by editor | June 5, 2012 8:42 am
Mark C. Toner
Daily Press Briefing June 4, 2012
QUESTION: Couple on Pakistan, if I may?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: Firstly, there are reports out of Pakistan just relatively recently that three or four U.S. diplomats that were detained – possibly detained in Peshawar and the motor convoy that also had a large number of weapons in it. I’m just wondering if you have any information on that?
MR. TONER: I’ll take the question. I don’t have any update or information.
QUESTION: And the second is, the Pakistan foreign ministry this morning had a pretty – our time – had a pretty strong statement about the drone strikes again, calling them a violation of sovereignty. I’m wondering if you have any reaction to that restatement of their position, and B, if you can update us on the talks on the GLOCs and whether or not that’s hit a wall, given that this –
MR. TONER: Right. Well, Andy, I can’t talk specifically about classified operations. Speaking more broadly to your point, as we’ve said many times, we share a common interest with Pakistan when it comes to going after al-Qaida, and then seeing a stable Pakistan emerge in the region. As we’ve said many times, Pakistan faces a strong core threat from these extremist groups, and we’re committed to cooperating with them in counterterrorism.
Speaking on the GLOCs, I don’t have much to update on that. We do, obviously, continue to talk to the Pakistani Government. I would just note that, in cooperation with the Department of Defense, Secretary – Deputy Secretary Thomas Nides did engage – did speak with Pakistan’s finance minister over the weekend on this issue.
QUESTION: Anything more on what exactly – I mean, was he outlining for them the potential benefits of reopening these lines?
MR. TONER: I just would say that he once again made our case on why we believe it’s in everyone’s interest to reopen these lines of communication, and we’re going to continue to make that at various levels, that case.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Why would the Deputy Secretary speak to the Pakistani finance minister about this?
MR. TONER: They actually have regular conversations, and I think that – this was another in –
QUESTION: Yeah, but why on this? This has nothing to do with Pakistani finance ministry.
MR. TONER: It has nothing to do with – well, I mean, it has everything to do, frankly, with our relationship with Pakistan. It’s –
QUESTION: So basically, they’re demanding cash.
MR. TONER: Not at all, Matt. What we’re –
QUESTION: Well, why would the finance ministry be involved? This is a military thing.
MR. TONER: This is a government-to-government conversation, and it’s an issue at which we’re engaging the Pakistanis on, as I just said, at a variety of levels.
QUESTION: Right. But Deputy Secretary Nides is the deputy secretary for management and the budget.
MR. TONER: Which is why I said in cooperation with the Department.
QUESTION: And the Pakistani finance minister – or finance ministry deals with Pakistani finances.
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: So I just don’t understand why they’re – why these two would be talking about this.
MR. TONER: Well, you’ll note that I said that – obviously, in cooperation with the Department of Defense -
QUESTION: Unless it’s is a shakedown, I don’t get it.
MR. TONER: – this is a point that we’re making, an argument that we’re making at every level – the importance of reopening these lines of communication.
QUESTION: All right. The other thing is that last week when there was still nothing going on on this, you claimed that there was progress being made. Today, you’re not even claiming that.
MR. TONER: Sorry. I can reiterate diligent progress.
QUESTION: I asked you at the time – yeah?
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: Diligent progress? Okay. And then the last one really, really quickly: You opened that whole thing on – without talking about the drone strikes by saying we share a common interest in going after al-Qaida – you share it with Pakistan. Are you absolutely, 100 percent sure you share that interest with Pakistanis?
MR. TONER: Matt. We’ve been over this issue many times.
QUESTION: Yes or no? It’s just an easy –
MR. TONER: Yes. We believe that we have a shared struggle with Pakistan in going after these extremists.
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Said. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Still on Pakistan.
MR. TONER: Said, is yours on Pakistan or no?
QUESTION: On Syria.
MR. TONER: No, let’s stay on Pakistan and then we’ll make our way around.
QUESTION: Is there – have you gotten any clarification yet on the Afridi case?
MR. TONER: We have not. We’ve not received any updates. And our position’s very clear.
