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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Media Availability at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

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

(Media availability at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Also participating was Lt. Gen. Dan McNeil, commander, Combined Joint Task Force 180, Afghanistan.)

Wolfowitz: Just let me say a few things quickly and then go to questions.

It's been a very informative day and I think a productive day. Taking a look at what I would say are the two basic elements of long term stability in this country, namely economic reconstruction on the one side and security on the other. Let's start with the security piece because that's perhaps more DoD responsibility, although we really are doing both as you can see today.

The Afghan National Army training is coming along as well as we could have hoped. The recruiting has clearly picked up. Diversity in the recruits has gotten to where we want it and the retention in the battalions seems to be good. You saw the morale I think and the spirit in the exercises. So this morning apparently it's even higher than the group that went out [inaudible]. That's the first deployment of an Afghan National Army unit and a successful one.

The other piece is what we're doing ourselves with the provincial reconstruction teams. Again, the first such team has been deployed to Gardez. We had a good discussion with President Karzai about the plan going forward and the desire to make sure that we're integrated in what we do on our reconstruction side with the Afghan government. We'll be sending another team to Bamian shortly and then a third one to Konduz in February. Then I think we'll take a little pause and see how it's going and evaluate what we want to do, evaluate what our relationship should be with the Afghans, and see if maybe there are some other coalition partners who want to participate in teams or even run one cell.

I guess I should mention a third piece which is ISAF. [Inaudible] but we can't afford to. It's critical, has been critical since the beginning. It took a lot of effort actually to find someone to take over the leadership after the Turks, but the Germans and the Dutch are going to be doing so shortly, and [inaudible] folks are there with us. It's an incredible rainbow coalition of Irish and -- Well, Scottish or UK, but Irish forces, Finnish, Bulgarian, I don't know which ones [inaudible], I think it's the Bulgarians. But either way, [inaudible].

The real things that we're focused on are the training of the Afghan National Army and the deployment of our own PRTs. We've made I think a good start and now the question is how to keep moving it forward and whether maybe it's possible to move it forward faster.

One of the issues I raised with General Fahim (Khan), I guess Marshall, correction, was whether the entire equipment stocks which we know they have, they could help us equip the Afghan National Army if we train it faster. And --

Q: [inaudible]

Wolfowitz: No, Afghan National Army.

Q: Who would provide the equipment?

Wolfowitz: Marshall Fahim (Khan) out of Ministry of Defense stock.

There is this, maybe General McNeil can explain it better, but there is on the one hand the sort of left-over Army that's quite large and is a bit of a security problem, and there's the new army which we're training which is very different, which is multi-ethnic and disciplined and the real future of the country. I think even, I think it's a great change in Marshall Fahim's (Khan) attitude that he clearly recognizes that the national army is where we need to go, where they need to go, and I think if it's done at the right pace he and the others are prepared to gradually give up their own, what's the right word. They're not private armies at all, but to give up the kinds of units they have traditionally relied on. But it's going to come gradually and it's not a matter of suddenly demobilizing everything else in the country, it's a matter of gradually building up the national army.

Q: [inaudible] alliance?

Wolfowitz: Those --

McNeil: [inaudible] I think you recall we typically refer to them as [inaudible] the active military forces, and it's their [inaudible] in the south, [inaudible] in the west and the [inaudible] in the north. So with the Northern Alliance [inaudible].

Wolfowitz: And then on the reconstruction side we saw the Ring Road. On the one hand it's a great accomplishment that it got started at all. It took a lot of effort this fall by everybody to get the donors to come forward and get construction going, and at the same time I think we saw how [inaudible]. Just the de-mining piece alone is large. But I think that even before it's complete I think it's a key to starting to connect the country and to provide the backbone for economic livelihood.

Finally, I saw on that visit to the hospital, it was very impressive. To think that they were operating -- the rooms are ripped up but they were cleaned up as well. To think they were handling 500 patients a day under those conditions is amazing. It shows you something about what this country had sunk to and that the U.S. Army is able with Afghan contractors to put that place back together by March 1st. I'd love to be here March 1st and see if they make it, but I think they will. They certainly had [inaudible]. That's the kind of thing we'd like to do more of. In fact the civil affairs folks believe they have the capacity to do more if we can find the funding for them. So that's one of my homework assignments.

Q: Did you and President Karzai reach an agreement of any kind.

Wolfowitz: The goal wasn't to reach agreements. I think we got, I think a good plan for working together to come to a common understanding about what the PRTs will do and what the Afghan role will be in them. Not that we -- We're going to have to develop it over the next couple of months as we get better knowledge and we communicate with them. They would like us to speed up the training of the Afghan National Army and we agreed to look at it but we also have to decide if we can do that. We're going to need some help from them on the equipment side.

Q: Did you make a specific request of Marshall Fahim (Khan) to begin disarming his [militias]?

Wolfowitz: Not to disarm militias, but to begin moving the garrisons out of Kabul. He made the fair point that it's something that needs to be done in conjunction with finding other employment for them. He doesn't want to just move them with their weapons to another part of the country. He actually wants to move them into peaceful pursuits. So I think the ball is back in our court to propose a plan for doing that and to [inaudible] in that possibility.

Q: What is a possible solution to that? Job programs for those [inaudible]?

Wolfowitz: Something of that nature. Something that gives them an opportunity to put away their guns and earn an honest livelihood and preferably I think back in their home areas [inaudible].

McNeil: We have actually postulated to him that we hope to see some of them in positions with the road construction crews. Certainly that [inaudible]. We've discussed this with the President and the cabinet [inaudible].

Q: You talked on the plane about concerns that [inaudible] Tokyo, whether [inaudible]. Did you get any clarity on the status of that money? And is it going to come [inaudible] to complete the Ring Road if that's what you want to do?

Wolfowitz: I'd say the glass is 75 percent full. There are some places where we need more. There are people who pledged money on the Ring Road and then [inaudible], and we need to [inaudible] them up.

I think there's probably more that could be done by the international financial institutions. The U.S. is doing well over 100 percent of what we pledged, and I hope we can leverage that into getting some other countries to go over 100 percent.

Q: That's $181 million?

Wolfowitz: The total was, I believe $600 million on a pledge of $297 million.

McNeil: Correct. The Japanese have been very generous, not just in construction, but in money for other things. For example [inaudible] and reintegration process. They have attached some caveats to how they want to use [inaudible].

Wolfowitz: It really is a -- if you look at the total of nearly $2 billion from the international community for the year 2002--for a country at this level of development-that's pretty remarkable.

Thank you.

Q: That $600 million was also year 2002?

Wolfowitz: Yes