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DoD Newsbriefing: Saturday, April 27, 2002

DoD Newsbriefing: Saturday, April 27, 2002

Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense. DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Saturday, April 27, 2002. Joint media availability with Afghan Interim Authority Chairman Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Karzai: I am very glad today to have a very strong friend of Afghanistan, Secretary Rumsfeld, visit us in Kabul for the second time. The first time was in Bagram Air Base on a cold night in a small tent. Today is a better day. It's spring in the city of Kabul.

I must once again on behalf of the Afghan people thank the United States of America. To Secretary Rumsfeld, I thank Secretary Rumsfeld for the very straight, tough, clear action that you took against terrorism in Afghanistan, for the backing that you gave in the fight against terrorism, and for the backing you gave to the Afghan people in the fight against terrorism.

In this regard, another very significant step has been taken by the United States of America. When I was in Washington, President. Bush told me we will train your army, and that promise has been turned into the truth. Secretary Rumsfeld also reconfirmed today that the United States would train the Afghan army. He also had a very good exchange of views with Defense Minister General Fahim, who very soon will be a Marshal Fahim, for the services he has rendered in the fight against terrorism and all that, and I thought this was a good occasion to announce the help of the United States for the National Army in Afghanistan and the promotion of General Fahim to Marshal Fahim.

I must once again thank Secretary Rumsfeld for the fight against terrorism and for the help to the National Army of Afghanistan. This is a major, most important institution alongside the loya jirga that the U.S. is helping. So thank you very much and welcome to Kabul.

Rumsfeld: Thank you so much Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your hospitality. I have enjoyed my visits with soon to be Marshal Fahim and also with others of your ministers.

This is my second trip into Afghanistan as you suggested and I have also enjoyed seeing you in the United States. The purpose of my visit was to, of course, to meet with the United States forces as well as the coalition forces and to express my personal appreciation for what they are doing and the gratitude of President Bush and the American people. Second, to have a chance to meet with you and your ministers to discuss the security situation in the country, and the work that is going forward with respect to the boarder patrol and the police force, and as you point out, the National Army of Afghanistan. It is important.

Earlier today I had an opportunity to meet with many of the members of the International Security Assistance Force who have also been assisting in training and making sure progress there.

The development of a National Army is not an easy task. It is a task that you and your associates have very recently met on and come to some series of conclusions as to how it should be done. We are very pleased that coalition countries, including the French, have indicated their willingness to participate in this process. I know that the U.S. forces and the coalition forces look forward to working with you to achieve that goal. I thank you again for your hospitality.

Question: Mr. Chairman, you mentioned that spring has come to Afghanistan. Are you concerned that with spring and the warm weather, that the al Qaeda and Taliban who have apparently gone into hiding in the eastern mountains -- are you afraid at all or are you concerned that they will reconstitute, perhaps again launching serious attacks on your forces and on our allied forces?

Karzai: Well, there is no doubt that some of these people who are in hiding may try to commit acts of terrorism here and there. They may also try to regroup. But I am confident of the ability of our forces and of the coalition forces and of ISAF to fight them and remove them. So they may come, they may regroup, they may try to have terroristic activities here and there. But they will not be an element of instability. It will just be terrorism trying to make itself known in small ways.

Question: Secretary Rumsfeld, the Washington Times. In a press briefing in November you were asked about the progress in the fight against terrorism and you said, "We've killed a lot, but there are still a lot left." How many are left now, Mr. Secretary? How many have we actually killed?

Rumsfeld: Well, our goal has been to kill or capture all of them and we've been hard at it and we intend to stay at it until it's done. It was impossible to quantify the number back in November and it's still impossible to quantify the number, although I can tell you there's a lot are fewer of them today than there were then.

Question: Mr. Secretary, we've been talking with (inaudible) generals who are working out of Konduz who are saying it's impossible to end this battle against Taliban and al Qaeda without going personally into Pakistan. Do you agree with that sentiment and (inaudible) in Pakistan?

Rumsfeld: Was that at me?

Karzai: That's for you.

Rumsfeld: This country has porous borders, generally around 360 degrees. For many many decades, indeed centuries, people have been moving back and fourth. There's nothing new about that. The situation, to be honest, makes it a difficult situation. It does not make it an impossible situation.

And I will say this: the government of Pakistan has been enormously cooperative from the first day that they were contacted by the president of the United States. They are still being enormously cooperative. It is impossible in my view to perfectly seal these borders. However, it is not impossible to find concentrations of al Qaeda and Taliban and go after them and deal with them.

If Afghanistan were an island surrounded by water, it would be much easier. The fact that it is difficult does not mean it can't be done and it certainly does not mean we're going to stop trying to do it.

Question: Have you gone across the border?

Rumsfeld: I have a strange old-fashioned characteristic. I like to let other countries characterize what it is they are doing themselves rather than the United States trying to characterize it for them. I can only say this: I am very pleased with the level of their cooperation.

Question: Mr. Chairman, what is your view on whether the United States should go beyond its current level of support for the International Security Assistance Force? Should they take a more direct leap or step up to the plate, as one person once put it to Secretary Rumsfeld, to take the lead and participate in it more directly?

