(Working Lunch in Stuttgart, Germany)
Wolfowitz: Let me start by talking about what we were hoping to accomplish yesterday in Afghanistan. Which was to get an assessment of where we stand at this point in the effort there, and to see what can be done to go forward. I must say my general feeling about what we accomplished in Afghanistan is that it's little short of remarkable and a great deal has been accomplished. At the same time, there's a great deal more work to do and that should hardly be surprising in a country that's been through almost a quarter century of invasion of war.
In 1996, which was I think the last time the U.N. was able to collect statistics there, it ranked 169 out of 174 countries in terms of human development criteria and the damage and destruction had been extraordinary.
There's no question, I think, that everyone in our country feels that they are better off than two years ago when the Taliban were around. But that is not a sufficient standard for us to say "ok, everything is fine." We want to make sure two years from now they feel that they are better off than they are today and that's really the major focus of our efforts. Indeed, it's increasingly the case that our military efforts in Afghanistan are focused on stability and reconstruction, although we continue to have problems with terrorists and Taliban people, particularly in the those border areas along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border in the East.
The reconstruction stability effort has really two different emphases, one of which is principally the Defense Department's responsibility--that is, strengthening the security situation in the regions of Afghanistan and there are several pieces to that effort. The most important is building up the Afghans' National Army. When I was there in July we were having real problems just getting the recruitment started. I was very pleased yesterday to be able witness a live fire exercise conducted by one of those early battalions, which actually had to be kind of retrained and brought back up, but seemed to have very high morale. Another battalion is already deployed down to Orgun, a city in the southeast, and by all reports the reception there has been extremely favorable. In fact local people were saying that they have never seen such a disciplined Afghan force--one that cooperated so effectively with local people. That's a very good sign, if that remains true. And we are interested in ways in which we can speed up the recruitment and training. In fact that was a major subject raised for me by President Karzai. . We looked into that.
Another piece of the security picture is deploying what we are calling "provincial reconstruction teams", teams of several dozen U.S. and Coalition forces along with possibly a small number of U.S. Aid or other types of civilian officials to provincial capitals, or provincial cities not necessarily capitals. The first such team has been deployed to Gardez in the southeast, a second team is going to go out later this month to Bamian and there's a third team planned for February in Konduz, and we're going to see how these teams work in their different areas. The goal is to provide a more stable environment in which aide and reconstruction work can proceed more effectively and we're hopeful that in fact this will be an effective way to help the central government to extend its reach into the provinces.
I guess the third major piece of the long-term reconstruction stability efforts remains in the international security assistance force in Kabul, which is an incredible rainbow coalition. I think there are some seventeen countries represented there--we can check the exact number. I had a meeting, my third meeting now, with Major General Zorlu a Turkish Commander who is just wrapping up the Turkish leading role in International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Currently taking over shortly will be a Dutch-German leadership. I know there were Italians there, I know there were Spanish there, I know there were French there and Germans there. There were Finns and Bulgarians, there were Irish there were Greeks--I don't want to leave anyone out, so I better stop listing here, but it's really extraordinary. The original purpose of ISAF, it is important to remember, was the concern right after the fall of Kabul that this city (which is the capital of the old country) not become the property of one ethic group. The presence of ISAF in the capital has preserved this capital of the whole country and it remains a very important mission--and one that I would emphasize that we would not be able to do without this large Coalition that is helping us.
The other major element of long-term stability--in fact more important I think then anything we do under the purely military side--is in fact the economic reconstruction. Even just in terms of its direct impact on the security issues, economic reconstruction is crucial in several respects. One is that I think in the long term it's going to be the most important instrument of influence for the central government in the region. And secondly, as we learned in quite of few of our discussions, if you want to do something about the problem of too many people in the country with guns and no money, the real solution is to provide the money--you'll never be able to take away all their guns. But providing jobs, providing livelihood, I would say even many of the so-called warlords would be happy to take care of their people with real jobs as opposed to having them serving somewhat rogue armies. So getting that economy moving is going to be crucial.
A very crucial piece of getting that economy going is getting the road structure rebuilt. We paid a visit to one of the places where construction has begun on the ring road project, which is very ambitious, but very necessary to connect the different parts of the country to one another. President Karzai pointed out this is a psychological connection that is important, but roads and economic ones. Also if one looks two years into the future I think Afghanistan has the potential also to be a major link between Central Asia and South Asia and even between the Persian Gulf and South Asia. It is a trade hub that could be an important source in economic prosperity.
