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Entries in Hillary Clinton (155)

Thursday
Jan172013

$1B Later, US Claims Anti-Terror Victory in Somalia

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Four years and over $1 billion in U.S. support later, the Obama administration Thursday claimed a victory in its war on terror in Africa by officially recognizing the government of Somalia, once a country overrun by al Qaeda-linked terrorists.

At a press conference at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood shoulder to shoulder with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the first democratically elected president of Somalia since 1991, and told reporters that working to stabilize Somalia had been "a personal priority" of hers.

"So I'm very pleased that in my last weeks here, Mr. President, we are taking this historic step of recognizing the government," Clinton told reporters.

Earlier Thursday Clinton said the Somali president also met with President Obama, as a sign of how committed the U.S. is to new democracy.

When Clinton came into office in early 2009, the al Qaeda-allied terrorist organization al-Shabaab controlled all of southern and most of central Somalia and all but 10 blocks of the capital city of Mogadishu. The country had not had a functioning government in nearly two decades. The United States had engaged with Somalia during that time, including the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in 1993, and had provided support for the Ethiopian incursion into Somalia in 2006, which lasted for three years and is widely considered to have been a failure.

Over the last four years, the U.S. has poured more than $1 billion into the country, with at least $650 million dollars used to support and train African Union troops fighting the terrorists, $200 million in humanitarian aid and more than $130 million to fund programs to help the country rebuild its security structures. The U.S. also helped beat back the terrorists with drone strikes and intelligence support for the AU force.

By officially recognizing Somalia's new government, the U.S. has now opened the door for formal diplomatic ties, including USAID programs. Somalia is now also eligible to apply for assistance from the World Bank and the IMF. Clinton spoke about how in the last year two different senior State Department officials visited Mogadishu, a city state department officials working on Somalia were forbidden to visit just two years ago. Clinton said that while security is still tenuous, the ultimate goal is to have a permanent U.S. presence in the country.

"Our diplomats, our development experts are traveling more frequently there, and I do look forward to the day when we can re-establish a permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in Mogadishu," said Clinton.

But she also acknowledged that security remains an issue and that the new government and democracy remain fragile.

Just this week the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab publicly boasted that they had executed a French intelligence agent codenamed Dennis Allex, who al-Shabaab had held in captivity since 2009. An al-Shabaab spokesperson issued a statement saying the execution was retaliation for Western incursions into Mali, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries. Days before, France launched a coordinated military operation to pummel extremists in Mali, a West African nation more than 3,000 miles from Somalia.

In her address Thursday, Clinton acknowledged that the "threat of terrorism and violent extremism... is not just a problem in Somalia. It is a problem across the region."

"The terrorists, as we have learned once again in the last days, are not resting, and neither will we," she said. "We will be very clear-eyed and realistic about the threat they continue to pose."

Clinton said that Somalia serves as an example of how terrorists groups in Africa can be defeated. She stressed the Obama administration's policy of supporting African-led solutions, like the African Union Mission in Somalia. She said the administration is taking the same approach fighting al-Qaeda groups in Mali.

"This is difficult but essential work. These are some of the most remote places on the planet, very hard to get to, difficult to have much intelligence from, so there's going to be a lot of work that has to go into our efforts. But I want to assure the American people that we are committed to this work just as we were committed to Somalia," said Clinton."There were so many times…over the last four years, when some people were ready to throw up their hands and say, you know, al-Shabaab made an advance here, and this terrible attack in Mogadishu, and we kept persisting, because we believed that with the kind of approach we had taken, we would be standing here today with a democratically elected president of Somalia."

Somali President Sheikh Mohamud was emotional as he personally thanked Secretary Clinton and America for its support of Somalia.

"I wish madam Secretary all of the best for her future, and we all miss her greatly. And I will welcome the new Secretary of State and the new administration that will take over," said the President. "Somalia will remain grateful to the unwavering support from the United States government in the last 22 years that Somalia was in a difficult era. We remain, and we will remain, grateful to that. And I -- and I say in front of you today, thank you, America."

Currently there are nearly 1.4 million displaced people within Somalia, and another 1.4 million refugees in neighboring countries, according to the United Nation's refugee agency. ABC News reported on the horrors of the refugee crisis from Somalia's famine less than two years ago when tens of thousands of Somalis fled al-Shabaab controlled areas just to be able to find food.

