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Press Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld and Afghanistan President Karzai

Presenters: Secretary Of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai
September 25, 2006 1:30 PM EDT
       SEC. RUMSFELD: Look at this on a beautiful day. Welcome. Nice to see you all.

       Mr. President, the microphone's yours. We're very pleased you're here. 

       PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thanks very much. 

       SEC. RUMSFELD: And thank you for coming again.

       PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you. Good to see you again. Thank you.

       SEC. RUMSFELD: We hope your trip to the United States is an excellent one.

       PRESIDENT KARZAI: It's beautiful always --

       SEC. RUMSFELD: And we brought good weather for you.

      PRESIDENT KARZAI: -- especially during the fall, and all the colorful trees.

      Secretary Rumsfeld, I'm honored to be in the United States once again, and on such a good day, especially to be meeting with you. And thank you, by the way, for the excellent honor guard. I hope I can get a copy of the national anthem of Afghanistan that you played so nicely, and quite romantic, by the way, it was played.

       Ladies and gentlemen, we had a very good conversation today with Secretary Rumsfeld about all the good that has been done in Afghanistan by the United States, from the day of liberation of Afghanistan from terrorism, to the reconstruction, to the institution building, to the elections, and to the constitution, and to the return of 4 million refugees to Afghanistan, and to build roads and all that.

      We also discussed the problems that we have -- the question of drugs production and the continuation of the fight against terrorism -- for the productive full meeting.

       I thank you once again, Secretary Rumsfeld, for giving us this opportunity.

      SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

       I might also add that President Karzai brought with him, four or five members of his Cabinet and senior officials from the presidential palace that are joining us today, and we welcome them as well.

       I don't know how many times we've met now, Mr. President, but it's been many, many times.

      PRESIDENT KARZAI: Many times.

       SEC. RUMSFELD: Here and there. And the progress that is being made in Afghanistan is notable, and certainly, the leadership that you and your elected government under your constitution that the Afghan people drafted is encouraging for all of us who are engaged and wishing you success.

       The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is engaged in what is for NATO a truly historic event. They are -- for the first time in the history of organization, they are engaged in a major military activity outside of the NATO treaty area, outside of Europe, and every country, every one of the 26 countries, plus a large number of the NATO Partnership for Peace countries -- I think it's a total of 42 countries now -- are engaged in one way or another in assisting in Afghanistan with the security activities.

       And the leadership that NATO's providing is important. It's valuable, and it reflects a commitment on the part of those 26 countries to your success and to the success of the Afghan people.

      We'd be happy to take one or two or three questions. Why don't we start with -- is there anyone from Afghanistan here?

      PRESIDENT KARZAI: Not today.

      SEC. RUMSFELD: Not today.

      PRESIDENT KARZAI: That's good for me.

      SEC. RUMSFELD: All right. Yes?

      Q Thank you, sir. I'd like to ask you about the decision to extend the deployment tour of the 1st Brigade and the 1st Armored in Iraq.

      What is your level of concern that this reflects an Army that is stretched too thin, has too few resources to do what's being asked of it in Iraq and Afghanistan?

      SEC. RUMSFELD: There's no question but that any time there's a war, the forces of the countries involved are asked to do a great deal. And I will not get into a specific unit because I don't believe the people there have been notified yet, although some -- I'm told there is some speculation in the press. But it is, as you know, from time to time, there may be units that will be asked to increase the number of days in country from what had been anticipated. On the other hand, we're also bringing some other units in earlier, which is another way of dealing with that issue. And I guess I would rather wait and let announcements take their time.

       Yes.

      Q Mr. Secretary, Mr. President, Sergeant Boynette (sp), Pentagon Channel. Mr. President, this is for you. With American forces in your country, what message would you like to get out to U.S. troops?

       Thank you.

      PRESIDENT KARZAI: I was yesterday in the Walter Reed hospital. Ma'am, I was -- let me find the right word -- I was taken by emotions there, to put it in simple terms, of wounded soldiers and of a lady officer who had worked in Afghanistan, having six children, six boys. She was still helping the Afghan people.

      So my message for the American soldiers in Afghanistan is that they have liberated us from tyranny, from terrorism, from oppression, from occupation into a country that is now moving towards prosperity, that is once again the home of all Afghans. I don't know if it resonates with you. It's a very important thing for Afghanistan. Afghanistan was not the home of all Afghans. Today it is. Everybody's back in that country with a parliament, with a constitution, with a market economy, with a free press, with all that.

       Also, that the presence of the American soldiers in Afghanistan, while helping Afghanistan, is also providing security to the rest of world by fighting terrorism. It means also security for America and for Europe. Therefore, the continuation of this fight in Afghanistan, in which all of us participate, is actually working for all of us around the world and in Afghanistan, for which we are grateful.

      SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes?

       Q Mr. Secretary, on Capitol Hill today, again, there were several retired generals who called for your resignation. Are you considering resigning at all --

       SEC. RUMSFELD: No.

       Q -- and if so, why not?

       SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm not.

       Question? Will?

       Q Mr. President, what more would you like to see the international community do to combat the narcotics trade in your country? Do you think, for example, that foreign military forces taking a more active role in eradication efforts would be helpful?

      PRESIDENT KARZAI: Narcotics is a menace to Afghanistan. It's also an embarrassment to us as a nation. We are ashamed of that terrible product hurting us and hurting young people around the world.

       Afghanistan will have to fight it and destroy it, or we will not see the day that you are looking forward to: a strong, very prosperous Afghanistan on its own feet and an honorable member of the international community.

       Therefore, whether the rest of the world will come to help us or not, it is first our job to destroy poppies and get rid of it.

      Now, there are certain things that the world can do for us. There are certain things that we, Afghans, should do for ourselves. Poppy is one thing that we must fight, and fight effectively. Along the way, of course, we will need backing from the international community, because we cannot do it alone. But the responsibility is ours, and we should do it.

      SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much, folks.

      Q Mr. Secretary, can you tell us what General Schoomaker told you as to why he didn't approve his budget?

      SEC. RUMSFELD: (Inaudible) -- the Army for some weeks. (Inaudible) -- the Army -- (inaudible) -- it will continue -- (inaudible) -- if not, the budget will then go to the president, and then the president will send it to Congress and -- (inaudible).

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