Powell Speaks on Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 13, 2004 Security problems continue to be the main problem confronting the Iraqi people, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press" today.
With the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government just two weeks away, Powell said the coalition will stay the course in the country. A democratic Iraq governed under the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all, would be an example to other countries of the Middle East, he said.
Still, attacks continue. The second-ranking person in the interim government's foreign ministry was murdered June 12, and attacks have been launched against what Powell called the "courageous Iraqis" who are trying to make a new Iraq. Stopping the terrorist attacks and the insurgency is key to rebuilding Iraq, Powell said, adding that once the violence is tamped down, he expects the process of rebuilding "will take off."
Conditions in Iraq are better than they were, because the regime of Saddam Hussein no longer is in power, Powell said. He said coalition forces will remain in Iraq following the return to sovereignty, and forces will continue to train and equip Iraqi forces.
Powell said the new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq passed unanimously earlier this week "approves the way going forward." He said that even the countries that did not support the U.S. initiative on Iraq last year most notably France and Germany recognize that the international community must not fail. "We must not allow international terrorism to prevail," Powell said.
Failure in the fight against terrorism in Iraq or Afghanistan is not an option, the secretary said.
In Afghanistan, much remains to be done, but much has already been accomplished, Powell said. "President Hamid Kharzai is a visionary leader," he said. "When you think of where we were right after the defeat of the Taliban when there wasn't even a single phone working there is now a government that is functioning. It is slowly but surely extending its reach out beyond the capital."
Taliban remnants and al Qaeda followers are challenging the Afghan government. "They also will have to be defeated," he said. "We will stick with the Afghan government as they go about doing this."
Elections in Afghanistan are on track for September, Powell said. The secretary called the increase in opium production in Afghanistan a "major problem" and one that the Afghan government and the international community must deal with.
The Saudi kingdom is not unraveling, but there is a dangerous situation in Saudi Arabia now, Powell said. Apparently, al Qaeda operatives in the kingdom have kidnapped American businessman Paul Johnson. Powell said the terrorists are trying to destabilize Saudi Arabia the largest exporter of petroleum in the world.
He said the Saudis are treating the kidnapping and other terrorist acts launched against their country seriously, and are counterattacking. "They've done some rolling up of these organizations, but clearly this is a dangerous time for Saudi Arabia, and we're working with them and cooperating with them in any way we can to defeat these terrorists," Powell said.