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Background Briefing on Afghanistan Relief and Reconstruction

Presenter: Senior Defense Official
February 27, 2003 3:00 PM EDT

(Background briefing on Afghanistan relief and reconstruction. Slides shown during this briefing can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Feb2003/g030227-D-9085M.html.)

Staff: Oh, well, okay. The first one that's going to talk to you today is Defense official one, right there, number one, right -- there, walking in the door. Number one. That's right. And senior Defense official two, right here. Okay?

Q: Thank you. I'm reporter 15. (Laughter.)

Senior Defense Official: Are you zeroing yourself, Charlie?

Senior Defense Official: (Laughs.) We will have copies of these slides here for you in a minute. I'm sorry, but I gave some conflicting guidance, and the fellow who was holding the pack of them ran off. (Laughter.) But most of them -- (laughs) -- you'll have them in time to -- for the record, but --

We've been on this case, of course, since September 11th, and we worked all the issues through. I've been to Afghanistan four times this year and to six international conferences about it, and some of the folks here have actually been more. And we have other folks who are sitting in the second row -- we'll call them number three and number four -- who can certainly answer any detailed questions that we can't.

I'm going to go real fast through these slides. By the time I get to the end, hopefully my errant paper copy guy will be back and we'll be okay.

Next slide.

Okay, in talking about reconstruction of Afghanistan, very important to talk about what the original construction, if you will, looked like. And here, you see the basis for the devastation in the country; 23 years of war, five years of the Taliban, four years of drought. [In] 1996, Afghanistan was rated 169 out of 174 on the human development index. The human development index measures things like literacy, infant mortality and whatever. And after 1996, it falls off the chart, and then you have four years of drought, and then you have -- and layered on top of that, the Taliban and the renewal of the civil war. So, the point of all this being that Afghanistan sort of falls through the bottom of the enclosure. It's not one of the lesser states in the world, it probably -- it could very well have been last among close to 180.

Next slide.

In the past year, a lot of good things have happened, and we're going to go over them. We're going to first look at the political, and then the economic and then the reconstruction.

First, the political process. A successful loya jirga. We now have in Afghanistan the first democratically constituted government in 30 years. The influence of that government is spreading. The government now has a national development framework and is, in effect, taking command of the reconstruction process, which is, as far as I'm concerned, great. This is not all about fixing Afghanistan; this is all about enabling Afghans to fix their own country and to develop a better society. We have a constitutional loya jirga this fall, and then that would be followed, somewhere between six and nine months, with national elections. Those things are complex and difficult. It won't be easy, but we do believe that both of them will happen on schedule.

Next slide.

Economic reconstruction. You're all familiar with most of these numbers. Sixty-five nations at Tokyo in January of 2002; 6.6 billion [dollars] from that particular conference and others along the way. The U.S. is sort of leading the way in fulfilling its pledges. Most of the pledges for 2002 were fulfilled. And you see some of the other great statistics that are there.

Let me just take on that last bullet there about U.S. coordinators here in Kabul. One of the things that we're working with here is a tremendously complex set of machinery: 65 nations, six U.N. agencies, probably over 250 NGOs [non-governmental organizations], an Afghan government with over 30 ministries. They are a sovereign power, but a sovereign power with limited capacity at the cabinet level to do things. So, in order to make this work better, over the past six months, a number of coordinators have been appointed. In Kabul we have an economic coordinator, Ambassador Bill Taylor, a State Department person. We also have a military reconstruction coordinator, who is also the chief of the military mission, Major General Carl Eikenberry. Here -- back here in Washington, we have David Johnson at the State Department. And here in our building, we have Undersecretary Dov Zakheim, who is the comptroller, who is the DOD coordinator for reconstruction.

Next slide.

Some pictures of some of the projects: Radio Afghanistan, textbooks. The textbook thing has been a tremendous victory for the United States. We couldn't have done it -- USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] did it, not the Pentagon. We couldn't have done it without the help of University of Nebraska's Afghanistan Center, who helped us with the textbooks.

Next slide.

