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Press Releases 2011

Senator Kerry's Statement to Pakistani Media

Islamabad, Pakistan - May 17, 2011

Senator Kerry: Good afternoon, and thank you for being patient. I apologize. I've just come from the meeting with the President and the Prime Minister and General Kayani and others and I'm afraid we took a
little longer than we meant to. I apologize.

Since arriving in Islamabad last night, I've been engaged in constructive conversations with Pakistan's civilian and military leaders. I've spoken with President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani as well as General Kayani and General Pasha. We gathered again this afternoon for a final session.

I expressed as clearly as possible the grave concerns in the United States over Osama bin Laden's presence in Pakistan and the existence here of sanctuaries for our adversaries in Afghanistan. I emphasized to our Pakistani friends- and they are- that many in Congress are raising tough questions about our ongoing economic assistance to the government of Pakistan because of the events as they unfolded and because of the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Most importantly, I explained that I am here with the backing of President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Munter, and their team to find a way to rebuild the trust between our two countries. We must never lose sight of this central fact. We are strategic partners with a common enemy in terrorism and extremism. Both of our countries have sacrificed too many citizens and too many troops in the fight - we've sacrifice so much that it just wouldn't make sense to see this relationship broken or abandoned. Far too much is at stake here for both of us.

I made clear to General Kayani and to General Pasha in particular that I understand and I think all Americans understand their feelings and the feelings of Pakistan about the circumstances surrounding the operation against Osama bin Laden. We recognize that the Pakistani people and their leaders take their sovereignty very seriously. Every nation does. That is why it is important to underscore the extraordinary circumstances behind the mission against bin Laden.

Bin Laden is the man who senselessly devised the plan to murder nearly 3000 innocent Americans in a tragedy that changed our country in ways that are hard to describe. Let me add that it was bin Laden and the foreign fighters who followed him to Pakistan who truly violated Pakistan's sovereignty and they have violated it over a period of many years. They inspired and conspired with the extremists responsible for the deaths of 35,000 Pakistani citizens and the deaths of more than 5000 Pakistani soldiers.

Just this week those same extremists were responsible for the deaths of 80 recruits to Pakistan's frontier constabulatory - a cowardly act that is all too familiar.

When I spoke with the leaders of Pakistan last night and today, I explained that the extreme secrecy surrounding every aspect of the raid in Abbottabad was essential to protecting the lives of the professionals who are involved and to ensuring that they succeeded in capturing or killing the man responsible for so much death in so many places.

Let me remind you just for a moment what happened in late 2001. We, the United States, had trapped bin laden in the mountains of Tora Bora. Regrettably the decision was made not to send our troops in to capture him. The result was that Osama bin Laden escaped to Pakistan and he began plotting more attacks.

Faced with a second chance to capture bin Laden, no American President could afford to take even the slightest chance that he might slip through our grasp again. As a result, this had to be an American operation and it had to be one that protected the operational security. That is the only reason that the security was so tight that literally only a handful of American senior government officials were entrusted with advanced knowledge of the raid. Members of our military were not told. General Petraeus didn't even learn until the last days. And I'll tell you, I have been deeply involved in the affairs of Pakistan, I am a senior member of the United States Senate, and I did not learn that it had happened until afterwards when I received a call from the situation room at the White House.

I understand that this was not a matter of trust with respect to me, but an imperative of operational security. I respect the discipline and the leadership that President Obama showed in choosing this course and I ask all Pakistanis to understand that and to respect that.

My goal in coming here is not to apologize for what I consider to be a triumph against terrorism of unprecedented consequence. My goal in coming here has been to talk about how we manage this important relationship. How do we manage a critical relationship and put us back on a track where isolated episodes, no matter how profound, don't jeopardize the larger relationship between our countries?

I'm pleased that these meetings have reopened the dialogue between our countries and reassured each other that we can go forward toward a better partnership with Pakistan and its people.

I'm very pleased that the government of Pakistan has recommitted to finding more ways to work together against the common threat of terrorism and also to explore how increased cooperation on joint operations in intelligence sharing can maximize our efforts in order to defeat the enemies that we face.

These are the initial steps. Later this week two senior United States government administration officials will arrive in Islamabad to work on the details of implementing and building on these initial steps. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will soon announce plans to visit Pakistan to expand on those discussions once they have taken place in order to help develop a new trust and a new level of cooperation between our countries.

Let me just say to our friends in Pakistan that this relationship is not only about the threats that we face. It's about a partnership with the people of Pakistan. That's why we came here to provide aid in the aftermath of the earthquake in 2005. I was here personally. I saw kids who as a result of that aid were going to school for the first time in their lives. That's why we were here to help after the devastating floods that took place last summer. That's why I'm determined to make sure that the kinds of projects that are financed by the Kerry/Lugar/Berman funds will get on track and demonstrate our long-term commitment to Pakistan.

Ultimately the Pakistani people will decide what kind of country Pakistan becomes - whether it is a haven for extremists or the tolerant democracy that Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisioned 64 years ago.

The United States has shown that we are willing to try to help. I hope that we can continue to do that and build a stronger partnership that is based on mutual interest and on shared interest and trust.

I'm pleased to report that we have made what I consider to be progress towards that goal. Our progress in the days ahead will be measured by actions, not by words. With the patience and understanding of President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, General Kayani, General Pasha, and many others, we have agreed on a series of steps that will be implemented immediately in order to get this relationship back on track.

All of us need to have very realistic expectations about this relationship. There are some real differences between our countries. But the bonds that tie us together and also the struggle against the threat of extremists are strong enough, in my judgment, to overcome any differences.

The United States will remain committed to assisting the Pakistani people through long-term assistance, and we will remain committed to fighting as a mutual partner with shared trust and objectives in the fight against violent extremists and terrorism. That's my hope, and I look forward to working in the days and the months ahead to make this happen.

I will not be taking individual questions right now because I'm going to be doing a question session with a small group of people, but I thank you very very much for your patience, and I look forward to seeing you again next time.

Thank you.