECORD" INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA)

INTERVIEWER: GRETA VAN SUSTEREN

SUBJECTS: PAKISTAN; AFGHANISTAN; SENATOR SPECTER'S GOP SWITCH

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MS. VAN SUSTEREN: John Kerry went "On the Record" about Senator Specter's party switch, President Obama's first 100 days in office and Senator Kerry's job as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

(Begin videotaped interview.)

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: You've been chairman of this committee now for about four or five months. Is it what you expected?

SEN. KERRY: Well, I've been on it for 26 years, so the answer is yes,it's pretty much what I expected. But it's fun, it's challenging, and it's interesting. It's a lot of work right now because there are a lot of tough issues.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: And one of the toughest issues, of course, is Pakistan. What is the White House plan or strategy for Pakistan? And then I'm going to ask whether you agree.

SEN. KERRY: Well, the White House has been reevaluating both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and appropriately, I might add. And I think they are appropriately making the judgment that this is a fight that the Pakistanis have to engage in.

This is not our battle, in a sense. Pakistan, the outcome, is going to be determined by the Pakistanis themselves making a choice about whether or not they're going to stand up to the Taliban and assert their democratic values. I believe they will, I think they are, and I think the White House is trying to figure out the best ways in which to empower them to do that.

It can't be an American-driven policy. It can't have an American imprint or footprint. This really has to be homegrown, and that's what we're really working with the Pakistanis to achieve.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: But it makes a big difference to us. It's not just that we can say, well, whatever the Pakistanis want to do, because it's not quite that simple, because we really do care, and it does matter. And we've got India sitting next door, and there's been some saber rattling there. So we must be doing something to push it in one direction.

SEN. KERRY: In the end, Greta, we're not going to send troops by any significant numbers of any kind to Pakistan. We may have some people training or helping if that's something they decide they want. This is a country with a history and with an ability to be able to deliver, in some cases more rapidly than others. They now need to get coordinated. You have a new civilian government. They've had a military leader for the last eight years or so. They went to the polls, they elected this leader. He's only had a short period of time under very difficult economic circumstances to really get things moving. Our hope is that they are now getting on a track and beginning to make the commitment necessary to win back their own country.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: I certainly have the same hope, and I know our country has that hope. And I know that we'd like to see the president do very well. But when you read the headlines over the past couple of weeks, it just doesn't seem to be going in that direction. It seems much more ominous than our sort of sense of what we'd like to see.

SEN. KERRY: It has been very unsettling to read the stories we've been reading in the last weeks. I was just over there a couple of weeks ago. Almost two days after I traveled over one road, that was the road where the Taliban cut it off at one point and took yet another stronghold. But I believe the military is now moving to push back. I believe the government and its public officials are coming out of some denial and beginning to really embrace the notion that they've got to make the difference here. And I think,over time, you're going to see a transition. That's certainly what we're working towards, and that's what we need.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, when you look at the difficulty that their government faces right now -- the government, after 9/11 when it was, quote, "on our side," a lot of the Islamic extremists got very unhappy with their government. The Islamic extremists seem to have been gaining some steam lately. Every time there's a push back from the government against the Islamic extremists, it looks like they're in our back pocket and that we're somehow making them as puppets. So I don't know how their government convinces its people to back what it wants. You know, it seems only to create bigger problems for them.

SEN. KERRY: If they are left in a place where their efforts are viewed as being our efforts, we're all in trouble. We can't tell them what to do. We can't be viewed as orchestrating this in some way. This really has to be a plan that is based on our ability to assist them to do what they decide they want to do and need to do. And yes, we have mutual interests, and yes we clearly don't want radical extremist religious fanatics taking over nuclear weapons.

I mean, obviously, we all have an interest in that. But I don't think that's about to happen now. And I think there is time here for the government of Pakistan itself to assert its own vision of the country and to put those plans in place. And that's what we need.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: I don't mean to suggest that any remote idea of how to answer this or solve this, it just seems that right now we're sort of impotent. That we stand by and say, we hope for the best, we can't have ourfingerprints on it, we can't be involved in this because that creates a bigger problem. And when I see, you know, the Taliban sort of moving in and going towards the capital, it's hard for me to have a sense, like, well, we're going to hope for the best.

SEN. KERRY: Well, that's not what we're doing. We're not just sitting here hoping for the best. That would be pretty futile, and it would be silly, and it would be irresponsible. That's not what I think we're doing. What we're doing is --

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: And I didn't mean to suggest that. I'm just --

SEN. KERRY: No, no, no, no. I know what you're saying. I know exactly what you're saying, and I don't take it in a personal way. But I'm just saying to you we are trying to provide assistance to Pakistan so that the Pakistanis themselves can undertake this effort. They need help. They need economic assistance. They need the ability to be able to deliver to their citizens. No government can win the support of its people if it isn't meeting the needs of its people.

The government of Pakistan has literally been incapable of meeting those needs in many cases, for lack of money, for extraordinary economic crisis that it faces, for lack of leadership in some cases. Now it has to step up and do that. And a lot of other people need tohelp do it with them. That's why there was a donor's conference in Tokyo recently where people pledged some $4 billion to Pakistan in order to empower them to be able to go out and do this.

But here's what's key. This support that we want to give them on behalf of the American people cannot go to themas support for a particular government, as it was with General Musharraf. It has to go in a way that the Pakistani people are aware this is for them, that this is going into the programs, whether it's a health care program or children's program or school or an energy plant or something, it's going to make a difference to the lives of Pakistanis. And we want the government to be able to deliver that to the people. That is in our interest.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Is that exactly what the White House -- are you on the same page of the White House on this, or do you differ?

