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18 July 2002

Wolfowitz Tells Troops U.S. Not An"Army of Occupation"in Afghanistan

(Expresses concern over loss of innocent lives) (3040)
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told American military
personnel in Afghanistan that a fundamental principle of the U.S.
mission in the country was its function as an "army of liberation, not
an army of occupation."
Speaking at a town hall meeting at Bagram Air Base July 12, Wolfowitz
said that principle means "we are always going to be working as
closely as we can with the central government and with the local
authorities in Afghanistan."
In reference to a July 1 incident in which Afghan civilians were
killed in a U.S. military operation, the deputy secretary said that
while the United States had no regrets in taking action against
terrorists or those who harbor them, "we are always concerned when we
believe that we may have killed innocent people."
Describing Afghanistan as a "challenged country" due to twenty years
of civil war, Wolfowitz said that helping the Afghans "to liberate
themselves and when liberated, to be successful," could send a message
to other Muslims that would to counter the appeal of terrorist
organizations such as al Qaeda.
"We need to stick to this task over a long period of time. And it
includes not only just fighting terrorists . it's building a better
world beyond the war on terrorism. And that's a big job, but . I think
our country and our coalition partners together are up to it," said
Wolfowitz.
When asked about possible U.S. military action in Iraq, Wolfowitz said
that due to the Iraqi regime's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,
the situation is "too dangerous to ignore. It's too dangerous to leave
alone, it's too dangerous to wait for ten years for them to hit us."
However, he repeated that the United States does not currently have a
plan to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
When Iraq eventually becomes free and democratic after Saddam's regime
is removed, Wolfowitz said, "I think it can make a positive
contribution to a whole range of problems in the Middle East."
"I think it will be another act of liberation," he said. "We are
talking about one of the most important countries in the Arab world
with some of the most talented people in the Arab world."
Following are excerpts from Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz's town hall
meeting in Bagram, Afghanistan:
(begin excerpt)
Q: (inaudible) Are we currently planning any operations in Iraq? And
if so, when do you foresee U.S. deployment (inaudible).
Wolfowitz: You know it's a very important subject and let me say this.
The President of the United States has said very clearly, starting
with the State of Union message -- and he's repeated it over and over
again, including at the commencement address at West Point -- that we
have, as a country, a serious problem. He identified it in terms of
those three countries -- and I would say particularly Iraq -- that are
hostile to the United States, that support terrorists, that have
chemical, biological and perhaps nuclear weapons and are working every
day to acquire more of them. And, basically, what the President said
is that is too dangerous to ignore. It's too dangerous to leave alone,
it's too dangerous to wait for ten years for them to hit us. You know,
if we had known about September 11th, maybe we would have been here in
Afghanistan two years ago instead of now. But September 11th was
nothing compared to what attack with chemical or biological, or, God
forbid, nuclear weapons would be.
So what the President has said to the country -- and frankly to the
whole world -- is we have a problem and we are not going to wait
forever to solve it. But he has not made any final decisions about
what the way is ahead and that's why I couldn't answer your questions
even in the most classified briefing possible, because there aren't
answers yet.
In fact, I'm going to two places on this trip: here in Afghanistan and
then after we're done here this evening we're going to go to Turkey to
talk to officials in the Turkish Government, because the Turks think
we've decided, (but) we haven't decided anything yet. We want to start
talking to them, because they understand a lot about Iraq, a lot about
how one could bring about a change in Iraq and they have a huge
interest in what comes afterwards.
Let me say one other thing. I think it's a lot harder to figure out
how to achieve our goal of changing that regime than it is to think
about what's going to come afterwards. Because what's going to come
afterwards is going to be a benefit, I think, not only to people of
Iraq, not only to remove a great danger to the people of the United
States. But I think it will be another act of liberation. We are
talking about one of the most important countries in the Arab world
with some of the most talented people in the Arab world.
