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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference with Afghan President Karzai

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 11, 2004

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference with Afghan President Karzai


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  Ladies and gentlemen, I’m very happy today to welcome Secretary Rumsfeld with us in Afghanistan again. First, fortunately for us, as a friend, he has become a frequent visitor to us, which is a good sign which means that Afghanistan is making progress, which means that what we had in our minds for this country is what we are getting on an increasing basis.  I would like to thank today, once again, Secretary Rumsfeld for what the United States has done for Afghanistan, for what he has personally done for Afghanistan, the building of the national army of Afghanistan, the help with the political forces in Afghanistan.  And I’m proud to announce that Afghanistan has of today 9.4 million people registered and the election will take place on time as scheduled both for the citizens and the Parliament.  We have the international community helping us.  We have the coalition helping us.  We have the United States helping us with the elections.  The country, as you all can observe, has difficulties still. We have security problems, we still have terrorism attacking us, but the progress that we are making is because the Afghan people have the great wealth and enthusiasm to make this country a place that we all can live in properly, in goodwill and opportunity and that is being achieved with the help of the international community, in particular with the help of the United States and I welcome Secretary Rumsfeld again and thank him for that. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you very much.  Mr. President, thank you so much.  I have been here a number of times and I notice that this is a new setting for your press conferences and it is lovely, so I’m not – and the trees are spectacular.  I also must say that each time I come, I notice the amazing progress that’s being made – the energy one sees on the streets, the new stores and kiosks, the cars, the activity and the people. It is so clear that the Afghan people are winning the struggle to rebuild this nation and that is encouraging and it suggests a very bright future for the country, for the people of Afghanistan. 


            You mentioned the Afghan National Army and the security forces.  And there again there’s good progress being made.  The goal, of course, is for the Afghan security forces to be able to provide for the security of Afghanistan and each month and each quarter, solid progress is being made.  Your leadership team has shown great courage in your efforts to unite the countries, disparate groups behind the rule of law and to understand and meet the will of the Afghan people. 


            This upcoming election is an important one.  When we talked some few months ago, the hope was three, four, five, maybe six million registered voters, as you’ve said.  I’m told I visited the election – Joint Election Commission today and they claim something in excess of nine million registered voters of which a very sizable portion are women – something in excess of 40 percent, they advised me. 


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  Yes, 41.6, I believe. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  When one thinks about it and recognizes that there has been a campaign of intimidation, attempts to dissuade people from registering the surge in registration that’s taken place is throughout the country, I might say, has to be a very vivid demonstration of the Afghan people’s determination to make democracy work.  And to not mention this truly impressive accomplishment would be unfortunate because it is impressive and it, I think, says a great deal about the prospects for the future of this important country.  We are very soon going to be approaching the third anniversary of September 11, 2001, when attacks were made on the United States of America that were planned from this country by al Qaeda being harbored by the Taliban and some 3,000 innocent men, women and children from many, many countries of all faiths were killed in the United States.  The people of Afghanistan know the nature of the enemy that we confront and the struggle against extremism.  They know them close up and personal because they ruled here and they lived here.  You understand the brutality and the oppression and the inhumane treatment of innocent people that extremists impose on others. 


            The United States and our coalition partners are committed to helping the Afghan people achieve the noble goal of building this country and a new democracy, the entire world, I believe, has a stake in your success and wishes you well.  There is no doubt in my mind, but that you are winning in this effort.  And I congratulate you for it and I must say that the people of the United States of America are proud to be a part of this effort and salute you for your success.  Thank you very much. 


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  Thank you very much. 


            Q:  [Inaudible]


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  Yes, we can. 


            Q:  OK. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I [Inaudible] hear you.  Go ahead. 


