17:25 Secretary Clinton, the new ABC News/Washington Post poll (states) sixty percent of the American people say the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting anymore. That’s a high. Considering that the US withdrawal date is not until 2014. How can the Obama administration continue to wage this war with so little public support?
18:22 Well first Jake, I think it is important to remember, as the president reminded us once again, why we are fighting this war. We all understand the stresses that this war causes first and foremost on the men and women of the military and our civilian forces who are there and their families. And we certainly understand the budgetary demands that are called for, but it’s our assessment backed up by 49 other nations that are also committing their troops, their civilians, their taxpayer’s dollars… that this is critical to our national security. Obviously if we had concluded otherwise, we would have made different decisions. But having inherited what we did, and having spent an intensive period of time in 2009 reviewing every possible approach, and frankly listening to quite contrasting points of view about the way forward, the president and we agreed that this was a commitment that we had, to not only to continue, but we had to adopt a new strategy. We had to resource it more and we had to pursue it, and the diagnostic review that we have just undertaken, that we’ve described to you, has concluded that we are making gains on that strategy.
19:23 I’m well aware of the popular concern and I understand it, but I don’t think leaders, and certainly this president will not make decisions that are matters of life and death, and the future security of our nation based on polling. That would not be something you will see him or any of us deciding. We’re trying to do the very best we can with the leadership that we’ve all been entrusted with, to avoid making the mistakes that were made previous years, where we did not develop the kind of relationship and understanding and coordination with either Afghanistan or Pakistan that would enable us to have a better way of interacting with them and perhaps preventing some of what came to pass. And (we’re) frankly we walked away at some critical moments in the last 25, 30 years. That created conditions that we had a hand in, and unfortunately contributing to. So I think it is understandable.
20:43 I am very respectful of the feelings of the American people but the question I would ask is: How do you feel about a continuing American commitment that is aimed at protecting you and your family now and into the future? Because that’s the question that we’ve asked and that’s how we’ve answered it. (more…)