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The Full Transcript of the BBC

The Full Transcript of the BBC

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Published by Eeyasu Solomon

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Published by: Eeyasu Solomon on May 23, 2011
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Here is the full transcript of the BBC's interview with President Barack Obama.Andrew Marr: could I start by going back to that extraordinary moment a fortnightago when you know that you had got Bin Laden. This was not simply presumablyanother difficult decision. As an American, never mind as president, there wassomething personal about it.President Barack Obama:
Well, there is. If you have met with families who lost lovedones on 9/11 - if you think about what an extraordinary trauma it was for the country as awhole, the sacrifices that had been made by troops - not only from the United States butalso from Great Britain and other members - in Afghanistan and you think that all tracesback to this maniacal action by al-Qaeda. For us, to be able to say unequivocally that themastermind behind that event had been removed was a powerful moment. And youcould see it in the reactions here in the United States. And certainly, that's somethingthat I felt very personally.I also felt just great gratitude for the extraordinary performance of the team. Becauseany time you send any kind of men and women in uniform into battle your biggestconcern is whether they're going to come back. And for them to have been able toperform this without casualties was extraordinary.
It was also an extraordinary gamble, as you yourself have said, because your troops could have ended up shooting at Pakistani troops had things gone wrong.And however difficult relations are with Pakistan at the moment, they could havebeen an awful lot worse by that.
It could have gone worse. Part of the reason that I was able to take that calculated riskwas an awareness number one of how well they prepared. How well we had under, wehad staked out what the compound was like. It was set back from a large portion of theneighbourhood there. We felt that we could get in and out relatively quickly. But there isno doubt that that was as long a 40 minutes as I care to experience during mypresidency.
Absolutely. And although the phrase was kill or capture, realistically in a darkplace with bullets flying around, he was always going to be killed, wasn't he?
Well the, as you said, the instruction was kill or capture. Understanding that when yousend our guys into a compound like that in the pitch of night, on a moonless night,without knowing whether somebody has a bomb strapped to them, what kinds of weapons they have access to, that their number one instruction was to come out safelyas well as perform the mission. And I think they did so in an extraordinary fashion. Thefact that the vast majority of people on the compound were able to avoid any seriousinjury was a testament to their professionalism.
What would he have had to do to be captured?
Well, I, you know, I don't want to go into the details of the operation. I will say that, youknow, we went in understanding this was an extraordinarily difficult mission with a whole
host of unknowns. The guys who went in performed their mission with precision. Their instructions were to keep to a minimum collateral damage. That's part of the reason whywe in fact chose this group. But beyond that, all I'll say is that when I got a full report of how they performed I marvelled at the extraordinary work that they had done.
Because it would presumably have been very difficult for America to take this manand put him on trial with all the hullabaloo of attorneys and PR characters, and theinterrogation and so forth. It would've been a difficult thing to do.
That wasn't our number-one consideration.
Can I turn to Pakistan itself? Do you now have any clear understanding of thelevel at which Pakistani officials or others knew about Bin Laden being there?
We don't. What we know is that for him to have been there for five or six years probablyrequired some sort of support external to the compound. Whether that was non-governmental, governmental, a broad network, or a handful of individuals, those are allthings that we are investigating, but we're also asking the Pakistanis to investigate.You know, obviously, the Pakistanis I think are are troubled by this event. Either the factthat Bin Laden was there without anybody knowing about it. Or that some might haveknown. And I think it's incumbent on them to investigate this thoroughly and take it veryseriously, and we're in close consultation with them at this point in terms of how wemove forward.Not only in investigating what happened in Abbottabad, but also to get our relationshipon a firm enough footing so that the terrorist threat that's directed as much at Pakistanas it is at us starts to erode. And that's going to require co-operation and a building of trust. They have generally been significant and serious partners against the terroristthreat to the West.We've killed more terrorists on Pakistani soil than anywhere else, and that could nothave been done without their co-operation. But there's more work to do. And myexpectation is, is that over the coming months, this can be a wake-up call where we startseeing a more effective co-operative relationship.
And if you find another very high value target at the top of al-Qaeda, Mullah Omar or whoever it might be in Pakistani territory or other sovereign territory, wouldyou do the same again?
Well I've always been clear to the Pakistanis. And I'm not the first administration to saythis. That our job is to secure the United States. We are very respectful of thesovereignty of Pakistan. But we cannot allow someone who is actively planning to kill our people or our our allies' people we can't allow those kind of active plans to come tofruition without us taking some action.
And our hope is and our expectation is that we can achieve that in a way that is fullyrespectful of Pakistan's sovereignty. But I had made no secret. I had said this when Iwas running for the presidency, that if I had a clear shot at Bin Laden.
 You'd take it.
That we'd take it.
Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, said recently that the problem was thatPakistan was looking both ways on terrorism. He got into a little bit of trouble for it, but he was right, wasn't he?
Well I think what Prime Minister Cameron understands, as I understand, is that Pakistanhas been very obsessed with India. They see that as their existential threat. I think that'sa mistake. I think that peace between India and Pakistan would serve Pakistan very well.It would free up resources and capacity for them to engage in trade and commerce, andmake enormous strides that you're seeing India make. But that's their orientation. It'sbeen that orientation for a long time. And so they look at issues like Afghanistan. Or theborder region in the Fata (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) through the lens of whatdoes this mean for our contest with India.
The lens is the wrong way of looking?
Well, part of what we're trying to do is to talk to them about how they can reorient their strategy so that they understand that the biggest threat to Pakistan and its stability ishomegrown. And that if we don't go after these networks that are willing to blow uppolice stations, blow up crowds of people assassinate Pakistani elected officials withimpunity - if they don't get a handle on that then they're gonna see a significantdestabilization of the country.
When it comes to Afghanistan the military I think both here and certainly in Britainare saying keep going: we're winning, keep pushing. A lot of other people aresaying no, no, no, we're never going to be able to nation-build in this place. It'snever going to be sort of Switzerland with minarets. You've got to start to pull out.Which side of that are you more on?
I think Prime Minister Cameron and I very much agree on this issue. I think that whatwe've done is to, first of all, halt the momentum that the Taliban had started to build upbecause of the drift of the campaign in Afghanistan that took place. Partly because we inthe United States were distracted by the war in Iraq.So we plussed up our troop levels, revamped our strategy. The Taliban now is back onits heels. Although they still have the capacity to to kill a lot of people. And the fightingremains fierce. So what we've also tried to do is to say that we have to emphasize thecivilian aspects of improving the Karzai government's ability to deliver services.That's all going to be important as well. Now what I agree with and what I think PrimeMinister Cameron would be the first to say is that we're not going to militarily solve this

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