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Karzai, Rumsfeld Discuss NATO, Progress in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2006 – Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld discussed progress being made in Afghanistan and NATO assuming responsibility for the country during meetings at the Pentagon today.

Karzai also thanked American servicemembers for liberating his country from Taliban tyranny.

Rumsfeld called NATO assumption of responsibility for security in Afghanistan a “truly historic event.” The North Atlantic Alliance is assuming security missions in the southern part of the country and will assume security responsibility for the east by the end of the year. NATO already commands the International Security Assistance Force in the north and west and in Kabul.

“(NATO nations) are engaged in a major military activity outside of the NATO treaty area, outside of Europe, and … are engaged in one way or another in assisting in Afghanistan with the security activities,” Rumsfeld said during a short news conference following the Pentagon talks.

All told, 42 countries are working under NATO’s umbrella in Afghanistan.

The secretary told Karzai that NATO leadership “reflects a commitment on the part of those 26 countries to your success and to the success of the Afghan people.”

Karzai said he spoke about progress in Afghanistan since the country’s liberation almost five years ago; reconstruction, including building institutions and roads; the return of 4 million Afghan refugees to the nation following the fall of the Taliban; and political success in writing a constitution and electing a government under that document.

“We also discussed the problems we have: the question of drugs, corruption and the continuation of the fight against terrorism,” Karzai said.

The president called narcotics a menace to Afghanistan. “It's also an embarrassment to us as a nation,” he said. “We are ashamed of that terrible product hurting us and hurting young people around the world.”

He said Afghanistan will take on the problem of opium poppies -- which, according to U.S. State Department figures, account for roughly 40 percent of Afghanistan’s gross national product. “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,” he said.

Karzai said he visited with American servicemembers who had been wounded in his country during a trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center here yesterday. “I was taken by emotions there,” he said. “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.”

The American presence in Afghanistan also provides security to the rest of the world by fighting terrorism, Karzai said. “It means also security for America and for Europe,” he said. “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.”

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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