Karzai: The fact is that the United States is here with a considerable commitment to train the National Army of Afghanistan. It is taking that lead in providing the security for Afghanistan. So I would rather be inclined to see the United States train for Afghanistan a good, strong national army so that she can in the future fend for our own home.

Question: That seems different from what you've said before sir. You have called for an expansion of Afghan forces.

Karzai: Well, we didn't get that. Now we get the National Army so I support that.

Question: So that discussion is closed as far as you are concerned. There is no point in putting international peacekeepers outside of Kabul.

Karzai: Peacekeepers outside of Kabul. Now let me go into this question in detail again. If you will remember, ladies and gentlemen, my demand for substantial ISAF forces outside of Kabul, had been and is a repetition of the demand of the Afghan people who come and see me mostly in this very room that we are having the conference in now. I simply go and repeat that demand as a representative and as a spokesman for our people I have to do that.

Why the Afghan people asked for increased foreign troops in Afghanistan is because they believe in the presence of coalition forces and ISAF forces, which they see as the same. In the minds of the Afghan people there is no difference between the United States and ISAF force; they see it as the same force. They see it as a force that has fought terrorism, that has liberated them from the evils that were here. And they see this force, this force presence around them, as a guarantee of future security and safety in Afghanistan.

Now for us, as the government of Afghanistan, we are looking for instruments of stability and safety for Afghanistan, for the protection of our people. In the absence of the National Army of Afghanistan, of course we would ask for more presence of the coalition forces and of ISAF. But if we can get our own National Army, if the United States and the members of the friendly countries like France can train our army, why would we ask for an increased foreign troop presence in Afghanistan?

Question: Can you give us some more details about how they will be trained and funded, and whatever you've agreed on?

Karzai: Were you asking me or Secretary Rumsfeld? We are going to wish it upon the many Europeans. (Laughter)

Rumsfeld: We have had a great many discussions back in Washington and have been working with the Office of Management and Budget and the National Security Council to fashion an interagency arrangement. Because the way the Congress is organized and the way the budget is organized, there is not a particular category for helping to train and fund a national army for Afghanistan. That means that certain multiple pockets have to be reached into with the approval of the Congress. We've been going through that process and making good headway. So we believe there will be U.S. money that will be freed up in the immediate future to begin that process in May.

Second, Secretary Powell and the United States have been -- they did not host a donor's conference, they hosted an organizers' conference. If you recall, the Tokyo conference did not produce any funds for security. Of course, without security in a country not much else is possible. So at the donors conference, which is not a donors conference -- the organizing conference, which I recall was held in Geneva, not too long ago -- has started the process of trying to raise money specifically for the security circumstance in Afghanistan. And as that proceeds there will be a trust fund set up, that will assist in achieving the goal.

Now some work has already been done by ISAF, in the fact that they are training a small number of guards, and some work will be done by the United States separately and my understanding is that France has stepped forward and offered to assist as well. So what will evolve will be a fund that will help to develop and then sustain for a period an Afghan National Army, roughly along the lines that the Chairman and the Minister of Defense and their associates have come to decide in the recent weeks.

Question: Mr. Secretary, please be clear. Does the United States government have an agreement with Pakistan that would allow U.S. forces of any kind to operate in tribal areas, and if there is such an agreement, can you just describe for us what U.S. forces are doing or will be doing in those areas?

Rumsfeld: Did you just say could you just be clear? I was perfectly clear. I said that I allow other countries to characterize what it is they are doing, rather than the United States characterizing it for them. That is our policy. It has been our policy from the beginning. It is a good policy. It is a policy that is designed to get the maximum amount of help from countries across the globe so that we can pursue the global war on terrorism.

Question: Yes, but that doesn't answer the question. What is the United States doing in the tribal areas of Pakistan?

Rumsfeld: That would fall in the category of what other countries want to say about their contributions.

Question: But even if they're U.S. forces, Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yes. We have situations around the world where for whatever reason, the countries prefer to characterize what they're doing and what they are allowing other countries to do themselves. It is because each country is different. Each country has its own history, its own perspectives, and its own political sensitivities and from my standpoint, and from the standpoint of the United States, our interest is in finding the terrorists and rooting them out and stopping nations from being havens for terrorism.

We want to do that in ways that get the maximum amount of help from other countries. And if a country, for example, in Asia decides they would be happy to have us and share intelligence with us, but they would prefer not to tell the world they are sharing intelligence with us for whatever reason -- we say to them, fine, share the intelligence with us. Let's help find those people and we will not discuss whether or not you are sharing intelligence with us. It has been a good policy, it has been our policy from day one, it is working very well and I am quite comfortable with it.

Question: So are you saying that U.S. special forces and U.S. troops are not in the tribal areas of Pakistan?

Rumsfeld: You didn't hear me.

Karzai: One last question.

Question: Mr. Chairman, do you think that the leadership of the future army, and the various ethnic components, do you think there will be a problem with that?

Karzai: We have gone into detailed discussion of that in the past few days. It continues. Until the methods to get that for the Afghan National Army are discussed in detail, [I will only say] it will be a national army, and the term "national" signifies the need to establish an army that is representative of all the Afghan people.

Thank you very much.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).