Unfortunately, two or three million of them are in exile because of
the government in Baghdad. When that country is free and democratic, I
think it can make a positive contribution to a whole range of problems
in the Middle East. So, it's going to be a difficult job getting
there, but I have no doubt that the result is going to be something
that is positive, just as the result here is something that is very
positive.
Wolfowitz:  Who else wants to try one?
Q:  (inaudible)
Wolfowitz: In case you didn't hear. The question was how do we stop
the ideas of terrorists from filtering down to younger generations so
we don't have to keep coming back to Afghanistan or to other places.
It's a terrific question. It's a very fundamental question. It doesn't
have a single, simple answer in my view. But I do believe -- I've said
this in other places -- that there is a gap, a dangerous gap, between
what we call the west -- but the west is really the democratic nations
-- and the Muslim world. But it's not a gap that is inevitable; it's
not a gap that I believe should be the way it is.
I was the American Ambassador for three years in Indonesia and some of
you may know it's the fourth largest country in the world. And it has
the largest Muslim population of any country in the world. Nearly 200
million Muslims in that country alone. And I know from that
experience, just speaking of Indonesia alone, that most of those
people do not aspire to follow the path of the terrorists. They aspire
to the same kinds of benefits that we enjoy living in a free society.
As I said I'm going to be in Turkey tomorrow, spend a lot of time in
Turkey. Turkey is one of the few democratic countries in the Muslim
world. And it has been, I think, though it's still got a lot of
problems, it's been a success story.
What we need to do, I think, is to confront the terrorists with more
success stories. Help Muslim countries to liberate themselves and when
liberated, to be successful. And that -- look, Afghanistan comes from
20 years of civil war and it wasn't a very advanced country before all
that began. So it's a very challenged country. But, success in
Afghanistan, I believe, is something that can also send a message that
counters the message of the terrorists. So it's -- you know, Rumsfeld
has said at times that -- don't make the mistake that this war on
terrorism is something that's going to be over in six months or a
year. It's going to be a long struggle. Maybe not as long as the Cold
War, but it doesn't hurt to think about the Cold War.
Our country, despite what everybody says about us, has had the ability
to stick to a task over a long period of time. We need to stick to
this task over a long period of time. And it includes not only just
fighting terrorists, but what the President has said -- it's the broad
answer to your question -- it's building a better world beyond the war
on terrorism. And that's a big job, but I think our country is up to
it. I should say, more precisely, I think our country and our
coalition partners together are up to it, because we're not going to
do it by ourselves.
Wolfowitz: Speaking of which, any non-American coalition partner wants
to ask a question or make a statement? I can take statements back,
too. Anybody else? Right there. Speak up.
Q:  (inaudible)
Wolfowitz: The question was: do I see foot soldiers going into
Pakistan? Of course, we have soldiers in Pakistan doing support
missions. I know you mean something different. You mean in there on
combat missions.
Obviously, that border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan on both
sides is enormously important. It's wild country; it's a place where
terrorists and other bad guys can hide. We've had fantastic
cooperation from the Pakistanis from the beginning.
I must say I think several things in this operation have surprised the
terrorists. I think one thing that surprised them was that they
thought there'd be 100,000 American troops in here and they'd be
killing us in large numbers. I think we surprised them with our
military operation.
But another thing I think we surprised them with was what President
Musharraf in Pakistan has stepped up to. I think they figured we
wouldn't be getting help from anybody, much less Pakistan. The help
we've gotten from Pakistan is fantastic. The coordination along the
border with Pakistan is fantastic. And to be honest, I prefer to leave
it there, because I think there are a lot of things about that
cooperation that are best kept confidential.
-----
Q: (inaudible) A few young soldiers and a few old soldiers would like
to know how long do we anticipate being here? What I'm asking is this
(inaudible) Bosnia - a buildup where we're looking at rotations year
after year after year until the job's done? And the second part of the
question is: when do we think that the Afghani Government will be
self-sufficient on it's own so it can run its own country?
