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Afghan Violence Disrupts International Aid, Wolfowitz Says

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2002 – Violence in northern Afghanistan is beginning to cause serious problems, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said during a July 15 visit to Mazar-e Sharif.

Violence in the region, he said, is disrupting the secure conditions needed to deliver the kind of aid and assistance the coalition has been providing and wants to continue.

Speaking at the Jordanian Hospital, Wolfowitz noted that the facility has treated more than 80,000 Afghans. Others are being cared for at a Spanish field hospital in Bagram and the U.S. military are doing many humanitarian projects around the country. "But the need is just enormous, and this is one demonstration of it," he said.

The deputy stopped at the hospital after meeting with Northern Alliance Gen. Dostem, local leader Ustad Muhakkik and other officials. At a news briefing, he recounted how he had expressed U.S. appreciation to the Afghan leaders for the role they played in their country's liberation.

"It is difficult to remember just how dangerous and precarious things were here only eight months ago," he told. "The victory here in Mazar-e Sharif, I believe, was the beginning of the liberation of the whole country."

He said he advised the Afghan leaders that "in some ways, the challenges of war are easier than the challenges of peace, because in war you know who the enemy is and peace is more vague."

The United States is committed to helping in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, Wolfowitz said. "We've learned a lesson over the last 10 years that we can't afford to just leave Afghanistan to its own devices," he said.

The current goal is to stabilize the country, restore security and promote economic growth and development, he said, "and to do it in a way that doesn't go back to a tyrannical mode of government." That will require balancing power between the central government and local leaders, he added.

Right now, he noted, the central government is still weak. He said an earlier meeting with President Hamid Karzai included talks on training and equipping the Afghan National Army.

Controlling the violence, thereby enabling the international community to continue providing assistance, is key to the country's overall security picture. "It's very clear to me just from the people we talk to here in Mazar-e Sharif that even these tough generals care a great deal about what happens to their people," Wolfowitz said.

"If they think that if they behave well and do the right things, their people would get assistance, then they will be much more likely to behave well," he continued. "If that assistance isn't coming, then we lose one of the greatest sources of influence that we have."

Wolfowitz pointed out that it's impossible to generalize about security in such a huge country. "The problems are very different in different places," he said.

"There seems to be a little bit of a tendency when there is a problem that occurs in one place, everybody says security in Afghanistan is collapsing," he said. "I think in different places, different solutions are appropriate. We are not approaching this with a doctrine nor with a blue print. We are doing it very pragmatically, and when we see a problem we look for the best way to try to solve it."

During his visit to Afghanistan, Wolfowitz toured the training site for the Afghan army and met with officials at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul.

"It is wonderful to have a partner like Turkey," he said. "What Turkey has done with us has been indispensable. Turkey's role on the leadership of the International Security Assistance Force is something that we appreciate very much. It's been done with the kind of professionalism that we come to expect of the Turkish armed forces and we appreciate it a lot."

Wolfowitz traveled to Afghanistan after a day in Istanbul, Turkey, where he spoke to the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation. In his address, he pointed out the role Turkey can play in regards to Iraq.

Under Saddam Hussein, he said, Iraq slaughters its own people and threatens stability in the region. Using Turkey as a model, a democratic, free-market Iraq "could rapidly build a modern and wealthy society that would be a source of prosperity, rather than insecurity, for its neighbors," he said. Turkey can also serve as a model for Afghanistan, he said.

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