As you all know, and have probably heard myself and others talk about it quite frequently, the role of our own civil affairs guys working projects. Again, compared to the amount of money spent by PRM [U.S. State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration] and by AID, this is really a small amount of money, but we've worked any number of projections with a focus on schools and clinics and wells -- not listed there on your graphic. Over 400 wells -- very important in a drought-stricken country.

One of the things that we've developed, with HHS [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] and Secretary Thompson and Secretary Rumsfeld's initiative, was to establish a series of OB-GYN clinics, and hopefully to attack the problem of child mortality.

I'm going to stop right here and let Defense official number two come up, too.

Senior Defense Official: You stay right here. This has been a team effort.

Following the, I should say, feedback and discovery that -- of the seriousness of the issue of health care for women and children and the really staggering infant mortality rate, which, as I recall, at a -- the figure was over 20 percent, which is -- to my recollection, is the highest in the world, and recognition that there had been a total breakdown of the medical care system there in Afghanistan, an effort was undertaken, was initiated to address one of the most -- very most pressing needs. And that is care for women and children.

Secretary Thompson -- I don't want to steal his thunder, he'll be here later this afternoon to talk about it -- paid a visit in, I think, like October. I visited in September and was at three different places -- in Bagram, actually wasn't in Kabul, but Kandahar and Mazar-e Sharif; was impressed, actually, with the Jordanian hospital effort in Mazar-e Sharif. And the long and the short is, this sort of rose to the top as the most urgent medical need.

And so a joint effort has been ongoing now for about five months, involving people from the DOD health affairs organization, my organization; (my colleague's) effort, his team, and people from Health and Human Services. And it's really been a tripartite effort -- actually, a fourth party would be the Ministry of Health in Afghanistan. And after an assessment, what was chosen was this Rabia Bahlki Hospital, which was -- the -- I don't know if you've got another picture there, the next one or not, but yeah --

Staff: Those are "before" pictures, obviously.

Senior Defense Official: Can we go to the next one? There's -- yeah, I mean, it was really --

Staff: (Off mike.)

Senior Defense Official: I don't even know that it was functional.

Staff: We may have some paper copies later of others, but not that one.

Senior Defense Official: But the first order of business was to rebuild this facility, and DOD undertook that effort to actually rebuild the facility. And then the next part was to develop a plan of programs of services. And again, through dialogue between HHS, DOD and the Ministry of Health in Afghanistan, it was determined that their greatest need was -- is really to train the physicians, who had not had training in some 20 years, and to supply them with textbooks and basic information that they needed. So we're sort of starting with a train the trainer [program], get the physicians and the nurses trained, get this hospital opened.

It had been in a prior time doing quite a number of deliveries, about 36,000 -- I'm sorry -- 13,000 deliveries, 36[,000] patients -- a year, nearly 40 a day. So it was quite a busy place. And I don't have the figures as to how that might have come down during the period of war, but at one point in the past, it had been quite a busy place. And so our goal was to get it up and working and then -- but to go beyond that to really build a series of smaller clinics really to meet needs of people that are out in the smaller communities and rural areas, using midwives -- midwifery -- to, that's more appropriate, probably, to their level of care and capability in various parts of the country.

So that that's the project. There will be an opening, a ribbon- cutting ceremony March 8th. And we have people from DOD ad HHS who will be going there cutting the ribbon opening this up. But I would just say in my experience there visiting, health care was time and again one of the needs that was mentioned time and again as the most urgent. So we're really delighted to be involved with this.

I can tell you personally Secretar[ies] Thompson and Rumsfeld made it very clear this is a top priority in terms of our support. They've really been -- right behind us. Right? (Laughter.) If not out in front. They really want to see this happen. But we've tried to be led by not just what we think they might need, but what they think they need.

So I'll stop with that, and you can continue.

Senior Defense Official: Next slide, please.

The Rabia Bahlki -- the contract and engineering work was done by Civil Affairs people. All the labor on these DOD-related projects is Afghan labor. And you can see sort of the state of the art there. Kabul Teachers Training College was one of my favorites and it was sort of a great lesson in management. In order to ensure that the Civil Affairs folks sort of stayed within the bounds, colored inside the lines, if you will, we told them that individual projects should not exceed X amount of dollars. Well, they found this incredible need to get the National Teachers Training College in the southern part of Kabul back up and running. And it was a much grander project than we had ever anticipated, so they divided it into eight parts and submitted it as eight different projects. I didn't find that out until they were finished. And it's actually a great piece of work.

