Mitchell Reports | May 02, 2012
>>> the strategic partnership fortunatelied between the u.s. and afghanistan commits a war weary american public to at least another 12 years of involvement in some fashion. the tony blinken is national security adviser to vice president bidsen and was in the situation room the night bin laden was killed. thanks so much for joining us today. well, the past 24 hours have been as dramatic as any that i can recall in foreign policy . let's talk first of all about the overnight attacks, the suicide bomb attacks only hours after the president left. is it credible that these were not planned in response because what u.s. officials are saying on the ground, as you know is that these were previously scheduled taliban attacks. is that really credible?
>> yeah, andrea, that's right. typically, you know, these attacks get planned some time in advance. of course, it's a war zone and it remains a very dangerous place as the president pointed out. there are going to be difficult days ahead. as he said yesterday, we're turning the page on the war ending the war in afghanistan responsibly. our troops will be coming home . we'll be turning over responsibility to the afghans. and we'll be building a if you kind of relationship with afghanistan from 2014 on. that's what was so important yesterday, but of course, attacks continue. danger continues. but this is in the much larger context of turning the page on the war.
>> how do we turn the page on the war though in the president talked about peace. but how do we turn the page when the taliban are obviously starting their spring offensive?
>> well, look, we've seen a few things. ep just a few years ago ooshts momentiam was with the taliban . we've turn the tide and the moment tum is now against them. we're seeing an interest in reconciliation but a number of talib taliban . we're seeing afghan security forces get stronger and more effective and they'll be in a position, already 50% of the population of the countries lives in areas that are controlled by the afghan security forces with them in the lead. that will continue. we'll be making this handoff progressively in the next year and a half and the afghans will be responsible for their country with our partnership going forward but it will be their responsibility and our troops will be coming home .
>> why did the white house decide that the president would be safe traveling in on air force one on the 747 rather than as is often done in war zones switching to a c-17 outside of theater so that you would have a plane that was better able to evade perhaps stinger attacks or other kinds of other kind of attacks?
>> to my none, the plane he was on had every capability necessary to protect the president and prosecute the mission. the more important thing is we felt it was very important for the president to go to afghanistan . he felt it was very important. we had been negotiating this strategic partnership agreement for about 20 months and it finally came to a head about a week ago. it was important that it be signed before all of the nato corrupts come together in chicago in a few weeks. we thought by signing it in afghanistan it sent a very strong mess and to the afghan people , to people in the region and the american people that we're turning the page on the war but not turning 'from afghanistan . we're going to build a partnership with them after 2014 . unlike in 1989 when the world abandoned afghanistan and we know what happened, civil war , the taliban and then nine-that's not what we're looking at this time. so going there will, having the president go there sends that mess and very powerfully.
>> tony, let me change the subject to china because we are in a as we speak at this hour, we're in a situation where there is a dispute between the reported conversation by chen guangchen from his hospital bed to the associated press and what the state department is telling us, frankly. chen has told the a.p. and friends in the dissident community that he was threatened, that those where is passed along by the state department that his wife would be somehow injured if he were to leave the country. that the in fact, he's under some kind of threat for retaliati retaliation. the state department believes it negotiate add agreement where he will be safe, that he entered the hospital of his own volition and he had decided of his own volition that he wants to stay inside china and not become an exile. what can you tell us about this discrepancies?
>> all i can tell you is what i know from our team on the ground in china from our embassy and from the senior officials who are there. this was an extraordinary case, exception fal circumstances, not very likely to be repeated. up mr. chen came to us. we had a humanitarian obligation to assist him. he had as you know, he's blind. his journey to beijing resulted in some injuries as a result of his condition. and so we gave him medical assistance . and then everything we've done we've done pursuant to his expressed wishes. and he paid it clear from the start that he was not seeking asylum, that he wanted to remain in china and he was looking for a number you have things. he wanted to be reunited with his family. it's my understanding that's happened. he wanted to be able to be pursue his studies and the chinese government has made a commitment that he can do that at a university away from the town where allegedly he was mistreated by local officials. and he wanted the mistreatment to be investigated and the chinese government has made a commitment to do just that. we'll be watching this very carefully. we're engaged with him and his family. we'll remain engaged in the days, weeks and months ahead. my understanding is everything we did was consistent with his wishes and with our values.
>> the chinese foreign ministry has now said they want an apology from the united states for interfering in this and accusing us of somehow intervening and getting him into the embassy. are we going to apologize for protecting chen guang cheng?
>> this was an exceptional case. these were extraordinarily circumstances. it's hard to imagine this being repeated. we acted in the context of this extraordinary case with humanitarian gesture to help someone who wases in need who saw the our assistance. we provide provided the assist assistance and now of course, he is has left the embassy and he has worked with the chinese government tough ensure that some commitments that he saw the will be kept. so, i don't know see this as repeating itself. again, i think the result that we have is one that's consistent with what mr. chen was seeking, consistent our values and consistent with the kind of cooperation we've tried to build with beijing.
>> and tony, if he decides, if we ascertain in another visit in the hospital with him and we've seen pictures just now of him with our ambassador gary lock and with harold co-from the state department , these are pictures taken inside our embassy. if he decides that he wants to come to the united states , will we grant him political asylum even though it could jeopardize our relationship with china?
>> i can't get into hypotheticals. all i can tell you is what i know thus far which is that from day one, his express desire was to remain in china. he sought to be reunited with his family. he was looking for a better life and an ability to pursue his studies at a university and he wanted those who alledgedly did him harm torl be brought to justice. and everything that has been discussed with the chinese government suggests thattern they've made commitments to do just that. so we're watching this very carefully. we have said that we will be in contact with him in the days ahead, in the months ahead, in the years ahead and we intend to do just that.
>> tony blinken, thank you very much for taking the time from the white house .