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Rumsfeld Reflects on Five Years of Progress in Afghanistan

11 July 2006

U.S. continues commitment to counterterrorism, regional security, secretary says

Washington – With support from the international community, Afghanistan has made tremendous progress in the past five years, says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

At a July 11 press conference in Kabul, Rumsfeld said, only a few years ago “al-Qaida and the Taliban [were] brutalizing the Afghan people.  Today the terrorist training camps have been shut down, soccer stadiums are being used for soccer instead of executions … this is certainly a tribute to the people of Afghanistan.”

Rumsfeld, who appeared jointly with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is meeting the week of July 10 with Afghan officials and leaders from several neighboring countries to discuss the transition of security operations in Afghanistan from the coalition to NATO forces.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), led by NATO and comprised of troops from 37 countries, is taking over all peacekeeping duties from coalition forces in 2006, but the United States, as a founding member of the alliance, will remain actively engaged in helping the country claim a free, democratic future, Rumsfeld said. 

Rumsfeld said that the United States will not be leaving Afghanistan when NATO assumes the peacekeeping duties.  The United States will play a role in both ISAF and ongoing coalition operations, continuing its engagement in peacekeeping, counterterrorism operations, and initiatives to strengthen Afghanistan’s army and police forces, he said.  (See related article.)

“I can assure you,” he said, “that the United States will continue to be interested, committed and involved in success here.”

Rumsfeld said he considers a recent surge in Taliban attacks to be partly a seasonal phenomenon, and partly result of coalition and NATO forces increasing the pressure on militants by moving into areas of the country where peacekeeping forces have not previously maintained a presence.  Another reason, he said, is the dogged determination of the terrorists to see Afghan democracy fail.

“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 a success here,” Rumsfeld said.  “They're not going to succeed.” (See related article.)

TERRORISTS FUNDED BY DRUG TRAFFICKING, SECRETARY SAYS

In a July 10 interview, Rumsfeld expressed concern that the international demand for illegal drugs, could pose a threat to Afghanistan’s democratic future by helping to fund terrorism.

“When there’s that much money involved, you have to worry that it’s going to be attractive,” Rumsfeld told journalists during a visit to Dushanbe, Tajikistan.  “And I do worry that the funds that come from the sale of those products could conceivably end up adversely affecting the democratic process” in Afghanistan.

The United Nations’ World Drug Report 2006, released June 26, states that Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium and that 14 percent more land is cultivated with illegal drug crops now than in 2001, when the terrorist-aligned Taliban regime was removed from power by coalition forces.  The highest concentrations of current illegal narcotics production are in regions where remnants of the Taliban remain active.  (See related article.)

In a joint news conference with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov later July 10, Rumsfeld said that U.S. intelligence has information indicating that the Taliban is taking a share of drug profits in exchange for providing protection for traffickers.

Rumsfeld, noting that the bulk of the opium and heroin originating in Afghanistan finds its way to the streets of Western Europe and Russia, called upon those governments to step up their support for anti-drug efforts.    

The defense secretary praised Tajikistan’s leaders as important allies in the War on Terror, who have successfully strengthened their country’s borders against drug traffickers.  Thanks to U.S. training and equipment, Tajik officials told journalists, the country has increased drug seizures by 27 percent.

Rumsfeld also said that the Karzai government in Afghanistan was actively engaged with its international partners to address the production of illegal drugs in its territory.  (See related article.)  

A video link of the Rumsfeld-Karzai press conference, a transcript of Rumsfeld’s July 10 interview in Dushanbe, and a transcript of the joint press conference with Tajik officials are available from the Department of Defense Web site.

For more information, see Rebuilding Afghanistan and Response to Terrorism.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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