Wolfowitz: It's a great question. I wish it had a simple answer. But
we will be here as long as it takes to do the job. We will be doing
rotations so no single individual will be here that long. But unlike
Kosovo or Bosnia, this is a mission of national self-defense. It's
even more important than Kosovo and Bosnia.
And the part of your question that referred to when will the Afghan
Government be self-sufficient is a very important piece of this issue.
One of the things I'm looking forward to doing today is meeting with
the people who are training the Afghan National Army. And that is
going to be a critical piece of giving the Afghan authorities the
ability to provide security for themselves in this country.
I'm also going to be meeting with the Turkish Commander of the ISAF,
the Security Assistance Force in Kabul. They perform, I think, a
crucial function in protecting stability in the capital.
It's much too early, I believe, to predict when the training of the
Afghan National Army will reach self-sufficiency. It's much too early
to predict when it will no longer be necessary to have an ISAF in
Kabul. And unfortunately it's even still too early to predict when our
main job here, which is killing and capturing terrorists and Taliban,
will be finished.
I think what we can say is on every one of those fronts we're making
progress. But, some realism is needed. This is a country that's been
through 20 years of civil war. It's beaten up badly; there is a lot of
work to be done and the problems are not going to be solved overnight.
So it's important to pace ourselves; it's important to make sure that
we keep things moving forward. But the stakes here are simply huge. I
mean, we saw it on September 11th and we can't let it be repeated.
-----
Q: Pamela Constable from the Washington Post. You spoke of the need to
maintain the gratitude and cooperation of the Afghan people during a
terrorist campaign. And, I think, for the most part, you've had a lot
of that. Recently there have been some incidents that have begun to
undermine some of that gratitude and cooperation. I'm speaking, of
course, particularly of the air attack (inaudible). Recently -- six
governors in the South, who have had a meeting and said no more U.S.
aircraft (inaudible), no more U.S. air raids unless we go with them.
I'd like to ask you, are you concerned about (inaudible)?
Wolfowitz: We are always concerned when we believe that we may have
killed innocent people. And we think that probably happened in that
incident and we deeply regret that. But we have no regrets whatsoever
about going after terrorists, or people who harbor terrorists. And we
have really very little doubt that there were such people in that
area. It was a combat zone. Bad things happen in combat zones.
We are doing everything we can to find out exactly what happened and
to try in the future to make sure, to the extent we possibly can, that
innocent people aren't killed. But we have no regrets about going
after bad guys. And there were some there.
So, General McNeil and his people are investigating that incident
very, very carefully. It unfortunately takes a lot longer to get at
the truth than it does to spread initial reports. Initial reports are
usually wrong. The truth is harder to come by.
I think a fundamental principle is the one I said earlier that we're
here as an army of liberation, not an army of occupation. And it means
that we are always going to be working as closely as we can with the
central government and with the local authorities in Afghanistan to
try to make sure that we maintain that kind of support. That people
understand that we are here to help, not to hurt them. But when there
are bad people around we've got to go after them.
Q: (inaudible) from CNN. As the majority of al Qaeda - at least in
large groups here - seem to have gone or been defeated, how do you see
the role of the forces here changing, given what you have said here -
the necessity of providing stability for this government here?
Wolfowitz: First of all, I guess I can't agree with the premise that
they're defeated. We've made huge inroads, we've driven a lot of them
out of the country, we've captured and killed a lot of them. The ones
that are still left are a lot harder to get at, because they're hard
to find.
I knew about the geography of Afghanistan, I've even gone up to the
Congress and explained how big this place is with maps. And I've shown
them satellite photographs, which shows just how formidable the
terrain is. But when you fly in and you actually see it, you're not --
even when you think you know - you're not prepared for it. So, going
after those last troops can be every bit as difficult as the first
ones. And in some ways it's more difficult because they are hiding.
(end excerpt)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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