ABC News' David Muir witnessed a gun battle between African Union troops and extremists battling for control of Mogadishu. At that time, basic security, not elections, was the priority.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec072012

New Worries About Syria Prompt US and Russian Talks

Win McNamee/Getty Images(DUBLIN) -- The U.S. stepped up efforts Thursday to try and reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with her Russian counterpart during a human rights conference in Dublin, Ireland.

Moscow has been reluctant to get on board with most of the international community in calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down even as reports heat up that the Syrian government could be on the verge of using lethal nerve gas on its enemies.

Clinton spoke with both Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as well as United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi about jump-starting a process that might establish a genuine ceasefire after several failed attempts.

Brahimi indicated no major breakthrough occurred between Clinton and Lavrov that could be considered a plan although "we have agreed that the situation is bad and we have agreed that we must continue to work together to see how we can find creative ways of bringing this problem under control and hopefully starting to solve it."

The mini-conference with Brahimi was actually the second time the U.S. and Russia diplomats spoke on Thursday.

Clinton told reporters, "We have been trying hard to work with Russia to try to stop the bloodshed in Syria and start a political transition for a post-Assad Syrian future."

The crisis began in March 2011 with Syrians demanding democratic reform.  It has since escalated into a major armed conflict, costing tens of thousands of lives with Washington now fearing that al-Assad is desperate enough to use deadly chemical weapons to remain in power.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec052012

Hillary Clinton Keeps Pressure on Syria’s Assad as Rebels Make Gains

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(BRUSSELS, Belgium) -- A shift in favor of Syria’s opposition could be on the horizon in the country’s civil war, according to a U.S. official, but President Bashar al-Assad is not likely to leave anytime soon.

The armed opposition is making important tactical gains that could eventually trigger a strategic shift in the conflict, the official told ABC News Wednesday, adding that pressure on the regime is mounting and Assad’s forces are having difficulty beating back insurgent gains.

“Assad’s levers of influence are fraying and his reach is contracting, but the regime core is a tough nut that doesn’t seem to be cracking just yet,” the official said. “Although pressure is mounting, it’s difficult to say when the breaking point will come, because there’s little to suggest that Assad is a cut-and-run kind of guy.”

The U.S. official said the opposition is better supplied than in the past, but competition for resources is complicating their efforts.

“Factional infighting is clearly something the opposition has to guard against to be successful,” the official said.

Tuesday, NATO decided to deploy patriot missiles to defend Turkey, a step Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised, saying it sends “a clear message” to Syria.

“It’s a great tribute to NATO that this decision to deploy patriots was taken, because it’s very much in line with the solidarity of our members. This is for defensive purposes, that’s made absolutely clear in the statement that was agreed upon. It is solely for the defense of Turkey,” Sec. Clinton said at a news conference in Brussels Wednesday. “I don’t believe that it necessarily brings any greater attention to the tragedy unfolding in Syria, but it does send a clear message to the Syrians that Turkey has the full support of it’s NATO allies.”

Late last week, U.S. intelligence found the Assad regime had taken preparatory steps with regards to some its chemical weapons supply.

Clinton condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, calling it a “red line” for the United States for a second time.

“We’ve made our views absolutely clear,” Clinton said. “Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons or might lose control of them to one of the many groups now operating within Syria. As part of the absolute unity we all have on this issue we have sent an unmistakable message that this would be a red line and those responsible will be held to account.”

President Obama has said use of such weapons could trigger a response from the United States.

“The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable,” Obama said Monday. “And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you will be held accountable.”

Following Clinton’s press conference in Brussels Wednesday, the State Department announced she will travel to three Middle Eastern countries next week. Her first stop will be in Morocco for a Friends of Syria meeting, the success of which, she said, depends on Assad’s willingness to cooperate.

“I’m looking forward to the Friends of the Syrian People meeting next week where we will explore with like-minded countries what more we can do to bring this conflict to an end,” Clinton said, “but that would require the Assad regime making the decision to participate in a political transition, ending the violence against its own people. And we hope they do so because we believe their fall inevitable. It’s just how question of how many people will die until that day occurs.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov202012

Hillary Clinton to Travel to Middle East Amid Gaza Crisis

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesUPDATE: A ceasefire in the Middle East is expected to be announced later Tuesday at a press conference in Cairo, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum tells ABC News.

(PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) -- President Obama dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Middle East on Tuesday with the hope that she can bring an end to the escalating violence that has gripped the region for the last week.

Clinton is scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem later Tuesday night to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.  She will also meet with Palestinian officials in Ramallah before heading to Cairo to meet with leaders in Egypt.

A senior Israeli government official told ABC News that Netanyahu has decided to hold off on a ground invasion for a "limited time" in favor of a diplomatic solution.

Overnight, Israeli jets hit more than 100 targets, killing five people.  Gaza militants blasted more than 60 rockets in retaliation, with one of them hitting a bus in southern Israel.

Meanwhile, an Israeli man armed with an axe and knife stabbed a guard at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Tuesday.  The guard was wounded in the attack, but is expected to live.  Police said they apprehended the man at the scene and have named no motive for the attack.

"It's in nobody's interest to see this escalate," Rhodes said at a press conference Tuesday in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where President Obama was attending the East Asia Summit.

Clinton departed from Cambodia following the announcement.  She was with Obama on his trip to Southeast Asia.

A State Department official told ABC News that Clinton's visit "will build on American engagement with regional leaders over the past days."

A White House official said they felt face-to-face diplomacy could help but no concrete details were offered.

Obama was on the phone until 2:30 a.m. local time with leaders in the region trying to de-escalate the violence, Rhodes told reporters.  The president spoke with Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Monday as well.

"To date, we're encouraged by the cooperation and the consultation we've had with the Egyptian leadership.  We want to see that, again, support a process that can de-escalate the situation," Rhodes said.  "But again, the bottom line still remains that Hamas has to stop this rocket fire."

Rhodes insisted that Palestinian officials need to be a part of the discussions to end the violence and rocket fire coming out of the Hamas-ruled territory.

"The Palestinian Authority, as the elected leaders of the Palestinian people, need to be a part of this discussion," he said.  "And they're clearly going to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people -- a leading role."

With the death toll rising, Egypt accelerated efforts to broker a ceasefire on Monday.  Anger boiled over in Gaza as the death toll passed 100 and the civilian casualties mounted.  Volleys of Palestinian militant rockets flew into Israel as Israeli drones buzzed endlessly overhead and warplanes streaked through the air to unleash missile strikes.

An Israeli strike on a Gaza City high-rise Monday killed Ramez Harb, one of the top militant leaders of Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian militant group said.

It is also the second high profile commander taken out in the Israeli offensive, which began seven days ago with a missile strike that killed Ahmed Jibari, Hamas' top military commander.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov192012

Obama Praises Myanmar's Democratic Progress on Historic Visit

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(YANGON, Myanmar) -- Becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit this long-isolated nation, President Obama on Monday extended “the hand of friendship” to Myanmar as the country emerges from five decades of harsh authoritarian rule.  But he cautioned that the young democracy has “much further to go.”

“Instead of being repressed, the right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected,” the president told a subdued crowd at the University of Yangon.  “Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted.  As you take these steps, you can draw on your progress.”

Showcasing one of the foreign policy accomplishments of his first term, he praised the “dramatic transition” that Myanmar has made as he attempts to lock-in the nation’s reforms and encourage additional progress.

Obama made history when Air Force One touched down at 9:35 a.m. local time.  The president, joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was greeted by tens of thousands of people lining the streets of Yangon, including roughly 2,000 school children who stood shoulder-to-shoulder waving U.S. and Myanmar flags.

Obama’s first stop was at the government headquarters, where he met with reformist President Thein Sein.

“I’ve shared with him the fact that I recognize this is just the first step on what will be a long journey,” Obama told reporters, with Sein at his side.  “But we think a process of democratic and economic reform here in Myanmar that has been begun by the president is one that can lead to incredible development opportunities.”

While the U.S. uses the term “Burma,” the former name of the country, Obama referred to it as “Myanmar” -- the preferred terminology of the former military government -- when meeting with Sein.

“I shared with President Thein Sein our belief that the process of reform that he has taken is one that will move this… country forward,” Obama said.

Obama then made a personal visit to the home of opposition leader, and fellow Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, where she lived under house arrest before being released two years ago.