            Q:  [Inaudible] part of that will be [Inaudible] al Qaeda Afghanistan?  And Mr. Secretary, do you have a concern for talked about plans – rescinded plans to fight narcotics here, a more coordinated effort by the U.S. military and it’s coalitions to fight narcotics here.  I just spoke to a Western diplomat that is working with the counter-narcotics efforts here, who told me that the US military is reluctant to address the problem here and the drug barons and the high level officials that are involved because this will cause instability ahead of elections. In what sort concrete ways, before the elections, would we see US involvement in fighting drugs so that we won’t have paved the way for these warlords to be legally elected to determine Afghanistan’s future when it comes election time.


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  Well, with regard to elections and with regard to the support for the security of elections, I’m happy because the international community has given a strong backing, politically, to the process, to the registration, not only for the current elections, but also when we were preparing for the constitutional loya jirga.  The attacks were there, but the backing was there, too.  As we all know, the terrorism, those who do not want Afghanistan to succeed tried their best in the last three months to kill our people, to intimidate them not to register.  We lost 12 registrants for elections in the past few months and every other method was used to stop people from registering.  But in spite of that, in spite of the attacks, in spite of the difficulties that we have in transportation, we have more than nine million of our people just in a short span of time.  This means tremendous enthusiasm of Afghanistan to do well. 


            Now this enthusiasm of the Afghan people is backed by the international community.  In terms of specific commitments, commitment to provide, during the election, for the security of the Afghan people, commitment to carry on helping Afghanistan – to Afghanistan reaches the elections and beyond and for the stability and economic prosperity of the country.  In terms of the size of troops of forces, it’s a particularly good question; we leave it up to the military people to determine or whether we will need 1,200 people in a certain site or more or less than that.  What matters for us is the overall commitment of the international community to back Afghanistan towards stability, democratization and institutional building and that is there. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:   Very briefly, with respect to the drug problem – and I can’t – your elections are upon you in month or two, so I can’t speak from a timeframe standpoint, but it is very clear to the international community that the drug problem in the world is a serious one.  And that to the extent the demand for drugs continues to produce hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to people – criminals engaged in the drug trafficking trade, it is harmful.  We see what happens in countries where that takes place.  It’s corrosive.  It can affect the entire political process.  It leads to other types of crime and corruption. It is a very dangerous thing.  And needless to say, the principal responsibility falls to the government of the country – in this case, Afghanistan – and the international community is concerned and attentive to that problem.  And needless to say, to deal with it will require close cooperation among the government of Afghanistan and the international community and certainly the United States and the international community recognize that and stand ready to work with the government of Afghanistan to address the problem in a serious way. 


            Q:  From The Washington Post. President Karzai, you said recently that you thought the problem of warlords was a very serious problem in this country perhaps even more serious problem than terrorism from the Taliban, et cetera.  The election laws were written in such a way that anyone who had an army was going to be excluded from elections. The election body has now accepted the nomination of General Dostum to be part of the election process, to actually run against you and others.  I’d like your comment on that situation as we go into the elections.  I’d also ask if Secretary Rumsfeld could tell us anything about the substance of his talks today with General Fahim.  Thank you. 


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  Well, on the decision of the Election Commission, Afghanistan is moving towards democratic rule taking solid steps.  The Election Commission in any democracy is an independent body that works under certain rules and regulations.  The decisions of the Election Commission as a sovereign body in the Afghan state are something that we have no business to comment on or interfere with.  So being an independent election commission and being mindful as an Afghan citizen that we cannot have an institutionalized democracy unless we respect the decision of the Election Commission, I’m not going to comment on that.  It’s their decision and we respect it. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I’ve met with the Minister of Defense Fahim Khan on many occasions now over the past several years.  And as is frequently the case, we discussed the obvious things between ministries of defense.  We discussed the DDR program and the importance of seeing that program accelerated.  We discussed the problem of narcotics.  We discussed defense reforms in his ministry as well as in the Department of Defense and the United States.  We were pleased to comment favorably on the successes of the Afghan National Army and the fact that where it’s been deployed and where it’s functioned, it has met with respect and success. 


            And the importance of seeing that that institution continues to grow and be equipped and sustained so that it can benefit the security for the Afghan people. 


            Q:  Secretary Rumsfeld.