Next slide, please.

This was a girls' school in Mazar-e Sharif. And Undersecretary Zakheim was actually there for the reopening, and it was a very, very touching ceremony, hundreds of young ladies and their mothers in their finest clothes out there singing, chanting, reciting poetry and generally putting on a magnificent show.

This place was damaged during the war. The secretary during an early visit made a point of noting that we ought to get this back up and running. It's up and running and we're still doing some work around the edges.

Next slide.

The important work of security reconstruction. Indeed, we're talking here about stability, not only stability, but lasting stability, in the development of institutions. President Karzai's top priority there is the Afghan National Army. We've now got six battalions on the ground, a seventh in training. The Afghan National Army battalions have, in company-sized units, not all of them, but four or five of them, been committed to combat kinds of operations and have acquitted themselves well. They have embedded -- after their training, they have embedded U.S. advisers that help them and continue to train them in advanced skills.

We're also, not to forget, in the last tick there, still conducting operations against al Qaeda and Taliban.

Next slide.

Other nations are picking up the lead in a number of areas. Germany, along with the Netherlands, is -- that should say leading, along with the Netherlands, the 5,000-strong ISAF, training the Afghan police; Italy building the Afghan judiciary; U.N. and Japan, they're starting the DDR [Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration] program. We attended a major conference a few weeks ago in Tokyo, and Mr. Karzai has promised on March 21st to unveil their detailed plan for disarmament, demobilization and the reintegration of former combatants. The U.K. working very hard on counternarcotics. The U.K. also working very closely with us on coalition military activities.

Next slide.

One of the new developments, provincial reconstruction teams [PRTs]. The purposes are shown there: security, reconstruction, strengthening the influence of the central government, monitor[ing] and assessing the local regional situations. And that last one is not to be sort of put down. This is a critical reporting function, and increasing the situational awareness of people in Kabul and the United States is going to be extremely important.

These teams are multinational. We've invited dozens of countries to participate. There are at least a dozen countries that are very interested in participating right now. And a number of countries are interested in leading their own PRTs. Right now we're planning eight of these, and we've started in Gardez and Bamian. Gardez and Bamian are up and running fully. Kunduz will be up and running in another week or two. And again, this is not only a group of 60 military people; security people, Special Forces, Civil Affairs, communicators, support folks, but a total of 50 to 60. Say 50 to 60 is the best way to do it because --

Q: Under each of the eight.

Senior Defense Official: Each of the PRTs.

Q: In each of the PRTs?

Senior Defense Official: Each of the PRTs will be 50 to 60, correct. And that program is going along well, being very well received. President Karzai is a supporter. And we're hoping also to find the right way to match this up with having representatives of the central government in and around the area at the same time as the PRTs.

You can see, connecting up things that I've talked about in the briefing here, how the PRTs may in the future become the touchstone for this, that and the other thing. We're entering a period where disarmament, demobilization and reintegration will be really important. Having these eight strong teams out in the countryside will be very, very important to that; it will be important to security; it will also be important to our understanding of what's going on in the field of reconstruction.

Last slide.

[In] 2003, we're moving from relief to reconstruction. We're beginning slowly to move from combat to stability operations. [In] 2004, we hope to see the birth of a great movement of private sector development.

And in all, if asked, Afghan reconstruction -- long way to go, but it's a glass half full and we're very happy with what's been done in the past year.

We will now take your questions. And I'll answer the question if I can. If not, I'll direct it. If you want to direct the question to someone else -- one, two, three, or four over there -- that's fine, too.

Q: I think this is probably for the doctor. On the women's health, has the United States put any strings on the money or the aid? Is there a prohibition on providing birth control services or abortion services?

Senior Defense Official: Well, I'm not sure that issue has been at the top of everyone's mind. I think the most important thing is getting the health there. I'm not aware of any particular restrictions on what's being done right now. I'll try to get you an answer. I don't have an answer.