“One of my first stops is to visit with an icon of democracy who has inspired so many people, not just in this country but all around the world,” the president told reporters after their visit.  “Here through so many difficult years is where she displayed such unbreakable courage.  It’s here where she showed that human freedom and dignity cannot be denied.”

Speaking at the university -- the culmination of his visit -- with Suu Kyi and Clinton sitting in the first row, Obama warned that “no process of reform will succeed without national reconciliation” -- one of only two lines in his speech that received applause from the crowd.

“You now have a moment of remarkable opportunity to transform cease-fires into lasting settlements, and to pursue peace where conflict lingers,” he said.

Obama’s visit -- a brief six-hour stop on his whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia -- is seen as a symbolic validation of the country’s changes.  Human rights groups, however, have said the president’s trip is premature because the government continues to hold political prisoners and human rights abuses are ongoing.

In his remarks, the president noted that to protect freedom, those in power must accept constraints.

“That is how you must reach for the future you deserve -- a future where a single prisoner of conscience is one too many, and the law is stronger than any leader,” he said.

This journey to Myanmar is a first, but also a poignant last for Clinton.  In Yangon, she came down the air-stairs alongside Obama for what the White House calls her final trip with him as Secretary of State and her final official ride on Air force One as the architect of his foreign policy.  Clinton has said she will not remain for a second term.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov012012

White House Wants New Opposition Leadership in Syria

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images(ZAGREB, Croatia) -- The Obama administration not only wants regime change in Syria, it's also pushing for new leadership for rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the situation while in Croatia Wednesday, saying that the Paris-based Syrian National Council is no longer viable because its members have been out of the country for decades.

According to Clinton, "There has to be a representation of those who are on the front lines fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom.  And there needs to be an opposition leadership structure that is dedicated to representing and protecting all Syrians."

Clinton didn't entirely dismiss the SNC's efforts to seek a liberated Syria and said the group could be part of a larger opposition.

However, the White House is making it obvious now that it will take a more active role in helping to shape the post-Assad Syria by offering names and organizations that are better suited to control the new government's future, whenever that may be.

Clinton will announce more concrete plans during a conference in Qatar next week.

Speaking on the rise of al Qaeda militants in Syria, the secretary of state remarked, "We also need an opposition that will be on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct302012

Hillary Clinton Talks About Sandy's Impact on Her Home State of New York

State Department Photo/Public Domain(SARAJEVO, Bosnia) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to U.S. embassy staff in Bosnia Tuesday and described the impact Hurricane Sandy has had on New York State where she once served as a senator.   She praised the unity of New Yorkers and how they’re working together in the wake of the storm.

"I'm sure many of the Americans here were likewise quite concerned and especially if you have family and friends up and down our East coast. But I represented New York, as some of you may know, for eight years in the United States Senate," Clinton told the embassy staff Tuesday.

Sec. Clinton expressed her love for New York, particularly New York City, which was left devastated by Sandy along with New Jersey and several other states in the region. The secretary of state said she hoped Bosnians could learn from Americans on the East Coast and their ability to work together to rebuild.

"I love that city, I love that state. And I could not help it thinking there it was, this horrible emergency that mother nature had inflicted upon us. And I know that city well, and when I saw the reports of the firefighters in Breezy Point, Queens or in downtown Manhattan, I could see in my mind's eye, not only the buildings and the place, but the people --  more than eight million people from everywhere in the world, governing themselves, electing their leaders, working together, living, breathing, progressing. That's what I want for this country."

Sec. Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton made the joint visit to Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo Tuesday. In Sarajevo, they also met members of Bosnia's presidency to discuss issues regarding governance, budgeting and ownership of state property.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct292012

Hillary Clinton Urging Algeria to Back Military Intervention in Mali

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(NAIROBI, Kenya) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Algeria Monday, pressing officials in the North African country to do more to fight terrorism and support military intervention in neighboring Mali.

Islamist extremists have seized control of northern Mali where they are accused of numerous human rights abuses as they enforce strict Sharia law.  They are also working with an al Qaeda affiliate that originated in Algeria -- the same affiliate Clinton says is responsible for the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 

Concerned about the spread of al Qaeda into Mali, the U.S. has said it would be willing to provide logistical support if an African-led force is sent to reconquer the north.  Algeria has been opposed to military intervention, concerned it would destabilize the border region in its country. 

