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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Media Availability in Afghanistan

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
July 15, 2002

(Media Availability at Jordanian Hospital, Mazar-i Sharif)

The Jordanians have been with us since December 23rd. They came in when it was still dangerous around here. They came in even though it is a small country with a very substantial contribution and I've been watching those numbers grow over the months. That it's now over 80,000 people they have treated in over a thousand operations and you can see the conditions under which they have to do it all.

It's really wonderful. Obviously it would be great to have this kind of capability all over the country, but we are doing as much as we can. The Spanish have a field hospital, I believe, in Bagram. And our own military people are doing a large number of humanitarian projects around the country, but the need is just enormous and this is one demonstration of it.

I think one of you also, well, I know all of you, want to know what was our meeting in town. It was with General Dostum and Ustad Muhakkik and the Governor. I would say basically we had two messages. The first message was appreciation for the role that they played in liberation of Afghanistan and particularly the liberation of this part of Afghanistan.

It is difficult to remember just how dangerous and precarious things were here only eight months ago. I've talked to some of our Special Forces who arrived with General Dostum on October 19th and the courage of our people, but also the courage of the Afghans is unbelievable. And the victory here in Mazar-i Sharif, I believe, was the beginning of the liberation of the whole country. So we appreciate that very much.

At the same time I said to him 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. It's more difficult. And that it's very important to try to control the level of violence in Northern Afghanistan, because it's beginning to cause serious problems. It's getting in the way of delivering the kind of aid and assistance that we have been delivering and that we want to continue to deliver. But we need secure conditions to do it in. And I must say that certainly every thing I heard from all of them suggested, I think, a real appreciation of what we were saying and of the importance of trying to solve their problems and not create new ones. And we'll have to keep at it, but it is very important.

I said to them also that we think we've learned a lesson over the last 10 years that we can't afford to just leave Afghanistan to its own devices and we are committed to helping in the reconstruction of this country. It's great to have partners like the Jordanians. We've had a lot of good partners, but I must say you guys were there from the very beginning and you're still here and it's wonderful the work that you are doing.

Q: When you look into the political landscape of this country. Do you envision the government, along with the assistance of the U.S., diminishing the influence and power of the regional authorities?

Wolfowitz: I think the real goal is to stabilize the country, to bring security to the country, to bring economic growth and development, and to do it in a way that doesn't go back to a tyrannical mode of government. And I think that's going to require some kind of balance between the power of the central government and the power of local leaders. But clearly the central government at the moment is still very weak. I believe that one of the most important things that can be done and with the main subject of our discussions with President Karzai is to help train and equip the Afghan National Army.

But the other piece of it, which is equally important for the security picture, is to be able to make good on the promises that the whole world has made to this country to deliver economic assistance -- because it's very clear to me just from the people we talk to here in Mazar-i Sharif that even these tough generals care a great deal about what happens to their people and 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 and if that assistance isn't coming then we lose one of the greatest sources of influence that we have. So it's the two pieces together.

Q: Until you get the National Army up and running here, which will take several years, how do you propose to keep security in the whole region? Is it just to come up and read the riot act every so often to the generals?

Wolfowitz: This is a huge country and it's impossible to generalize about it. The problems are very different in different places. And 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. 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.

We are about to lose our plane or our pilots anyway. Thank you very much.

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