(Also participating was Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photos from the press conference are available at http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/Sep2003/030907-F-2828D-204.html and http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/Sep2003/030907-F-2828D-090.html.)
President Karzai: Ladies and gentlemen, we are very pleased to have Secretary Rumsfeld visiting us again here in Kabul under a watery, rainy condition for this time of the year which is good too -- he brings us some rain today. [Laughter] And this visit to Afghanistan that he had is one that he decided to visit Gardez Province which he'll talk about, [now that] he went there.
He comes with a very good message from Washington, that of continued support to Afghanistan and probably more support to Afghanistan. We discussed among ourselves various issues that are between the two countries -- the continuation of the fight against terrorism, the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the training of the national army, the DGR and other issues, the PRC especially, of significant importance to us.
We discussed also the progress that we've made together in Afghanistan, the better economy in Afghanistan, the reconstruction of highways. On all of those discussions we had good notes. We also discussed some of the difficulties that we have, the continuation of terrorist activity in Afghanistan, the lawlessness at times in parts of the country, and we will be working together to fight terrorism to the very end and completely. That is something that we are not going to be soft against even for the fraction of a second.
I welcome him again. I asked him when he is going back home to Washington he should take our greetings from here to President Bush, and also we would like Mrs. Bush to visit Afghanistan. I hope she will accept our invitation. The Afghan women would like to see her.
Rumsfeld: Mr. President, thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be back with you. And good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
Each time I come back, and I guess this is my fourth trip in something less than probably a year and a half, I see progress here. I see a greater amount of economic activity. I see improved security. And it is reassuring and I certainly congratulate you and your team on the work that's being done.
The efforts to build a moderate democratic government that is representative of all the people in this country, that is opposed to terrorism and terrorists is an important effort and certainly the United States of America fully supports that effort.
I mentioned to President Karzai that President Bush will be speaking Sunday evening East Coast time and is focusing his remarks on the global war on terrorism and the efforts that the United States and Coalition governments are making here in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq and elsewhere around the world.
We discussed the progress that's being made with respect to Provincial Reconstruction Teams. As the President said, earlier today our delegation did go down to Gardez. We met with the PRT there and believe that that effort which has now been broadened to other parts of the country and has been internationalized with other nations taking both the lead and participating, is a good thing for the people of this country and we're encouraged to continue and expand it.
Recently Coalition forces and troops have been, as well as the new Afghan Army, I should say, have been launching major operations -- one called Warrior Sweep; one called Mountain Viper -- to track down terrorists and Taliban in this country. I received a report today from one of the Special Forces element that was working with the new Afghan Army. They had good success and were most encouraged.
I also want to mention that later this afternoon I'll be meeting with the new International Security Assistance Force, ISAF force, commander. It is a significant event that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has taken over the responsibility for ISAF. It is I say significant, I think it's a good thing for Afghanistan to have that important international organization participating directly. It's also a good thing for NATO. It is the first NATO activity outside of Europe in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Given the nature of the world and the importance of peace and stability to all of our countries, I think the fact that the nations of North America and Europe combined, now 19 countries growing soon to 26 countries, have made that decision that they wanted to participate directly here in this country is, as I say, important not just for Afghanistan but it's important for the Alliance because it is charting a path I believe for the future of the Alliance.
The last thing I would say is that we are most interested in the steps that the government of Afghanistan has been taking to strengthen the provincial governments, to extend the reach of the national government through a variety of ways including the Provincial Reconstruction Teams throughout the country. And I congratulate the government and offer our continued support, interest in, and good wishes.
Thank you, sir.
Q: Mr. President, the enemy fighters that have been gathering in recent weeks on your eastern border. Your perception of that. What are your concerns about that border? And do you think Pakistan is doing enough to hunt down Taliban and al Qaeda fighters?
Karzai: We are definitely concerned about the increased activity of the Taliban on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. We are having a mechanism that's called the Tripartheid Arrangement between Afghanistan, the United States and Pakistan. We've been discussing the developments in that mechanism. I'm also in touch with President Musharraf. He has promised that everything will be done to stop terrorist activities to Afghanistan. We are hoping that this cooperation will increase further between Afghanistan and Pakistan and also with the United States we believe that a joint fight against terrorism between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the United States and the rest of the region is entirely, absolutely, in absolute terms in the interest of all the countries and international peace.
So we are hopeful that the stricter approach by Pakistan against the Taliban, incursions into Afghanistan, against terrorism, will produce the desired results.
Q: Mr. Secretary, [inaudible] from the Kabul Times.