A State Department spokesman said on Monday that Algeria is warming up to the idea of military intervention in Mali and that support from Algeria is critical in the fight against al Qaeda in the region.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct232012

Bill and Hillary Clinton Share Romantic Moment in Haiti

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As President Obama and Mitt Romney faced off in their final debate about foreign policy, two of America’s most experienced global politicians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband former President Bill Clinton, traveled on a one-day trip to Haiti. 

The purpose of the trip was philanthropic, but the couple left a little room for romance, reminiscing about the last time they were in the country together for their honeymoon more than 37 years ago.

President Clinton, jokingly thanked the secretary for inviting him to the event, an opening of an industrial park with new businesses in Northern Haiti.

“Some of you know we came here on a delayed honeymoon 37 years ago in December,” said the former president.  “You know she’s been here a lot and I started coming here before the earthquake.  I’ve been here so much I’m sure I owe taxes to the Haitian government I have not paid.  But in all those 37 years this is the first time we have been back together.”

President Clinton congratulated the people of Haiti for their resiliency and resolve to de-centralize the country’s economy and invite foreign investment.

When it was Secretary Clinton’s turn to speak, she also told the crowd that the she and her husband “fell in love” with Haiti, and that the country was special to them.

“As Bill told you, we came here for the first time together just after we were married and fell in love with Haiti, and have just celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary, which is exhausting to think about,” said the Secretary to laughter and sustained applause.  ”It’s been an amazing experience from start to now and we have had a deep connection to and with Haiti ever since.  So it gives me a special pleasure to be here with my husband, who has worked so hard on behalf of Haiti and its development, because he believes so much in the people of Haiti and the potential that exists within each and every man, woman, boy, and girl.”

The Clintons were joined on the trip by actors Sean Penn, Maria Bello, Ben Stiller and his wife, as well as model Petra Nemacova, fashion designer Donna Karen and Sir Richard Branson. 

The group opened a $300 million facility in the Caracol area of Haiti, located more than a 100 miles from the worst-hit areas of the 2010 quake zone.  The hope is that the Caracol Industrial park will provide thousands of jobs to the northern part of the country, helping to transform Haiti’s fragile economy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct162012

Hillary Clinton Takes Responsibility for Consulate Security Lapses

Alex Wong/Getty Images(LIMA, Peru) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted blame for the security lapses before the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

"I take responsibility," Clinton told ABC News Monday in Lima, Peru.  "I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world at 275 posts."

She added, "The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals."

Clinton also said that the U.S. has been aware that militants were regrouping in Libya and that there would be an effort to reestablish bases.

"We also knew aside from individuals and groups there were so many militias that have formed and so many weapons," Clinton said.  "It was something we were focused on."

There are reports that the U.S. now has special operations forces on standby in the region ready to strike suspected terrorists.  So would this administration be willing to strike them before the U.S. election?

"We will track them down whoever did this and hold them accountable and bring them to justice," Clinton vowed.  "Our track record is pretty good.  Eventually we will find you."

Congressional hearings last week revealed that the State Department was aware of, and rejected, several requests for increased security in Benghazi.

Republicans have seized on the attack and the subsequent administration response as a failure.

On Friday, Clinton said the State Department is in the beginning stages of an internal investigation on the attack.  She also said the FBI investigation is continuing as well, and that she is cooperating with both.  As militants gain strength in countries like Mali, Syria and Iraq, ABC News asked for a status update on al Qaeda.

"It's absolutely fair to say the major leadership of al Qaeda including [Osama] bin Laden has been decimated," said Clinton.  "The core of al Qaeda has been severely damaged.  There will be terrorists who continue to terrorize people and threaten the U.S. and our allies.  We've never taken at all, our eye off the ball to keep going after extremists who pose a threat."

Meanwhile, as the situation in Syria deteriorates, will the U.S. consider pushing for a no-fly zone similar to the one established in Libya?

"This has been under discussion among allies," Clinton said.  "There has been no decision made but everyone knows what the Assad regime is doing is a brutal assault on the people.  We need a clear commitment of support to the opposition inside Syria and outside."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio