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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz And Afghan Foreign Minister Media Availability

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
January 15, 2003

(Media availability with Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, The Palace, Kabul, Afghanistan)

Wolfowitz: I just had a very productive discussion with President Karzai, covering a wide range of issues - particularly, obviously, those issues that fall within the concerns of the Department of Defense. I think most important, we talked about the progress that's been made in training the Afghan national army and the efforts we'd like to make together to accelerate that training. It's clearly probably the key element in developing long-term security - or at least on the security side of developing long-term security for this country. Economic reconstruction is, I would say, the other pillar of long-term stability and is every bit as important as the military side.

I am struck at how much progress this country has made since I was here last July. Of course, if you take it back two years to the time the Taliban was here, it's just incomparable. But we don't make progress by telling ourselves how wonderful we've done. We only make progress by continuing to move forward and there's still a great deal more work to be done. But it's encouraging to see how successful our Afghan colleagues have been and we're delighted to have this close partnership.

Abdullah: Thank you, Mr. Wolfowitz. On behalf of the United States government and the people of the United States, once again we have shown President Karzai, our government, of the continued support from the United States on the process of stability in Afghanistan, peace building, nation building, and the process of reconstruction of Afghanistan, which is a long-term commitment from the United States. That was one of the issues which we appreciate from our side. There is discussion all about different aspects of our partnership in the military security, humanitarian reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and throughout. We appreciate, we are grateful for the role that the United States has played so far. It has been crucial for our people. Our people as whole appreciate that role and I think that together we can make a much better situation in Afghanistan and for peace and stability throughout the world.

Wolfowitz: Time for a few questions.

Q: To what extent is the United States sharing its intelligence with the U.N.'s weapons inspectors to help find that smoking gun? And if you are sharing that intelligence, why is it taking so long to find. If you're not sharing it, why aren't you?

Wolfowitz: We're sharing a lot of intelligence with United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and with the International Atomic Energy Agency. But to be honest, I came here today to focus on issues of Afghanistan. And, in fact, to make it clear to President Karzai and everyone else I'm meeting with that we continue to pay a lot of attention to this country, moving forward in this country. Iraq is obviously a major concern for the United States, but it's not our only major concern in the world and we do not want to lose sight of the work that needs to be done here in Afghanistan.

Q: How is the war in Iraq likely to affect American troop deployments in Afghanistan?

Wolfowitz: We are regulating our deployments here based on the needs here in this country, and it's been a fundamental strategic principle from the beginning to, I guess I would say, learn some lessons from history, and not come in here with a massive foreign presence and make ourselves unwelcome in a hurry. I think part of the brilliance, if I might say, of Gen. Franks' plan from the beginning was to keep the American footprint small - to be big enough to do the job, but no bigger than necessary, and we have more than adequate forces to do what's necessary.

Q: How long do you expect this number of troops to be deployed in Afghanistan - about 8,000 men?

Wolfowitz: I think it's a big mistake to try to predict the future. It took a long time to bring Afghanistan to the point that it was at. I think in 1966 someone showed me the statistic Afghanistan ranked 169 of 174 countries in the world in the U.N. index of human development. That's what 25 years of invasion and civil war did to this place. You can see it visually all around. But you also see visually the progress that's being made in the city as people rebuild. I visited this women's hospital today, and I'm told by March 1st it's going to be back and functioning. There is a lot of work to do and I would not want to predict when it will end.

But in answer your earlier question, we have the military capability we need to sustain both our continuing operations and what will increasingly be an emphasis on reconstruction and stability.

Q: On that note, the U.S. military's efforts to concentrate on reconstruction has come under criticism recently by U.N. and aid agencies that the lines are blurring between combatants and aid workers, and that we distract the U.S. military from providing security. What do you have to say to that?

Wolfowitz: Whatever you do, somebody wants you to do something a little bit different. We've been hearing for a long time from some of the same groups you mention the need for us to have more of a presence outside of Kabul, to establish security they can work in. I think we've come up with what I believe are two crucial pieces of the solution. One is to train the Afghan National Army and we saw an exercise today - a very impressive demonstration and a live fire exercise by the second battalion of the Afghan National Army. Two companies of the third battalion that has finished training are now deployed to Gardez and the reports we get back from Gardez are that that deployment has been very successful. Excuse me, to Orgun. The Afghan National Army is deployed to Orgun. Gardez is where we've deployed the first of these Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and as you correctly say, some people are happy with our presence. Some people say, go away, we don't need you around. I think what we're going to find over time is that, as people understand how we operate, that this is going to be a success. But it's still an experiment. We're going to send another Provincial Reconstruction Team to (inaudible) and after that to Konduz and that will give us a time to evaluate how the whole process is working.

Q. What is the U.S. military policy in regards to the Afghan-Pakistani border? Are U.S. forces allowed in a chase in their hunt for Taliban remnants to go across the border or not?

Wolfowitz: The basic situation there is one of close cooperation between the U.S. and the government of Pakistan. Neither of us want to see that border area become a sanctuary for terrorists. We work closely and cooperatively and I think that's the best way to work at it. I think we have time for about one more question.