SEN. KERRY: Oh, on that we're very much on the same page.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any place where you differ on how we deal with Pakistan from the White House?

SEN. KERRY: I think the key -- I don't think there are great differences. I think the key is that we need to get to the implementation faster. We need to get this money over there.

We need to get emergency assistance over there. And we also, I think, need to encourage, we need towork more closely with the Pakistanis day to day to help them be able to implement this vision of how they're going to make a difference in the lives of their citizens.

(Pause videotaped interview.)

(Announcements.)

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Continuing now with Senator John Kerry.

(Resume videotaped interview.)

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: So you have a new member of your party, Senator Specter.

SEN. KERRY: Right, we do. (Laughs.)

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Did you know he was coming.

SEN. KERRY: No. Well, all of us had sort of hoped that, you know, he might one day make that decision, as we do about a couple of others or several others. But we're delighted, obviously. Arlen Specter coming over will make a difference, not in a partisan way. Arlen's going to maintain the independent Arlen Specter that he is, but he is going to be able to help us, I hope, to set the agenda of the country that some people around here have been willing to say no to every time we turn around and try to do anything.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: First 100 days, what do you think?

SEN. KERRY: I think President Obama has really done a superb job. It'sa very tough job. He has moved into it almost seamlessly. He's been graceful under enormous pressure, and he's moving the country in the right direction. He's made big choices about our budget, about the banking system, about housing, about Pakistan, Afghanistan.

He's engaged now with other countries. It's wonderful to see a president travel abroad and be well-received and liked by people around the world. That helps us as Americans to achieve our agenda on an international basis. And here at home, we're embarked on health care reform. We have major initiatives under way. We've passed children's healthcare. We've put a stimulus into the economy, which will have a major impact on alternative renewable energy. I'm very excited. I think that we're moving down a very interesting road, and it's a fun time to be in public life.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Afghanistan, the headlines aren't particularly attractive for Afghanistan. It looks like it's growing more grim every day. Our plan is to pull troops out of Iraq, I assume, to sort of supplement what's going on in Afghanistan. Are we putting our troops at risk that we're leaving behind in Iraq because there's been an increase in violence when we move them to Afghanistan? And if we don't move them to Afghanistan, what are we going to do about Afghanistan?

SEN. KERRY: Afghanistan is a different kind of challenge, to some degree, from Pakistan. You have less government structure in Afghanistan. You have less-centralized government capacity in Afghanistan. You don't have a judiciary in Afghanistan as you do in Pakistan. They haven't had a democratic tradition in Afghanistan the way they have, start and stop, butthey have had it in Pakistan. So you have an institutional developmental difference between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But in Afghanistan, what you do have is a centuries- old tribal tradition.

And the truth is that our policy up until now has been Kabul- focused on the central government in a place where itdoesn't really exist. And we have not done what we need to do to build up the power of those tribal leaders to be able to provide for their people. They donot want the Taliban. But in the absence of security and in the absence of an ability to be able to provide a job or some other, you know, plus to acitizen, they've been driven, in a sense, to the Taliban. That, I think, hasthe capacity to change. And I think General Petraeus, the Obama administration have reviewed this very, very carefully. If there's any chance of making Afghanistan work, it is to go down this road of empowering local communities and providing this kind of security and allowing them to take over again for themselves.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: You say if. If it doesn't work, what happens?

SEN. KERRY: Well, if it doesn't work, Greta, we're all in trouble, but we're all in trouble if it doesn't work today. Let's say you decided today doesn't work. Are you going to leave Afghanistan so Osama bin Laden can walk back in and retake a stronghold and continue unfettered?

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not suggesting that. I'm not suggesting I have the answer.

SEN. KERRY: I'm just saying this is the choice. It's a very difficult, hard, complex choice that America has been given by these circumstances. The fact is that the last eight years, I think -- or not last eight years, seven years now since 2001 -- were wasted, unfortunately, in Afghanistan. The Bush administration turned its focus away from the place that most of us thought the principal focus ought to be, and they shoved it off to Iraq. Now we're trying to make up for that. And we're trying to make up for it having lost alot of the support of the Afghan people in mean time.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Is it too late, though? I mean, you know, rather than rehashing where we've been or how we got there --

SEN. KERRY: Well, it's important to understand it because that's the only way. You've got to know the road you've traveled to know the road you want to go down. And you have to make some judgments about, okay, are we just in an impossible situation? Or are we in a situation because mistakes were made and they can be undone now? Now, I think most people --

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess that's where you said the if, and that's what caught my attention.

SEN. KERRY: Well, there is an if. Trust me, there's an if.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: But I mean, when I hear you say if, naturally my radar goes up because I'm sort of hoping this will all get solved. So when I hear the if, that causes great concern. And I know that we want to take troops out of Iraq --

SEN. KERRY: I cannot sit here and tell you to a certainty that this is going to work. This has been made very, very difficult by the inattention and mistakes of the last seven years. And it begins with the extraordinary, the unbelievable lack of strategy to have closed the door on Osama bin Laden when he was trapped at Tora Bora.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: I got that. But now we've got this -- I got that. But the thing is that we have this situation now and it's very dangerous --

SEN. KERRY: The best we can do with this situation right now, I believe and I think the administration believes, I think General Petraeus believes, our new Ambassador Eikenberry who was a general there for a number of years believes, that the best way to now move forward is to try to provide sufficient security to local communities so the local communities can get their own stronghold recreated. And then while you're training the Afghan national army and police, you put them in place and you bring American troops home. That is the best hope for how you're going to resolve this, not for usto plan to stay there but for us to plan to transfer the responsibility to the people who ought to be responsible for it in the first place.


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