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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz' Upcoming Trip to Afghanistan and Turkey

Presenter: Senior Defense Official
July 12, 2002 2:30 PM EDT

(Background briefing on Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz' upcoming trip to Afghanistan and Turkey)

Staff: Okay. This afternoon we are going to do a background briefing on the deputy secretary's upcoming foreign visit. Most of you know who our "senior Defense official" is here. If you don't, that's who it is right there. And with that, sir, we'll go ahead and get started. Thanks.

Sr. Defense Official: Thanks.

Good afternoon. Tomorrow evening Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz is going to be going on a trip, and I just wanted to fill you in on his plans. He's going to be visiting Afghanistan and Turkey.

His first stop is going to be Istanbul. He's going to be giving a speech there on Sunday afternoon to an organization called the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation. And he's then going to take off for Afghanistan. And then he'll come back later, as I'll explain, to meet with Turkish officials.

So he is going to be in Afghanistan on Monday, and he'll be meeting with President Karzai, Foreign Minister Abdullah and the defense minister, Fahim Khan. And he'll be talking about ongoing military operations, the training of the Afghan army, the International Security Assistance Force, and other defense issues.

He's going to be visiting U.S. and coalition troops at various {name of location deleted} locations. There are still some plans being worked out.

He's then going to return to Turkey, as I said, for meetings with government officials on Tuesday and Wednesday. And in Turkey he will be joined by Marc Grossman, the undersecretary of state for Political Affairs, and General Joe Ralston, as you know, the commander of the U.S. European Command.

The deputy secretary's going to be meeting in Turkey with Prime Minister Ecevit; with President Sezer; with the speaker, Izgi; the defense minister, Cakmakoglu; and the chief of the Turkish General Staff, General Kivrikoglu.

The talks in Turkey will be the whole range of issues of common interest: defense cooperation, NATO and EU issues, the International Security Assistance Force, which Turkey, as you know, is commanding now in Afghanistan.

And before I take your questions, what I wanted to do is anticipate one question that I trust is on your mind, which is, given the current political turmoil in Turkey, you know, is this a good time for the visit?

This trip has been planned for a while; in fact, for months. And it had to be deferred at least twice. And as to whether it should be deferred again, we got advice from Turkish officials that this actually is a good time to proceed. And going forward despite the current political developments in Turkey is a way of underlining the significance that the United States attributes to Turkey's role in the region, and also to recognize that Turkey is a democratic country and they have, you know, continuity of their government operations notwithstanding political developments. I mean, that's one of the nice things about democracies, is you can have a certain amount of political turmoil and the government goes on.

And so these meetings will go on with the officials. We have important relations with Turkey and a long list of topics of common interest that we review with them periodically, and that whole list will be -- I'm sure will be discussed when the deputy secretary is there with Undersecretary Grossman and General Ralston.

And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.

Q: How about Iraq? Do you think the subject of Iraq will come up, including possible support by Turkey for any possible U.S. military action against Iraq?

Sr. Defense Official: Well, it's actually hard to see how one would avoid the subject of Iraq. Turkey borders Iraq. We're going to be talking about regional security. So, as I said, one can't really discuss that subject without discussing Iraq. The -- I mean, as you know, as we've said repeatedly, the president has not approved any war plans, and he has said that our policy is regime change in Iraq.

These consultations will, of course, be an opportunity for us to get Turkey's thoughts on Iraq. We value Turkey's views on this subject for a number of reasons. They're an important ally. They are a neighbor of Iraq. They know a lot about the subject. They always have a lot of important insights to bring. They help us understand the situation. I'm sure that the topic will come up, and I'm sure we will benefit from getting the Turkish perspective.

Q: Just one more housekeeping question. When is he coming back? What day -- when is going to come back?

Staff: On Thursday.

Q: Thursday?

Sr. Defense Official: Thursday.

Yes, sir?

Q: Does he overnight in Kabul or does he go back to Turkey?

Staff: No, it's in and out that day.

Sr. Defense Official: He will be -- in Kabul he's going in and out the same day. So he -- (to staff) Why don't you give me the rundown? He's going to spend the first night --

Staff: In Istanbul.

Sr. Defense Official: -- in Istanbul.

Yeah, why don't --

Staff: He arrives in Istanbul on Sunday; gives a speech in the afternoon. And then later, jumps into our wonderful C-17 and flies to Afghanistan.{Exact schedule details deleted.} He'll be in Afghanistan for the entire day, leaving late -- early evening to fly back to Ankara. So he'll arrive in Ankara Monday night, early Tuesday morning.

Q: There is a report out today that six governors in southern Afghanistan are now saying that the U.S. military has to ask permission before military operations take place in that area. This is, obviously, after the Oruzgan province incident.

Is part of this visit with leaders in Kabul in the wake of that incident, and maybe some the repercussions that it has caused in Afghanistan?

Sr. Defense Official: I don't think that this trip -- that the planning of this trip had anything to do with that. I mean, this trip has been contemplated for -- I think it's fair to say -- months, and it was simply a matter of when was a convenient time to get it underway. So --

Q: Given what you described in terms of turmoil of government, what kind of message is he carrying to -- especially to the powerful military leadership of Turkey?

Sr. Defense Official: What kind of message about what subject?

Q: About political -- in general, political matter of Turkey.

Sr. Defense Official: Well, I don't think that we're carrying any messages about internal politics in Turkey. We -- the point that I made earlier is that as they conduct their internal politics, they have a functioning government, and we have an important relationship. And so our dialogues with them about the issues that we care about in common continues, despite their internal political developments.

Q: Back to Afghanistan: Given the fallout from the Oruzgan incident and everything that's been said in Kabul from officials and others about issues to do with the mission, is Mr. Wolfowitz carrying any proposals, thoughts about how the mission might be adjusted? Or is he prepared to discuss this issue with Mr. Karzai, with Dr. Abdullah and the others?

Sr. Defense Official: He's going to be talking about Operation Enduring Freedom, and I am sure that, given the attention that's been paid to this incident -- that it will come up. Now as you know, the incident is being investigated, and I'm sure we'll be talking to them -- that we'll be talking with Afghan leaders about it continually. And when the investigation is finished, we'll also -- you know, we'll have more to say about it at that point, too.

Okay? Thank you.

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