Rumsfeld Addresses State of Afghanistan's Terror Fight
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2004 While en route to Afghanistan by way of Oman, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld spoke today about Afghanistan's progress in its war on terrorism.
The threats to Afghan stability are many, Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him. Perhaps one of the biggest contributors to the country's woes, he said, is the narcotics trade.
"It threatens the democratic system in Afghanistan, to the extent that many millions (of dollars) are available to people who are not democratic and (that) puts at risk that entire system," he said.
The United States, however, is helping Afghanistan fight its narcotics problem, he added. The secretary held up Colombia as a model of successful efforts to curb a country's narcotics trade, adding that a "master plan to address this problem" is required. Such a plan is being fashioned, he said.
In Afghanistan, all crops have been good for the last two years, and that makes for a "bad problem," Rumsfeld noted. Afghanistan's largest cash crop is the poppy. The seeds of the flowers are used in the production of opium.
Taliban remnants also present a persistent concern for Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said, but they would not succeed in their efforts to destabilize Afghanistan.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and his government are helping to back up that statement, the secretary pointed out. The Pakistani government has been very cooperative with the United States in the efforts to put pressure on terrorist networks in the area, Rumsfeld said. This includes moving its troops into tribal areas not formerly occupied in an effort to find and capture or kill insurgents threatening its neighbor.
Provincial reconstruction teams are helping to curb the Taliban's influence in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said. Though somewhat untested, the teams are extending the central government's reach and providing infrastructure that will help the government keep the country stable, he said. A road project nearing completion, the secretary added, will help that effort by linking the nation's capital of Kabul and the city of Kandahar in the south.
Pakistanis, however, are doing most of the work, because Afghans generally do not possess such skills, Rumsfeld said. One real task facing the country is to hire more Afghan people for government construction projects. "They need a period where they're able to get into the flow of economic activity," Rumsfeld said. The means to this end is a model that allows for vocational education with the promise of a job at completion of the training, he said.
"Whatever happens, the international community will continue with its desire to see a liberated Afghanistan, a free Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said.
Asked about U.S. ties with Oman, the first stop on the trip, Rumsfeld said Oman, with which the Unites States has a very good relationship, has been a consistently constructive participant in the activities in the region.