Do you sir have a method for the Afghans regarding the [inaudible] Afghan problem with the border infiltration? Anything more than the joint [inaudible], the joint commitment? Do you think that you want to chase al Qaeda, Taliban, as they cross the border into Pakistan?
Rumsfeld: As the president said we do have a joint arrangement where we are cooperating, and I wouldn't want to make any announcements on behalf of Afghanistan or Pakistan in that regard. It is something that requires continuing attention. It's happening all across the globe. It proves the point that the global war on terror is not a problem in one country or for one country. It is a problem that crosses borders, not just that border but other borders of Afghanistan. It crosses borders in other countries. In fact I could name five, six or seven countries where borders are actively used to advantage the terrorists. It is a very difficult problem for both countries and for the Coalition which is now 90 countries involved in this global war on terror. It's a very difficult problem for the Coalition because of the complexities of these cross-border operations.
Q: [inaudible] What do you see the challenges, sir, in terms of physical reconstruction?
Karzai: Would you like to speak on physical reconstruction?
Rumsfeld: I'd be happy to, Mr. President.
In the last analysis the task is to create an environment that's hospitable for people, for investment, for enterprise, for commerce. That is where the physical reconstruction comes from. It comes from that constant.
There are some very positive indicators in this country. One is just driving down the street and seeing the economic activity that's taking place. Second, I talked to the charge' here about the fact that refugees are still returning to this country. They're voting with their feet. They're saying yes, we believe in the future of this country.
With their presence and with their investment and with their economic energy and activity and vitality which is there for people to see, we're going to see a continued growth and improvement, I believe, in this country.
Now what are the kinds of things that can be done? The Provincial Reconstruction Teams are going out into, not here in Kabul but out across the country into what, six or eight locations soon, five already, with as we saw today in Gardez, with the task of helping people. Not doing the whole job, but helping people see that schools are fixed, that wells are dug, that roads are made, that hospitals are repaired and supplied, and that generators exist and those types of things which can make a measurable difference in people's lives and further contribute to the desire on the part of people to want to return to this country and be a part of its success in the future.
Karzai: I'd like to add to this very important question, the importance of physical reconstruction in Afghanistan is the primary interest of the Afghan people. The reconstruction of Afghan highways all over the country is of extreme importance. The work on the highways has already shortened the distance in terms of time for the Afghan people which is a tremendous value. And the Afghans that have come here from all over the country in the past few months have shown extreme happiness that reconstruction of the highways is going on.
Reconstruction on [other fields] is also going on and we'd like to have it increased. We'd like to have it added to. That's what the Afghan people want.
By the example of the desire of the Afghan people to make their life good, I'd like to talk about the burning of a school a week ago in [Logar]. One night the school was burned, which was a tent. One night the tent was burned. The next morning the little girls did not stop going to school. They all lined up and sat there and studied. And if AP is around here I'd like to thank them for having taken that photograph of the students, the little girls studying. So that's the importance of education reconstruction to Afghan people and we're grateful that the world is helping us and that the U.S. has decided to do more on the reconstruction of Afghanistan, especially in the physical reconstruction which also includes of course institutions.
Q: Mr. Defense Secretary, you have been saying that security has improved in this country. This month the U.S. troops along with the Afghan National Army has been engaged in the most intense battle since the fall of the Taliban. Do you think 10,000 troops as opposed to 136,000 which is engaged in Iraq is enough to truly provide security in this country?
Also you touched on the subject of NATO taking over ISAF. The Afghan people will have time and time appealed for an expansion of ISAF. Do you think now that we'll have that?
Rumsfeld: I certainly agree that an expansion of ISAF would be a good thing and I know that President Karzai and others from time to time have raised that issue with the nations that have been participating.
For whatever reason, there have not been countries lining up to expand ISAF. It may vary from country to country, but we have encouraged it, President Karzai has encouraged it, and I don't want to suggest I can see into the future but it strikes me that some of the things -- the fact that NATO has done what they have done and the fact that there is some discussion about some broader participation in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, that there is at least the possibility that we could see somewhat of an expansion.
I would add however, that in the last analysis the security in Afghanistan is the responsibility of the Afghan people. The presence of foreign forces is a helpful thing for a period. It is an important thing for a period. But it is an anomaly. It is not a natural circumstance and no country wants foreign forces in their country interminably. They want to contribute to an environment that the country can develop its own security capabilities -- police, border guards, army, civil defense capabilities -- and then transition those Afghan security capabilities into the full responsibility.
I don't personally believe that the comparison that you cast or suggested, which is an understandable one, is appropriate. I think the circumstances here are dramatically different than they are in Iraq.
Karzai: Thank you very much.