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Armitage IV - Fahd Husain of Pakistan's Geo TV

Interview With Fahd Husain of Pakistan's Geo Television

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State

Washington, DC
September 29, 2004

(3:00 p.m. EDT)

MR. HUSAIN: Deputy Secretary Armitage, thank you for joining us today.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thanks for having me.

MR. HUSAIN: Now, in recent days, Pakistani forces have killed a senior al-Qaida member or terrorist leader called Amjad Farooqui. How do you view that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I have been testifying in front of the U.S. Congress in the last couple of weeks and I've had the occasion to say that most of your activities of the Pakistani forces, both in Waziristan and more broadly in the fight against terror in Pakistan, have been very noteworthy, very noble, and extraordinarily appreciated.

MR. HUSAIN: Now, when President Musharraf was here and there were discussions taking place on Pakistan for -- in fighting the war on terror, was there a serious discussion on the high-value targets like Usama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We've had many discussions about high-value targets, but we also recognize that the presence of al-Qaida in Waziristan, whether they're Uzbeks or whatever nationality, they are also, in the long run, a threat to Pakistan. So whatever the rank of the terrorists, they have to be rooted out.

I, myself, had the occasion to surprise President Musharraf when he was on Capitol Hill. I went to greet him. We had a nice little chat.

MR. HUSAIN: So are you confident that bin Laden is still alive or is it still uncertain?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't know. I think the better course of wisdom is to assume that he's alive until proven other, and not to slacken our efforts to get him.

MR. HUSAIN: But is there progress being made, for example, by you -- has there been more progress made and do you have more information about him than you did, for example, a month ago?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't have that information, but I know that every time the courageous forces of Pakistan pick up a terrorist or they prosecute a terrorist in Waziristan or wherever else, that it's one less sort of leg that Usama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri have to stand on. Eventually, they'll be brought to ground.

MR. HUSAIN: And one of the demands that Pakistan has been making in order to more effectively fight the war on terror is to get some military equipment. Has there been any progress on that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I should think so. There have been deliveries of helicopters recently and night-vision equipment. There are more helicopters in the queue. We've gotten now a steady stream of dependable funding to help the Pakistani armed forces. No matter how brave, we realize they need the proper equipment so we have embarked on a five-year program of support.

So I think there's been a lot of progress. The lack of equipment doesn't come up so often in our discussions with our Pakistani friends these days because stuff is flowing --

MR. HUSAIN: The issue of if F-16s is still on the table?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yes, it's still on the table and we're in -- we've had discussions with the Pakistani authorities about these matters, and I'll just leave it right there.

MR. HUSAIN: So, from Pakistan's point of view, is it encouraging or --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: You'd have to ask one of our Pakistani friends. From my point of view, we have a clear understanding of the air force needs, we have a clear understanding of President Musharraf's priorities for his armed forces, and we'll continue to work together as good partners should.

MR. HUSAIN: Also, the U.S. was very interested in having Pakistan send its troops to Iraq. During President Musharraf's recent visit, was that issue raised specifically?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It wasn't raised by me, and I'm not sure, I don't think it was. I think we concentrated on Pakistan first of all, and Afghanistan second of all, with elections upcoming on the 9th, and then more generally the global war on terror.

MR. HUSAIN: But is that issue still alive, in your opinion?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we'd be delighted if Pakistan would like to do that, but thus far our friends in Pakistan have not made a decision. We'll continue to be ready for discussions on this, but it's not a major focus right now of our U.S.-Pakistan dialogue.

MR. HUSAIN: So it doesn't really affect the relations --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It's not going to affect the relationship. If Pakistan were to come in, that's great; but if she doesn't, that's her decision. We recognize and appreciate the tremendous effort that Pakistan is putting forth on the global war and particularly in the northwest frontier province or, rather, in the FATA more specifically.

MR. HUSAIN: One more issue which is gaining a lot of ground in Pakistan is the issue of President Musharraf staying on as Army Chief. Was that an issue which was discussed during the visit here?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, Secretary Powell, during last week's activities, I think on the 24th of September, said this is something, actually, that President Musharraf and the people of Pakistan have to resolve. We think that Pakistan is on a road to democracy. We know elections are coming up in '05 and beyond, and this is something the President will have to resolve with the people of Pakistan and with the assembly. We think Pakistan is on the road to democracy and are pleased with that.

MR. HUSAIN: But if he doesn't retire, then would the U.S. be disappointed?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, I think if there was a roadblock in the way of democracy, the U.S. would be disappointed, but let me be very clear from our point of view, two things that I'd like to say. We believe that President Musharraf is the right man in the right place at the right time in the right job.

And second of all, we have noted that historically in Pakistan, whether under military rule or under democratic rule, the people of Pakistan have not gotten the breaks they should get, have not gotten the governance that they deserve. We have faith that President Musharraf is trying extraordinarily hard to bring about a betterment in the life of Pakistani citizens, big ones and small ones. We note that he has assigned a very, very competent Prime Minister, who I think will be able to continue on that path. So this is something that's going to have to be pleasing not to the United States, but to the people of Pakistan.

MR. HUSAIN: Now, in the context of the presidential election in the U.S., some Democrats are saying that the Bush Administration has focused too much on the person of Pervez Musharraf. Is that, do you think, a valid criticism?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: President Musharraf is leading the nation right now. I know that our Ambassador has a wide variety of contacts with opposition. I meet with opposition when I go to Islamabad. So I don't think that's the case. The fact of the matter is Pervez Musharraf is leading the nation and so he is the natural interlocutor.

And I would note that our very famous now 9/11 Commission made a very clear point that if the United States is going to be serious and be victorious in this war against terror, we're going to have to support Pakistan fully in her war against extremists who try to hijack the nation of Pakistan.

MR. HUSAIN: So, in your opinion, if John Kerry is elected President, would there be a major shift in American policy towards Pakistan?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I can't imagine that. If I can refer you to my previous comment about the 9/11 Commission, they made a very strong point about the need to have a bipartisan approach to Pakistan. Thus far, I think we've had a generally bipartisan approach to Pakistan and it will continue.

Having said that, I expect George Bush to be reelected. I think that will be the case that our friends in Pakistan have to deal with.

MR. HUSAIN: In your opinion, what is the long-term interest that the U.S. will have in Pakistan, given the past history?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Look, we've already gotten some way down a way with one of our interests. For years, our friends in Pakistan used to chide us about there's no Pakistan-India or India-Pakistan. We have, I think, to a large measure, been able to deal for the first time with Pakistan as a nation in and of itself. In the past, it was either a function of our difficult relationship with India or a function of our supporting the Mujahedeen in the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

I think we have accomplished, finally, one thing, and that is that we have been able to separate Pakistan, have a relationship with the United States and Pakistan that's about the two of us. Beyond that, we find that the enlightened moderation that President Musharraf suggests for his nation and for the great religion of Islam is, could be, a guidepost or signpost for all Muslim nations in the world.

MR. HUSAIN: And in this respect, when you look at the peace process between India and Pakistan, is there a direct U.S. involvement in that process?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I wouldn't say there's a direct involvement. You know, Secretary Powell and my own involvement in this, particularly during some difficult times, we were heartened by the September 24th statement of Manmohan Singh and Pervez Musharraf when they indicated they had a desire to deepen their own dialogue. If they do that, I think ultimately they will resolve the question of Kashmir in a proper way without the U.S. being in the middle of it.

MR. HUSAIN: And if President George Bush is reelected, are there any plans to visit Pakistan in the future?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: You know, my memory fails me. I think he sort of agreed in principle, but we've had the Afghan war and the Iraq war, we've had other problems such as Sudan and Haiti, and so we've been quite busy with them. I know of the great affection he has for the people of Pakistan and I know nothing would make him happier.

MR. HUSAIN: And the new American Ambassador to Pakistan who has been nominated, Ryan Crocker --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: He's having his hearing today.

MR. HUSAIN: So when do you expect him to be in Pakistan? What would be his agenda?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Oh, his agenda will continue the agenda that Nancy Powell set so well. It will be to support our friends in the global war on terror, support the continuation of democracy and economic development in Pakistan. Ryan Crocker -- we anticipate his arrival in early to mid November. He'll have a hearing this afternoon. We'll do our best to get him confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He's got an excellent reputation, and as all our friends in Pakistan will see, we're sending you one of our most active and best diplomats.

MR. HUSAIN: And finally, what do you think is, if you're looking ahead the next two years, where do you think that it would be -- how do you think that relationship between the two countries could become more multidimensional and more deep?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think we have to -- we've gotten a good start on our military cooperation. That's a good thing. We've had some economic dialogue and I think the new Prime Minister, and particularly his economic expertise, that that will deepen that.

The one area in which I feel a little -- that needs a little work is our person-to-person and our exchanges, et cetera. I think we need to encourage everything from U.S. -- support for U.S. business in Pakistan and, frankly, I want to encourage our Pakistani friends to visit here. I know the visa problems have raised their head and have discouraged some people, but where I want to be two years from now is where Pakistani citizens know they are very, very welcome visiting here.

MR. HUSAIN: Mr. Deputy Secretary, thanks for joining us today.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thank you. It was great.



Released on October 1, 2004

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