Q: I'll follow that...

Senior Defense Official: I can tell you that in Muslim countries in general, abortion is not a consideration. I mean, it's considered to be completely out of bounds. And I've never heard anyone speak of it in terms of any of the Afghan health problems, so -- as a matter of fact, most of the Afghans that I meet are quite proud of their having very large families. And so -- and that, sort of going along -- that goes along with having a subsistence agriculture kind of economy. So, you know, that issue I don't think has really sort of hit home there. And so, it's not an issue that's under active consideration there that I know of.

Q: I'd like to ask you both, if I may, I realize you just speak for the Defense Department, but President Karzai is here with his hand out. They need -- they say they need a lot of money. And while these efforts are very laudable, they are small in the scheme of things in a country that's virtually destroyed. Is the administration, to your knowledge, going to give them extra money, aside from these kinds of things, these personal efforts -- reconstruction.

Senior Defense Official: Yeah, the U.S. pledge for economic reconstruction was pegged at close to 300 million [dollars]; we spent 260 million [dollars] more than that. My guess is in the coming years, economic and security reconstruction considered, we will probably be spending at that level. And --

Q: You mean annually?

Senior Defense Official: Annually. We are, of course, also very active through the offices of the undersecretary of Defense for Comptroller, Dov Zakheim, very much in the business of not only fund- raising, but also what I call "pledge fulfillment" -- making sure that people who stand up and make pledges are coming through. Generally speaking, the jawboning of the United States and its partners in the Afghan Reconstruction Steering Group -- that would be Japan, Saudi Arabia and the European Union -- their efforts have really paid off.

Q: Do you mean annually the amount that was pledged and the amount above total?

Senior Defense Official: I think that when you include security reconstruction and economic reconstruction, I think that that's a fair surmise. Now, of course --

Q: Five hundred and sixty --

Senior Defense Official: Yeah. Don't pin anything on it, because as you know, every year there's a budget, and it's not real until the president signs it out to Congress and Congress stamps it as a law. So --

Q: You're talking about administration in general? This is not just DOD, you're talking about other --

Senior Defense Official: That is absolutely correct. And --

Senior Defense Official: Just DOD.

Q: No, no. These totals.

Senior Defense Official: No, that was the administration total.


Q: I wanted to follow up on the question Miss Hess asked about the rural clinics, with the females especially. When I was there, one of the problems in delivering quality health care was not only a physical problem, the lack of facilities, but the fact that there was a lack of trained females to handle female patients. As you know, that's a big challenge over there.

Now, you mentioned -- I think it was you mentioned midwifery --

Senior Defense Official: That's right.

Q: What is the skill level and the training that's going to take place? Because the problem was women dying giving birth, and that is not a problem that could be easily handled by an untrained midwife.

Senior Defense Official: Right. Well, I think you saw it, you've hit the nail on the head. The first order of business is to have trained medical providers and facilities where they can, you know, have clean water and some manner of sterilization and facility. I don't have the statistics on the numbers currently, of midwives or midwife-trained type of personnel. Obviously that will be a priority for us, and is for the Afghanistan government, to train as many of those people as possible.

Q: In the interim, will they be limited to Afghan women? Or is there any effort to jawbone other nations perhaps --

Senior Defense Official: Let me just say this.

Q: Yeah.

Senior Defense Official: We're very interested in engaging the medical community in this country as well as around the world to come into these areas and support through nongovernmental organizations, other medical relief organizations, some of them are operating there now. But obviously they can do a great deal to help. And I would expect and certainly hope that they will supply some of those personnel to do more of the trainer-kind of activity.

Senior Defense Official: If I could add just one note there, we have had a lot of international participation. There's an Indian hospital in Kabul, a Jordanian military hospital in Mazar-[-e Sharif], which is an excellent outfit which is probably the number one hospital in that particular area. The Spanish have a hospital in the Bagram area. And there are also Korean medical units and others that have been around. Lots of the military forces involved in ISAF, which is dozens of nations now, and also U.S. military civil affairs and others, have also been engaged in helping with health problems --

Senior Defense Official: Medical care.

Senior Defense Official: -- medical care, yeah.

