(Note: President Karzai’s opening remarks were made through an interpreter.)
PRESIDENT KARZAI: I will say a few words first. In the name of Allah the most merciful, the most compassionate. Dear journalists, ladies and gentlemen. Today it’s a great pleasure to have Afghanistan’s old friend, Mr. Rumsfeld, the United States Secretary of Defense. He has come to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and I think it’s his eleventh trip to Afghanistan, and I’ve told him to visit more and through his trips assure Afghans and In shah Allah he will do it. We have discussed U.S. cooperation with Afghanistan in different aspects especially in the training and equipment of Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police as well as our combined effort to fight terrorism in the region. Fortunately in this discussion, like our previous discussions, the U.S. government pledged its long term commitment and presence to Afghanistan. The U.S. will continue its support in building government institutions. Once again, I would like to welcome him to Afghanistan and through him; we would like to convey our message to the people of America that Afghans deeply appreciate their help in liberating Afghanistan from terrorists. Thank you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Mr. President, thank you very much. It’s good to be back. As always, we’ve had very good meetings and discussions. I commended the leadership of President Karzai and his team on the truly historic accomplishments that have been achieved during the past five years, four years.
I think that just a few short years ago what was happening with this country with the al Qaeda and the Taliban brutalizing the Afghan people and attacking innocent men, women, and children in the United States, and today, the terrorist training camps have been shut down, soccer stadiums are being used for soccer instead of executions and this is certainly a tribute to the people of Afghanistan.
Today, I’ve been meeting with those individuals from the United States at the Embassy and the military who are assisting in Coalition efforts. I’ve also been meeting with the NATO forces, the International Assistance Security Forces (ISAF).
I get asked from time to time -- is the fact that NATO coming in -- meaning the Unites States is going to leave and lose their interest, and the answer is an emphatic no. This is an effort by NATO that is the first time in the history of that alliance that it has undertaken this responsibility in a country outside of Europe, outside of the NATO treaty area. It brings the interest and the commitment of some 26 nations that are determined to see Afghanistan succeed and the Afghan people succeed.
Further, the United States will continue with its counter-terrorism efforts; working with the Afghan security forces; will continue working with the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior on strengthening the Afghan security forces.
And it should be noted we will continue as a significant factor in the International Security Assistance Force because the United States is after all, a major portion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. So I can assure you, that the United States will continue to be interested, involved and committed to success here.
Thank you Mr. President.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: You’re welcome, sir. Questions? Let’s take the international side first.
Q: Bob Burns, Associated Press. Mr. President, in your view, what accounts for -- what explains the surge in Taliban violence recently? Why now? And are you asking the United States to help more in that regard either by sending more troops or in some other way?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: The increase in terrorist activity in Afghanistan, and especially in parts of the country, have both internal and external reasons. The internal reasons are the weakness of police forces in the districts of the country. Especially in the areas of the country bordering Pakistan -- we have no strong police force in the villages. So the reform of the police and the strengthening of the police force will go a long way in improving the situation there.
There are several other reasons as well. Those reasons are the continuation of supply, ideological motivation, training grounds and all that for terrorists and radical elements that I have spoken about earlier, that I have spoken about with our allies. And we’re working on both the fronts now in Afghanistan, with the help of our international friends to overcome and improve.
Q: The U.S. role?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: The U.S. role is critical here. Without the United States, Afghanistan would have not been a free country today. Without the United States, Afghanistan would have, even now, been ruled by al Qaeda and terrorism. Our children would not have been in school. There would have not been a democracy here. We would not have a Parliament. We would have not had a free press and all the other associated accomplishments with it. We would not have been traveling on asphalted roads from one point to other points of the country. So a lot has been achieved.
I was in a province in the northeastern part of the country the other day and I saw that within 20 kilometers there were three newly built schools and a faculty of engineering -- of agriculture coming up. Without the U.S. all of this achievement would have not been there. Rather, we would have been living a very miserable life here.
So if the question is whether we still need the U.S. assistance: very, very much; whether we still need the U.S. assurance: very, very much; whether we still need the U.S. participation: very strongly, yes.
Q.: Do you need more?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes much more.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: And we will keep asking for more, and we will never stop asking.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: You want to pick out the next question from the Afghan side?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, no. I’ve been asked questions by some of those folks before...and I’d rather have you select them.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: All right. Give the ladies a chance.
Q: Lailuma Saeedi from Pajhwak Afghan News: The violence is increasing from beyond the borders of Afghanistan and southern Afghanistan – what do you think about this? What do you think is the increase of insurgents? Do you think the insurgents are rising from Pakistan? We should stress to Pakistan to decrease insurgents in Afghanistan. Is the fight on terror successful or not? Thank you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think that we have seen changes in the level of violence with the number of incidents that occur in Afghanistan. To some extent it’s seasonal. We know that during some portions of the year it tends to decline and some portions it goes up.
I also would say that I think our accounting and our ability to keep track of the number of incidents is improving, and so that may contribute to some extent.
I also agree that there is no question but that there is some cross-border activity – Taliban and al Qaeda and that the cooperation that we have with some of the neighbors has been helpful but it has not as yet completely reduced the cross-border violence, and it is something that needs to continue to be worked on both sides of the border.
I know that General Eikenberry and his team meet regularly with the Afghan security forces and with Pakistan security forces and have developed a cooperative relationship, which has improved the situation, but not eliminated it.
Q: Since 2002, the armed opposition to Afghanistan’s government were and is strengthening day by day. That is playing a huge role nowadays, especially the explosions – last explosions in Kabul and all over the country. What do you think is the manufacturer of this? And number two, will the armed opposition be with the Afghan government or will they continue with the opposition. How much are you cooperating with the coming government of Afghanistan? Thank you.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: This is a very new television station that has just opened up a month ago. Two months ago? Well, a lot of progress. This is a sign of progress. To see young Afghan girls work like that in television’s good.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well congratulations.
