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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript


Location: Unknown


BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator John Kerry is in Pittsburgh this morning. Senator Kerry, you just heard the President. What do you think about this? How could the Pakistanis not have known that Bin Laden was there?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-Massachusetts/Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee): Well, I think it's, excuse me, I think it's very, very hard to believe that at some level there wasn't somebody or some group as the President alluded to in Pakistan that wasn't aware of this. As of now even according to Tom Donilon this morning, the national Security advisor to the President there is no evidence that at the highest level General Pasha, General Kayani, the president of Pakistan knew this, there's no evidence at this moment but there are very serious questions and it is extraordinarily hard to believe that he could have survived there for five years or more in a
major population center without some kind of support system and knowledge.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So what do we do about that? I mean is it time re-evaluate aid to Pakistan? Where do we go from here on that?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: Well, actually I think this is a time of enormous opportunity. It's opportunity for our relationship in Pakistan and an opportunity for our policies in Afghanistan. And obviously they are very, very linked. You know, you have to understand that for a period of time our interests in Afghan and Pakistan have not converged. The-- the Pakistanis have had a different set of interests about India, a different set of interests about what kind of Afghanistan they want to see. They're apprehensive about a three-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-person army being built up in Afghanistan on their border. They have a different interest on nuclear weapons, for instance, and on nuclear policy. All of that has to change. And all of that, I believe, can change. I've had some early conversations with high level officials of Pakistan. And there's an indication to me there is an enormous amount of introspection going on and some very deep evaluating within Pakistan. I know for a fact they're thinking of a government inquiry outside of the military. For the first time there is major criticism in Pakistani papers of the intelligence network and the military in Pakistani papers of the intelligence network and the military in Pakistan. And so, I see this as a time for us to be careful, to be thoughtful, to proceed deliberately but eterminately in order to lay on the table the things that we know have to
change--the relationship with the ISI, the double dealing, the attitude and frankly wastefulness of resources towards India. The-- the question of cooperation with respect to Afghanistan. I see opportunity in all of this to sort of punch a reset button and-- and frankly serve our interests and
theirs much more effectively.

BOB SCHIEFFER: What if they don't? What if they don't see it that way? Do we just go it alone without them?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: Well, here's the difficulty. And I think Donald Rumsfeld will-- will-- will ratify this. That, you know, we rely on the Pakistanis for the transfer of our major supplies to Afghanistan through Karachi and through Pakistan. We have opened a northern route but it's not ca-- capable of doing what we need to do. Secondly, everybody has to understand that even
in the getting of Osama bin Laden the Pakistanis were helpful. We have people on the ground in Pakistan because they allow us to have them. We actually worked with them on certain parts of the intelligence that helped to lead to him and they have been extraordinarily cooperative and at
some political cost to them in helping us to take out sixteen of the top twenty al Qaeda leaders with a drone program that we have in the western part of the country. So it's a mixed bag. It always has been. And to some degree may be. I believe this opportunity now allows us to-- to urge them to see the ways in which their interests really are not where they have perceived them to be and hopefully there can be a readjustment. If there isn't, then we're going to have to sort of decide how we meet the interests that we have to the best degree possible, not raise the expectations on other things and kind of muddle along.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The national security advisor Mister Donilon, you just mentioned told Meet the Press this morning that the information gathered at Bin Laden's hideout was the largest--this is a quote, "the largest single cache of intelligence from the scene of any single terrorist."


BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think this means that's the end of al Qaeda?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: Well, I-- I don't want to speculate. What I do know is that this is an unbelievable treasure of-- of information, number one. Number two-- and I think this is really important, Bob, for people to factor in. You know, some people in some parts of the world have been questioning the shooting of Osama bin Laden. Let me tell you. Those SEALs had no idea
what they were going to meet in there. And they had no idea whether Osama bin Laden was lunging for a button that would blow up the entire building. They had no-- there were weapons in the room. He was reaching for them. What we do know is he was not surrendering. It was the dead of night. And that is as-- as-- as tense and as hairy an operation as you can have. I think those SEALs did exactly what they should have done. And we need to shut up and move on about you know, the realities of what happened in that building. The information that comes out of it absolutely underscores the degree to which Osama bin Laden was actively running,
plotting, organizing, recruiting, engaged in the entire management of al Qaeda. This man was not retired. He had not stepped back. He had not receded into the shadows. He was not irrelevant. He was, in fact, the center. And this was the home office that we succeeded in now putting in our possession and in Pakistani possession. Hopefully, it will lead to the breaking up of plots that may have been imminent. It will lead to their operatives. It will lead us to people in other countries who may have been supportive. There may be information about financing. There may be information about their operatives in Pakistan or elsewhere.

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): What--

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: It's extraordinarily important.

BOB SCHIEFFER: We're told there was information there in documents enough for a small library.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think we should have told that? I mean, how do you evaluate the way the administration is handling this?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: I think they're handled it superbly with, you know, the small hick up of really racing out with a little bit too much information before everybody had been thoroughly debriefed. That is not unusual in a wartime event where as-- as you get more information things kind of come together. I don't fault for them for that at all. I think it's the nature of the beast. But in every other respect I think they have done this strategically, thoughtfully. I think the burial at sea, the fact that they have not released the photo. All of that, I completely agree with. And I think, frankly, letting these folks know that we have this information is actually a way of deterring
certain activities from taking place. They may go underground a little more but their going underground at a time where we have greater knowledge as to who they are, where they were, what they were planning and what they were doing. So, I think they're on the defensive significantly so. And I think strategically the administration has done very, very well.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You-- you're headed to Afghanistan next weekend and the President's promised to draw down troops there this summer. He says we will be totally out of there by 2014. Do we need to scale back our efforts or get out sooner now that we found Bin laden? Has the mission, I guess, what I'm saying here, has the mission changed?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: Well, the mission hasn't changed. The mission is the same, which is to disrupt al Qaeda and prevent them from using Afghanistan as a sanctuary. The question is can we perform that mission more effectively? Can we do it in a way with less troops, with less footprint in Afghanistan? And one of the things I'll be looking for particularly in my conversations with President Karzai is how they may view our ability to be able to change the posture in ways that work for them and for us more effectively. I think we have the ability to have a different footprint and still accomplish our goals.

BOB SCHIEFFER: What-- what do you see happening there now? Do you see a scaling back though, senator, or do you see-- Should we move more-- more quickly than they have?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: Well, that's the judgment. That's exactly why we're holding the hearings that we're holding, Bob. We've had two hearings out of some three weeks of hearings that are planned. Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton are supposed to testify. One of the reasons for going there next week is to get the latest input from Afghans and from our military personnel and the ambassador and his team on the ground. It is possible I will also go to Pakistan and see what could come out of this effort as I've described. And all of that, altogether, will help decide what we can do. What's important is I've said this since the beginning what Pakistan chooses to do and what happens in Pakistan, in fact, can have more to do with determining the course of events in Afghanistan and almost any other single thing. If out of this Osama bin Laden event, Pakistan now decides to really engage in a very different strategic relationship, if they go after the Fatah, if they were to say we're expelling all foreign nationals who are here illegally, if they have a different ISI relationship with us, if they were to move to engage in a different kind of cooperative effort on the ground, that could significantly, and I do mean significantly change the dynamic with the Taliban, the possibilities of reconciliation, the possibilities of negotiation.


SENATOR JOHN KERRY: And ultimately, the numbers of troops that are in Afghanistan. Remember, no military leader of ours and I think no civilian person has said there is anything but a non-military solution to Afghanistan, we have to have a political solution.

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): All right.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: And I think we have a better chance of getting that now.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator, thank you so much.



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