Q: Can you, you talked about the -- you mentioned the Tokyo conference and the 6.6 billion. Can you give us some general tally of how much of that money has been actually appropriated? I mean --

Senior Defense Official: The -- only for the first year. The first year was calendar year 2002. Overall at Tokyo and subsequent conferences 2.2 billion [dollars] was appropriated -- was pledged. We believe 1.9 billion [dollars] of that has been spent or is accounted for. And we made a drastic increase in the numerator of that figure, if you will, in the last three or four months, simply in conjunction with our allies, by going around and jawboning people to get their programs together and make sure that they fulfill their pledges. It's difficult -- the accounting of all of this is quite difficult. And because of that, we're going to have another development forum in Brussels in mid- March, where we are going to hold people's feet to the fire and get them to make their discreet pledges for calendar year 2003 and beyond.

Q: How do you break up that total 6.6 [billion]? Two-point- two [billion] in 2002. Do you know how much --

Senior Defense Official: That's just it. No one -- people pledged in total, and some didn't break that out, and then others pledged, and they said, "This is what we'll give the first year, an the total of our program will be this." And a lot of people -- a lot of the nations quite obviously were attempting to preserve their flexibility in terms of the spending in the out years.

But all were pretty -- we're relatively sure of the year 2002, and we hope to get a good handle on 2003 here in Brussels in mid- March.

Q: Sir, the provincial reconstruction teams -- where are the other five teams going? And when do you expect to have them all up and running?

Senior Defense Official: We're going to deploy the first three teams and wait, but the other five locations will be in and around major cities, such as Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and whatever. We suspect probably by the summer that we will have a PRT staffed and led by a coalition ally -- at least one, maybe more.

Q: Will that be the ninth PRT or the eighth?

Senior Defense Official: And that would be one of the eight right now. But I think this eight right now is a number that you'll see begin to multiply over time, and I doubt that we'll stay with eight. And it may well be that we stay with eight and then other folks who come in with great interest to participate in the program will be -- say, "Why don't you take number nine or number 10?"

Q: What proportion of your civil affairs budget for FY [fiscal year] '04 do you plan to focus just on Afghanistan for FY '04?

Senior Defense Official: We -- I don't know the actual budget for the civil affairs soldiers and their units and whatever. The amount of humanitarian funds that they were allocated for 2002 is about -- was about 12 million [dollars]. It may well be --

Q: Calendar [year] 2002 or FY...

Senior Defense Official: Now you've got me. I think that was for 2002 and part of 2003. So I'm not exactly sure on that. But they have over that calendar year spent or committed about $12 million on a few hundred projects.

Now the projects could be very small. It might be, you know, you go into a small village, and you put a well head in on one end of the village and a well head in on the other, and that would be a project. Others would be a school, and not a school like the one we showed you, which is actually quite a large school. Many of these schools are -- you know, are probably just a few hundred square feet with a few classrooms in each. Boys in the morning; girls in the afternoon is kind of a particular pattern that they have. They end up, of course, putting many more in a classroom than we're used to and using different methods of instruction. But since basic education in Afghanistan in many places had virtually ceased for half a decade, the business of sending the kids back to school was just a tremendous shot in the arm.

Q: Would you please share with us the retention rate of the members of the Afghan army, and the source of that figure that you could provide, please?

Senior Defense Official: I don't have an exact number. We had problems in the beginning; we had two problems. The first problem we had was recruiting the numbers we wanted. The second problem we had was attrition. And I think we're overcoming those problems. They are not -- certainly not unique to Afghanistan. They're very prevalent in armies in the developing world. And we're beginning to get a great handle on it.

In the near future, we are going to be combining recruitment of soldiers for the ANA [Afghan National Army] and demobilization. And I think that that is -- that's going to be a boon not only to demobilization, but also to recruiting.

And I didn't mention before, by the way, that these battalions that we formed are aimed -- our goal is to balance them in accordance with the same ethnic structure of Afghanistan. And we're doing a fairly good job of it.

Q: Well, I'm sorry. To follow that up, you guys have been unable to provide the ethnic breakdown of the first three battalions. And the statistics that were provided counter what you just suggested. I don't mean to be argumentative, sir. But if you look at the ethnic breakdown of the first numbers, it's still pretty high on the Tajik side.