The other piece that could be looked at in terms of the reconstruction efforts is the extraordinary work that the U.S. military is doing in what's called Civil Affairs. We visited the women's hospital in Kabul--again the only women's hospital in Kabul--that's being completely renovated. Basically, the way it works is, we have one U.S. Army engineer captain supervising an Afghan contractor and a force of some several hundred Afghan workers. In the space of about two and a half months they are going to take this clinic from a situation where there were actually lavatories overflowing, operating rooms in the most horrible unsanitary conditions, seepage and walls collapsing--you get a sense even half way through the renovation of the incredible difficulties these doctors were operating under--although they were operating. And hopefully, March 1st they'll have a brand new quite decent facility. We have done some two hundred of these projects over the course of the last year, at relatively low cost--I think it's eleven million dollars for those two hundred projects. We asked the Civil Affairs people if they thought they could do more with more money, and the answer was yes, so we're looking to see if we can find some more money, because it is a great effort. Meeting with the doctors--most of whom but not all of whom were women--was kind of inspirational, too. One really gets a sense of people who believe their country now has a future and are quite dedicated to working for it. I think that is a reasonable summary of Afghanistan.
Let me sort of talk...I guess a good transition to the larger subject of the whole war on terrorism is to just mention the ceremony that I am going to be at today and then the one tomorrow. It is history making in several senses. We are tomorrow, of course, going to be inaugurating a new Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. It was a position first held by General Eisenhower, a truly historic figure, and its been held by quite a few historic figures ever since. I think General Ralston, the departing Commander, was the second Air Force officer to hold the position. General Jones, who will be taking over, is the first ever Marine officer to hold that position and he is a man who was educated in France and I'm told speaks fluent French (I'm not good enough in French, but it sounds good to me.) And he's a man with a great deal of European experience, including command. He was a deputy commander of Provide Comfort in 1991, which I visited eleven years ago. In fact I think until I visited the ISAF in Kabul yesterday, I hadn't seen as large a collection of voices from different countries in Europe, as in that operation he was the deputy for.
The main purpose for going to Afghanistan was to try to move forward on those specific issues. But I will admit that there was also a certain symbolic purpose of making sure that from President Karzai on down, and for our troops in the field, that people understood we had not shifted our attention completely to Iraq or to North Korea, that we have our eye on several balls at once and that we've got to.
This war on terrorism is a global war. I think there are some ninety countries who are helping to fight it. We've had some remarkable successes, I believe, not only in military terms but in terms of the number of senior terrorists arrested, the number of plots broken up and disrupted. But success should by no means lead to the illusion that we have won this war yet. There are a lot very bad actors still out there. The ricin plot that was broken up in England where they had ricin which is an extremely deadly biological toxin, is a reminder of just how bad it could be and it's going to require, I think, a considerable and continuing, and I think one could say relentless effort, for some time before we can reduce the threat to any level that we might consider to be acceptable.
Beyond that I think it also requires what President Bush spoke about in the State of Union message last January. It's a phrase about building a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror. And I think of when I was in London last December on the eve on the Copenhagen Summit and all eyes in Turkey were on how the European Union would deal with Turkey. I think we ended up with a glass half full, but I like to focus on the half that was full. I think it was an important step forward and it is symbolic, I think, of the kinds of efforts that need to be made to support progress, particularly in the Muslim world. Because I think what the terrorists feed on is the sense of failure. The best way to defeat them in the long run is to demonstrate that there is a way forward for the Muslim world that's not any different fundamentally from the way in which the western countries have made progress.
I guess that sort of wraps it up, particularly since we are here in Stuttgart, tomorrow we'll be at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe (NATO). From the first day of the war on terror, from the day of the attack when so many of our allies lost citizens in the World Trade Center, as well, we've benefited enormously from NATO and from NATO cooperation. I certainly am not someone who would have said that the first time Article V would be invoked would be in the defense of the United States. When I was pushing NATO into the Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) program 10 or 15 years ago, I never expected it would be so that NATO AWACS could help defend the skies of the United States--but both of the things have happened.
And both as an alliance and in the individual allies, the contributions have been enormous. I think should it come to the use of forces against Iraq we are certain we will be successful. But we will be more successful I think because we will have a considerable coalition with us, and indeed a coalition I think that grows every week. And if we succeed by getting a peaceful resolution of the Iraqi problem, it will be because we've had that coalition and because Saddam Hussein may finally come to understand that his only real choice is to accept a peaceful disarmament of his country. We talked when we were in NATO about some ways that NATO, as an alliance, may contribute, and those discussions still continue.