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yes, sir.


            Q:  Some 600 people have been killed since your last visit here.  There is clear evidence President Karzai, that multiple registrations – people registering over and over again out of coercion from the warlords.  Given the volatile security situation, given the unchecked power of the warlords, how can these elections be free and fair in any way? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You’re correct.  In important countries, violence occurs.  It occurs in European countries, it occurs in Western Hemisphere countries, and it is occurring in this part of the world as well, not simply in Afghanistan, but in other locations and its regrettable.  Second, the judgment as to whether an election is free and fair is one that I don’t make, but in my meetings today with the Joint Commission and those folks from the United Nations they believe in their best judgment people who are experts in this and spend their time assisting nations in having free and fair elections, they believe that Afghanistan is on the path to have a successful, free and fair election.  And it strikes me that while no security environment is perfect in any city in the world, or in any country in the world, that judgment on their part ought to have some weight.  Thank you. 


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  With regard to multiple registration of voters, we don’t really know if 1,000 people or 2,000 people or 3,000 people or 100,000 people have two registration cards.  And as a matter of fact, it doesn’t bother me.  If Afghans have two registration cards because they like to vote twice, well, welcome.  This is an exercise, then let them exercise it twice.  But it will not have an impact on the election.  We simply [Inaudible] our cards.  If somebody gives us three cards, I’ll take it and we’ll go and vote.  But my choice in voting will be the same.  If I like this gentleman…


            Q:  [Inaudible]


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  … but I’m coming to the point that we are just beginning an exercise.  We cannot be perfect. 


            Q:  [Inaudible]


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  Excuse me? 


            Q:  [Inaudible]


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  No, no, no.  We are just beginning an exercise.  People are enthusiastic.  They want to have cards.  They have taken cards.  Maybe some have taken one or two cards.  We don’t know.  It’s speculations.  I have not seen anybody that has taken two cards or three cards.  Even if they have, it will not have a bearing because when they go to the elections site, the card will be punched.  It’ll be a hole in the card, so that only once you can go and vote.  When you go to the next voting station to vote again, you card will be seen and you’ll not be able to cast a vote there.  So it will not matter for the election. 


            With regard to the fairness and freedom of elections, the Election Commission is trying its best, the international community is trying its best.  The government is trying its best and the Afghan people really want it to be fair.  So let’s hope that it will be as fair and free as we can humanly do under the circumstances in Afghanistan and that should be good enough for us. 


            Q:  Mr. Rumsfeld, this is the first time the US is clarifying a new policy regarding the drug combat in Afghanistan.  Could you give us a bit more explanation about the main points of your policy?


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The leadership of the drug problem for the international community working with the Afghan government has been the United Kingdom, as I’m sure you know.  And that insofar as I’m aware, would remain the case.  What is increasingly clear to the international community is that addressing the drug problem in this country is important not only for the users of drugs in Europe and Russia, principally – much more so than in the Western Hemisphere – but it’s important for the people of Afghanistan because to the extent those large sums of money are permitted to be earned for an illegal drug trade, the inevitable result in what we’ve seen in other countries is to corrupt governments and a way of life and that would be most unfortunate.  There’s too many people, the people here, the people in this government, the people who will be running for office, the people in the international community who’ve contributed troops and the lives of those troops in some cases, people who’ve contributed money to this country, have a stake in the success of this country.  And that means they want Afghanistan to succeed and the danger that a large drug trade poses to the success of this country is too serious to be ignored.  And I say that with full conviction that the international community and the government of Afghanistan will have to fashion a plan to address it in a very serious way. 


            PRESIDENT KARZAI:  Before we end, I’d like to come back on the question of elections and voting.  Gentlemen [Inaudible] in the media, when somebody goes to vote, a mark will be put on his or her finger of ink and that mark will be there for three, four days.  So even if they have two cards, it will not matter.  We are looking forward to the elections.  We are not worried about multiple cards.  Have a good heart and let’s go to elections.  Bye. 

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