Rumsfeld: U.S. Will Continue Commitment to Afghanistan
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, July 11, 2006 Great progress has been made in Afghanistan in the last five years, and the U.S. will continue its commitment to that success, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
"I think (of) a few short years ago, (and of) what was happening in this country with the al Qaeda and the Taliban brutalizing the Afghan people and attacking innocent men, women and children and the U.S.," Rumsfeld said at a news conference after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "Today the terrorist training camps have been shut down; soccer stadiums are being used for soccer instead of executions; and this is certainly a tribute to the people of Afghanistan."
President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai bids farewell to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld at the conclusion of his visit to the presidential compound in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 11, 2006. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Gary Hilliard U.S. Army
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rumsfeld met today with Karzai, U.S. Embassy personnel, and officials from the NATO International Security Assistance Force who are transitioning to take the lead in operations in southern Afghanistan. He emphasized that NATO's transition to leadership does not represent an exit by the U.S., but rather, brings more capability and resources to the counterterrorism fight in Afghanistan.
"It brings the interest and commitment of some 26 nations that are determined to see Afghanistan succeed and the Afghan people succeed," Rumsfeld said.
The U.S. will play a large role in the NATO forces and will also continue its counterterrorism efforts, working with Afghan security forces and the ministries of defense and interior, Rumsfeld said.
"I can assure you that the United States will continue to be interested, committed and involved to success here," he said.
At the news conference, Karzai said the Afghan people are grateful to the U.S. for its assistance in the fight against terrorism and the birth of a democracy. Without U.S. help, Afghanistan would not have a democracy and the country wouldn't have schools, a free press, and all the other freedoms its people now enjoy, he said.
"Without the U.S., all of this achievement would have not been there. Rather, we would have been living a very miserable life here," he said.
The recent surge in Taliban violence can be attributed to both internal factors, such as a weak police force in some areas, and external factors, such as continuation of supply for terrorist and training camps, Karzai said. The Afghan government, with its coalition partners, is working on both fronts to reduce the violence, he said.
Through operations such as Mountain Thrust, now under way in southern Afghanistan, Afghan and coalition forces are putting pressure on insurgents in areas where they haven't previously operated, Rumsfeld said. This could explain the surge in violence, because terrorists see the success of democracy in the country and can sense their demise, he said.
He cited the determination of people working to spread violent extremism around the world. "They do not like to see a country like Afghanistan become a successful democracy, and they would like to do everything they can to stop it," he said.
Terrorists already have tried to stop the Afghan people from voting, crafting a constitution, and electing a parliament and president, but have failed in every instance, Rumsfeld noted. Despite the terrorists' continued efforts, he said, the Afghan government can succeed with time, more and better-equipped Afghan security forces, and the cooperation of NATO forces and coalition countries.
While there may be terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and the number of attacks may even increase, it is still clear that the Afghan government and the coalition are the victors, Karzai said. Afghanistan now has all the government institutions it previously lacked, and those institutions are growing and getting stronger, he noted.
Karzai reiterated Rumsfeld's assertion that the country will continue to suffer at the hands of desperate terrorists but emphasized that there's no question about the final outcome.
"The defeat is certain; what we are trying to achieve is to make that sooner, for us, and for the rest of the world," Karzai said. "The war against terrorism is not losing; it has won already. The remnants are there that we must clean out."