I think you said that the armed opposition since 2002 has been steadily increasing.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes, that’s what she said
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don’t know that that’s the case. My impression is that the number of incidents has fluctuated. They have fluctuated seasonally and they have fluctuated somewhat by years.
I think you then asked, “What is the main reason for this?” And I think that I would -- I answered that to some extent in my earlier response when I indicated that I believe our accounting is more inclusive today than it was in earlier periods. I also think that the levels of incidents are up because of the level of activity.
Part of that is a result of the fact that the Afghan security forces and the Coalition forces and the International Security Assistance Forces have been putting pressure and moving into places that they had not previously been.
I would also say that there’s probably one other reason, and that is the people are determined to spread violent extremism around the world are people who are determined. They do not like to see a country like Afghanistan become a successful democracy, and they would like to do everything they can to try to stop it. They’re not going to succeed.
They tried to succeed in preventing the Afghan people from voting, from crafting a constitution, from electing a parliament, from electing a president and they failed in every instance. But they’re determined to try to prevent success here. And I think what it will take is some time. It will take growing numbers and better equipped Afghan security forces over time and it will take the cooperation, as President Karzai indicated, of the International Security Assistance Force and the Coalition countries to do everything possible to see that their effort continues to fail.
Q: Mr Secretary, in comments to us on Sunday and Monday you said that Europe should be doing more to help Afghanistan combat the drug trade. I’m hoping you can expand on that and tell us what you think Europe should be doing that Europe is not doing now?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The drug trade in Afghanistan is a danger to Afghanistan, to be sure. It is also a danger to Western Europe and to Russia and the countries that these drugs flow into. It’s a danger to their people.
It seems to me that it is important for them to recognize that it is a lot cheaper and a lot less expensive for them to assist the Afghan government in providing a master overall plan for dealing with the counter narcotic effort than it is to try to cope with the results and the effects of drugs addicting their people.
So my hope is that we can organize and work with them.
There are already a number of countries that are assisting, and it’s important, I think, that the level of assistance go up because it’s clear that the level of drug production is going up. And that is a danger to them.
Q: Mr. Defense Minister, earlier reports said the U.S. will cut troops in Afghanistan but sadly Afghanistan has suffered more violence this year. So will the U.S. cut or increase troops here?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Does everyone get two or three questions?
Q: A short question, OK?
Q: NATO troops will take command of the anti-terror war in southern Afghanistan in late July. And some say that’s because the United States can’t deal with Iraq and Afghanistan problems at the same time. The U.S. military is moving a little backward in Afghanistan. What do you think of this thing?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s incorrect.
The first thing I would say is that the United States has increased or decreased troops from time to time both in Afghanistan and Iraq depending on the conditions on the ground. And there are three elements that comprise the security forces for Afghanistan: the Afghan security forces, which are growing in number and growing in competence and experience and respect -- as they should; the International Security Assistance Force, which is growing in numbers; and the Coalition forces, including the United States, that has been, if I’m not mistaken, fairly level – I don’t know where General Eikenberry is, but – over some period of time.
LT. GEN. KARL EIKENBERY: That’s correct.
We have tended to bulk up the number of U.S. forces from time to time when there was an election or when there was some event that we felt merited a higher level of forces.
With respect to the management of forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we originally, I think, had something like 160,000 troops in Iraq -- we’re now down to something like 129,000, I think. And we have increased it and decreased it depending on the situation there.
Currently we have something like 21,000 or 22,000 troops in Afghanistan. And we have – oh, I’m going to be close enough -- something like 2.5 million forces that we can call on if you take the active force of 1.4 million and then add the Reserve components and the National Guard and the Individual Ready Reserve.
So at the present time, we’re using in Iraq, for example – something like 19% of the forces there are from the Guard or Reserve.
So it is just simply not correct that we do not have the capabilities to manage these two circumstances effectively.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Last question -- BBC?
Q: Mr. Rumsfeld, you have already made some explanation regarding the last violence in the country, especially in the south of the country. But looking to that violence and insurgency, some observers from inside and outside the country are thinking that the U.S. troops are losing slowly, losing the game day by day. What do you think of that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the word. “Losing” is what you said?
Q: Losing the game.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Losing the game.
Q: Losing the fight.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Against terrorism. That’s what he means.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh.
Well I think if you look at the number of terrorists and Taliban and al Qaeda that are being killed every month, it would be hard for them to say that the Coalition forces and the Afghan security forces were losing.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Let me add something to this.
Now there may be attacks -- there may be an increase in the number of incidents of attacks, but the winning party is clear. The winning party is the Afghan nation and the international coalition.
You take into account from day one when the operation against terrorism began in Afghanistan in 2001. They were defeated in a month and a half. They ran away without much force used because the Afghan people chased them out.
And again they tried as Secretary Rumsfeld said, for every important event to harass or stop success. They failed.
Afghanistan has now all the institutions it should have had. Afghanistan’s economy has gone much better. Afghanistan’s foreign currency reserves of $170 million in 2002 are now over $1.9 billion dollars. These institutions are now getting stronger. The country is moving forward.
We will continue to suffer at the hands of terrorism, as they would not want us to succeed further, or as they would want us to suffer as we move forward because they are being defeated.
Their defeat is certain. What we are trying to achieve is to make their defeat sooner for us and for the rest of the world.
And so the war against terrorism is not losing. It has won already. The remnants are there that we must clear out. I think that’s enough. On a good note.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: All right. Thank you, gentlemen, ladies. Thank you.
Handshake? Yes. (for the cameras)
SEC. RUMSFELD: We can do that.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Handshake, yes. Questions, no.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: All right.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.