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Afghan, Iraq Presidents Call for Coalition to Remain

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2004 – The presidents of Afghanistan and Iraq both called for coalition forces to stay in their countries during separate interviews on NBC's "Meet the Press" today.

Afghan President Hamid Kharzai and Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar both said the short-term stability of their countries depends on the U.S.-led coalition staying in their respective lands.

Yawar said Iraqi security forces cannot handle the security problems today. The threats from Saddam Hussein regime remnants and outside terrorists is potent, he said, and Iraqi security forces have neither the training nor the equipment to effectively police the country or deny the borders to foreign terrorists.

"We are practical, we are realistic," Yawar said. "What we lack right now is enough security forces and capabilities. There are enemies, foreign and domestic, that are trying to destabilize and derail this new wonderful trend in Iraq."

The president said there is no timeline on a coalition exit from Iraq. He said that will depend on how long it will take for Iraqis to assume the security mission. He estimated that will be no earlier than six months to a year.

The coalition will turn over sovereignty to the government led by Yawar on June 30. The president said that following the turnover, he expects Iraq to be turbulent for a while. "We expect that (terrorists) will try to increase the incidents and the violence for a while, but we are committed, we are consistent and we are focused to make sure that we take necessary preparations to defuse the situation," he said.

Yawar said the Iraqi people are "cautiously positive" about the interim government. "The people of Iraq are rallying behind this government, and this is a sign of strength for this government," he said.

Kharzai said his interim government would like to see the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force expand to other parts of the country.

"Insha'allah" was the way Kharzai put it as to whether his nation would have elections in September as planned. "God willing" is the translation. Kharzai said the voter registration process is moving along well, and he expects the elections to take place.

"I am confident, because the Afghan people want this very much," Kharzai said. "The Afghan people want to elect their government." He said the government is legitimate across the country, although there are problems with local warlords. The government is trying to become more effective throughout the land.

"We are a weak administration," he said. "We have come out of 30 years of war and suffering and a tremendous shortage of human resources. That applies to our weakness."

Kharzai said the problem posed by Taliban remnants and al-Qaeda followers persist, but they are not effective organizations. "Three years ago, they could reach you in New York and Washington," Kharzai said. "Today, they are on the run. They are fugitives, and we are after them."

The terrorists can still hit targets of opportunity, but they are no longer an organized force, he said.

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