WASHINGTON -- While many are still debating whether Saturday's tragic shooting in Arizona was politically driven, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the suspected gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, was clearly "motivated by his own political views."
"Based on what I know, this is a criminal defendant who was in some ways motivated by his own political views, who had a particular animus toward the congresswoman," Clinton told CNN in an interview in Oman, a stop on her mideast tour promoting civil society groups. "And I think when you cross the line from expressing opinions that are of conflicting differences in our political environment into taking action that's violent action, that's a hallmark of extremism, whether it comes from the right, the left, from al-Qaida, from anarchists, whoever it is. That is a form of extremism. So yes, I think that when you're a criminal who is in some way pursuing criminal activity connected to -- however bizarre and poorly thought through -- your political views, that's a form of extremism."
Clinton's latest remarks follow comments she made on Monday to an audience in the United Arab Emirates, when she pointed to the Arizona shooting to support her pitch for unity.
"We have extremists in my country," she said. "We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence."
In another interview with the BBC Wednesday, Clinton also addressed the question of U.S. combat forces remaining in Afghanistan past 2014. On Tuesday, Vice President Biden told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the "United States, if the Afghan people want it, are prepared, and we are not leaving in 2014," opening the door to speculation about the length of the nation's commitment. (In December, Biden appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and said, "We're starting it in July 2011, and we're going to be totally out of there, come hell or high water, by 2014.")
On Wednesday, Clinton said that the United States would not have combat troops in Afghanistan after 2014, although it may assist in training and logistical support. In Iraq, the end of "combat operations" in August nonetheless left roughly 50,000 U.S. troops based in-country.
QUESTION: I would like to ask a question about Afghanistan. There is some suggestion now over the last couple days that American troops could stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Could you clarify whether Washington is, in fact, considering staying in a combat capacity in Afghanistan beyond the date of 2014?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, there is no discussion about staying in a combat capacity. The 2014 date was first suggested by President Karzai and his government as the point at which not only America but international forces would have completely turned over the security of the country to Afghan forces. We embrace that. We embrace it as a nation. We embraced it at the NATO summit in Lisbon.
But just as we have seen in other situations, where combat missions end, there may be a desire on the part of the Afghan Government to have the United States and NATO form a training mission, a logistical support mission. But that's in the future. There has not been any discussion of that.
QUESTION: So training, but not necessarily combat.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No.
The president has stated that the United States will begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as scheduled, although it's yet to be determined how many will leave at that time. "We clearly understand that in July of 2011, we begin to draw down our forces," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in July. "The pace with which we draw down and how many we draw down is going to be conditions-based."