Yeah. In the back.
QUESTION: Yeah. In another court case in Pakistan on Saturday a court acquitted four alleged accomplices of Faisal Shahzad, The New York Times bombing accused. Have you heard of that and do you have a reaction?
MR. TONER: I did see that, that that court decision from the – you said from the weekend. I don’t have a lot to say. I mean, we’ve – obviously, we want to see the Pakistani Government pursue prosecution in these kinds of cases. But obviously, it was a legal process that took place and a legal decision or a court decision was made.
QUESTION: So –
QUESTION: Syria? Can I ask one?
MR. TONER: Do you have a follow up?
QUESTION: Yeah. So if that was a court process, and you don’t have any reaction to that, what is the significance of such strong reaction in Dr. Afridi case? Do you see a resemblance? Do you think that –
MR. TONER: No. Not at all. I mean, the Dr. Afridi –
QUESTION: Do you think that –
MR. TONER: The Dr. Afridi – which I said our position’s been very clear that we don’t think there were ever any grounds to hold him, much less convict him of any wrongdoing. In this case, this is a case where the Government of Pakistan brought these individuals to trial for their complicity in this case. There was a trial that took place. Unfortunately, they didn’t win that trial, but we think it’s important that they did pursue justice.
QUESTION: But with these two back to back verdicts – when you are already talking about these GLOCs and other issues, do you think there is some kind of signaling going on from Pakistan?
MR. TONER: It’s our understanding that the case proceeded according to Pakistani law.
QUESTION: You say that there’s no grounds for the conviction of Afridi, but are you really clear what the grounds were? I mean –
MR. TONER: Well, you’re absolutely right, Cami. We’ve yet to receive – there was this weird reversal, if you will, last week on which they said, in fact, he was tried – and again, I’m going just off of news reports – because of his ties to the Pakistani Taliban. And we’ve yet to receive from the government, to my understanding or to my knowledge, a clear explanation of that shift.
Yeah. Go ahead. You were on Pakistan, too.
QUESTION: Yes. I am Jo Biddle from AFP (inaudible) subject.
MR. TONER: Hi. Nice to see you. Yeah.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask going back to the drone strikes this morning, we understand that among those who were killed, there was a sort of senior propaganda official from al-Qaida, Abu Yahya al-Libi. We haven’t managed to confirm. I just wondered if you could talk to that.
MR. TONER: No. I really can’t. I can’t confirm that.
Mark C. Toner
Daily Press Briefing
June 1, 2012
QUESTION: Change of subject? On Pakistan. Have they responded to your – the clarification that you had sought on Dr. Afridi?
MR. TONER: Have they responded to – oh, about the –
QUESTION: The reasons for why he was –
MR. TONER: The reasons why he was – we’ve not. Actually, I sought an update on Dr. Afridi’s case. We’re still seeking clarity on what those new charges – where they came from and what, in fact, they mean. It hasn’t changed our basic position, which is that we think he’s being unfairly, unjustly held. And what he did was in Pakistan’s interest, as well as our own, which is to take down one of the biggest mass murderers of the 21st century.
QUESTION: And do you have any information on the charges that he had some links with terrorist organization? Because Lashkar-e Islam have denied that he –
MR. TONER: I saw those news reports. Again, we’ve sought clarity on these new charges from the Pakistani Government. As far as I know, we’ve not received any response, but it doesn’t change our position, which is we feel that he should be set free.
QUESTION: And do you have any update on the negotiations that you’re having with Pakistan on reopening of routes?
MR. TONER: Ongoing.
QUESTION: How long will you continue to seek clarity while this doctor is under constant threat of being stabbed in prison?
MR. TONER: Well, we’re obviously very concerned about his welfare. It’s something that we’ve conveyed, obviously, from the highest levels of the State Department. The Secretary spoke about this. We also are raising it bilaterally through our ambassador, Ambassador Cameron Munter, who I believe met with the foreign minister just a day or so ago and raised this issue again. We’re being very clear that we’re concerned about his welfare.
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