Senior Defense Official: You know, I don't know that those numbers are classified.

Q: No, they're not classified. It's just hard to get them together, apparently.

Senior Defense Official: Yeah, it is difficult to get together. And of course, it's all based on self-identification as well. Although there are ways of checking up on that, you know. If you say that you're a Pashtun from Kandahar and you don't speak Pashto, you're obviously someone who could be an imposter. And there is a screening process that people go through.

Q: No, I understand that. Again, sir, I'm reluctant to sound argumentative, but I just want to be clear on it. The numbers that are provided by the Pentagon as to the ethnic makeup of three of the battalions showed overwhelming --

Senior Defense Official: If you looked at the ethnic makeup of the U.S. Army or the U.S. Air Force and you matched that up against the United States, you would find that it doesn't quite match either.

But what we are finding in our system here is that people are not forming platoons of Tajiks and platoons of Pashtuns, and they're actually going about and forming an Afghan army, if you will, that is of mixed parentage. We're also working on the ethnic balance inside the Ministry of Defense and the general staff, and recently have made some good progress in that area. It will go slowly, and if I had the numbers, I would be happy to share them with you.

I also saw a very interesting set of numbers showing the ethnic breakup of -- breakout, if you will, of the Afghan army versus the ethnic breakout of the U.S. Air Force. And it was kind of interesting. And in both cases, you did not get an exact mirroring of society, you know, despite whatever your desires were.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about this first wave of private sector development and what kind of development you think it will be? Any particular companies you can name or type of companies?

Senior Defense Official: We've obviously spurred a lot of reconstruction projects, and I think that will be sort of the first great wave of the development of private sector companies in Afghanistan. There are, in any number of places, factories and whatever. If a USAID official was up here, he could probably give you six or seven really great examples of that. I just don't have them at the tip of my tongue.

Q: (Off mike) -- things they might be making or services they'd be providing, or --

Senior Defense Official: Agribusiness and construction materials are very big. The construction industry is taking off. And lots of people interested in things like fertilizer and whatever that are also connected with agriculture. (Laughter.) We weren't thinking of that as entrepreneurship, but I suppose that if you stretch the limit, it could come to that.

Yes, sir?

Q: Just a quick question. Have you provided any humanitarian assistance or reconstruction aid, along with the Pakistanis, across the border? I mean, in Pakistan -- Northwestern Pakistan, or is that just not on your radar screen?

Senior Defense Official: We haven't been doing that by way of our forces in Afghanistan. That's all I can tell you. There's been lots of economic and security assistance for Pakistan since the 9/11 days, but I'm not an expert in that --

Q: So that's not part of a larger strategy of --

Senior Defense Official: It may be part of a larger strategy. It's not part of my brief, though. (Laughs.)

Q: Dr. Zakheim stresses the completion of the ring road as something that's very important. How is that going and how is DOD involved in that?

Senior Defense Official: The ring road has been started. AID is the supervisor of the road. Of the -- the part of the road that we have is the Kabul to Kandahar to Herat; sort of the, if you will -- the bottom half of the ring road. After we determined that we were going to do that, the rest of the ring road was sort of grabbed up like specials in a supermarket. The World Bank has one of the roads to the north, the Asian Development Bank has the top half, and some of the smaller roads connecting from the borders in to the ring road have also been taken on by countries as diverse as India and Germany. And so, that's moving along quite nicely. I think we really await the end of the winter season to see this thing move into high gear.

Q: Could you break down the 1.9 billion [dollars] for us; who's given it?

Senior Defense Official: I don't have that here with me, but it's a matter of public record. So -- I mean, it's out there, I just don't have it with me.

Staff: There's a State Department website that lists the donations and what their status is. I don't know how -- what time it was put on the website, but they're responsible for posting it and then updating it. [The State Department website is http://www.state.gov/p/sa/ci/af/c8626.htm]

Senior Defense Official: Thank you, number three. (Laughs.)

Q: Thank you.

Senior Defense Official: All right, folks. Well, thank you.

Q: Thank you.


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