SEC. RUMSFELD: Good afternoon. President Karzai and I just had a meeting. We welcome him back to Washington, D.C. He will be meeting with President Bush tomorrow and with other senior administration officials today and tomorrow. He recently visited Chicago, Illinois, so we know he's steeped in the great Midwest.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: In the great Midwest, I agree.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Under President Karzai's leadership, the Afghan people have made remarkable changes over the past two-and-a-half years. Just a few years ago, Afghanistan was of course a -- in effect, a police state that banned basic freedoms, treated women in inhuman ways, served as a haven for Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network. Today, Afghanistan is a member of the community of free nations.
I'm told that -- I've been there some six times since it was liberated during Operation Enduring Freedom. The progress I have seen on each visit compared to the visit before has been marked. The government is taking an increasing role in providing its own security. Currently, there are some 20 battalions of the new Afghan national army, and over 12,500 Afghan national police. NATO is expanding its presence outside of Kabul, and will explore other ways to assist the Afghan national government. Our coalition has established a number of provincial reconstruction teams. They are working very closely with the central government. President Karzai has appointed a number of new provincial governors, and they are working closely with the so- called PRTs.
Construction of the critically important ring road is well underway, linking major Afghan cities and other areas to help facilitate commerce, security, attract foreign investment and better unify the country.
Most importantly, the Afghans have approved a constitution that will protect the rights of the citizens, including women, and balances power between the president, the parliament and the independent judiciary. It respects tradition, yet it establishes foundation for modern political rights. Direct presidential elections will be held in the coming months to choose the first freely elected leader of the new Afghan nation.
The movement to democracy is always difficult, and especially so in a country that endured some 23 years of war, five years of Taliban repression, occupation and I believe some seven years of severe drought. The United States and our coalition partners are committed to helping the Afghan people accomplish the task of building their new nation, and certainly the entire world has a stake in their success.
Mr. President, we thank you for your able leadership and the progress you're making. We look forward to continuing to work with you.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Secretary Rumsfeld. It's a tremendous pleasure and honor to be visiting the United States again. And today, for me to visit the site of the tragic incident of the day of September 11 reminded me once again that we are -- oops -- (interrupted by helicopter noise) -- you see that too often in Afghanistan --
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
PRESIDENT KARZAI: -- that we are -- reminded me once again that we must together, the whole mankind, work toward the complete defeat of terrorism around the world. We must not allow again for terrorism to either kill people in Afghanistan or destroy lives there or prevent progress there. And we must not allow them in America. We must not allow them every other place in the world.
Today, I'm here in America to thank the American people for what they have done for us in the past two years, and to express to them what we have achieved, our difficulties and our way forward.
Thank you very much, Mr. Rumsfeld.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: It's good to see you again. Thank you. Thank you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.
We'll take a few questions.
Q President Karzai, I have a question for you. Bob Burns from Associated Press.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Please.
Q The U.S. military announced today in Afghanistan that it's implementing some changes in the way it handles prisoners, detainees in Afghanistan under U.S. control. Have you been briefed on those changes, and do they go far enough, in your view?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Well, I haven't heard that yet. We discussed various other issues today at our meeting -- the training of the Afghan army and all that. And the question of treatment of the prisoners, whatever changes they are making to make life easier and better for them, is something that we will appreciate and welcome.
SEC. RUMSFELD: If people have questions, why don't they come over to the mike?
Q Mr. President, I'm Tom Squitieri with USA Today. One of the issues that people who support the progress in Afghanistan complain about is that the problems and challenges and progress in Afghanistan is being obscured or forgotten on Capitol Hill and among others in Washington. Do you concur with that? And if so, how do you make sure that the ongoing needs of your country are heard and dealt with? Thank you.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: People in Afghanistan know very well that the United States government stayed with us. There was a fear just before the operations began in Iraq that Afghanistan might be forgotten. But fortunately for us in Afghanistan, that did not happen. The attention of the United States remained on Afghanistan, and we saw that there was an increased attention to Afghanistan last year and this year. We have increased budget allocations for Afghanistan, we have had increased reconstruction assistance for Afghanistan. We have had more training and more help to the Afghan police and the national army of Afghanistan. So as a matter of fact, Afghanistan has remained stronger, higher on the agenda of the U.S. government and also the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
Q Mr. President, Brian Harper with ABC News. How can you achieve your goal to eradicate the poppy crop without alienating some of the warlords and other provincial leaders and farmers that you need to support your government?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Well, the fight against poppies is the fight for Afghanistan. And no matter who or how, we will not allow this to continue. Poppies criminalize the Afghan economy; poppies prevent the institution-building in Afghanistan; poppies go hand in hand with terrorism, it feeds them; and it also helps regional or private militias in Afghanistan. There is no way that we can allow poppies to stay on. We have to destroy. And we need strong consistent international support for that.
Q Mr. President, Jeannie Ohm with NBC News. Will you be making a specific request during your visit to Washington for more U.S. troops or more international troops, especially as you approach those September elections?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: We will not be having a specific request for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The United States is already busy in Afghanistan helping us in reconstruction and helping us fight terrorism and helping us secure our borders. But we are expecting, ma'am, the deployment of NATO to occur in Afghanistan and to fulfill the promise that we have been made. We are hoping that NATO will come to Afghanistan, especially before the elections of September.
Q If I could ask both of you, particularly standing in this place today, what are your personal feelings, your gut feelings, both of you? Will you ever get Osama bin Laden?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: You first.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I'll go first.
Yes, we will.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: All nations, yours and ours, have had fugitives in our histories, and has a fugitive run forever? No, at least not in my country. So he's a fugitive right now. He's hiding somewhere and he's on the run, and we are after him. We'll catch him one day, sooner or later.
Q Mr. Secretary, Will Dunham with Reuters. Is torture justified under any circumstances?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Our view in the United States has been that we adhere to the Geneva Convention, and we adhere to the laws of the land. And that means that torture is not permitted under the laws of the United States or under the Geneva Convention. It's required that people that are in custody be treated in a humane way. The only -- and I think that's probably the complete answer to your question.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Okay.
SEC. RUMSFELD: We'll take one more question. Pam.
Q Sir, Pam Hess with United Press International. I'd like to follow up on that.
While that is the stated policy of the United States, memos and legal documents outlining possible defenses in the event of a torture case coming to a criminal court have been revealed, and it creates an impression that maybe there's some wiggle room in the definition of torture, or in this administration's attitude towards it. So could you address the apparent daylight between those two stands?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there's certainly no, as you used the phrase, "wiggle room" in the president's mind or in my mind.
The only thing I would say is that there are people who have suggested, for example -- and I'll use this by way of illustration -- that a person being held in, for the sake of argument, Guantanamo, who does not know how long they will be held, some people would characterize that as the uncertainty of not knowing when they might be tried or released as a form of mental torture. Therefore, that word gets used by some people in a way that is fair from their standpoint, but doesn't fit a dictionary definition of the word that one would normally accept.
So the answer to your question is no. There is no wiggle room in the president's mind or my mind about torture. That is not something that's permitted under the Geneva Convention or the laws of the United States. That is not to say that somebody else couldn't characterize something in a way that would fit what I described.
Thank you very much, folks.
STAFF: All right. Thank you very much. Thank you. ####
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