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Afghanistan: U.S. Secretary Of State Reaffirms U.S. Commitment

Rice (left) with President Karzai in Kabul today (RFE/RL) KABUL, June 28, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Following her meeting today in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan about security concerns along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Rice also stressed the strength of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan's future.

RFE/RL: The main topic in the media these days is that the Afghans, in general, and President Hamid Karzai, in particular, complain that the roots of terrorism are outside of Afghanistan, that unless you fight them outside the country, it is not going to give a result just by fighting them inside the country. As he has said yesterday clearly, going house to house in Kandahar will not give any result. So he was saying that we are asking the international community to help us in fighting the roots of terrorism outside the country, but we are not getting that cooperation. Now, keeping in view that Pakistan is a strategic ally of the United States on the one hand and, on the other hand, U.S. forces are in Afghanistan and clearly terrorists are crossing the border and killing the American troops and Afghan troops and affecting your mission here in Afghanistan. How is the United States going to deal with this situation?

Condoleezza Rice: Well, of course, we have to fight terrorists wherever we find them. There are terrorists in Afghanistan. There are terrorists in Pakistan. There are terrorists in the far reaches of the world. But what we have learned about this Al-Qaeda network -- and, indeed, their connections to the Taliban -- is that they have a kind of global reach and that is why we are fighting them in so many different places. Now Pakistan is fighting them. They have been fighting in Waziristan with Pakistani forces. The Pakistanis have moved 10,000 more forces to the border. It is a long border; it's a difficult border.

But, of course, we believe that everybody needs to do more and we need to continue to adapt our tactics as the enemy changes. But I had very good discussions with President Karzai today, and I think we agree that we have a good common strategy. The International Security Assistance Force and the NATO forces that are moving into the south, as well as the American forces, which are going to stay in Afghanistan and remain committed to Afghanistan, are really engaging the enemy and having very great success against them. We always knew that the Taliban would be determined to try to continue to bring death and destruction to Afghanistan, just as it did when it was governing, ruling in Afghanistan.

But they are not going to succeed. Afghan security forces are getting stronger; the police force is getting stronger. The president talked to me about the need to accelerate the building of the Afghan police forces. So we have many tools that we can use. We -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, all the other allies in the war on terrorism -- have a lot in common here, which is we have a common enemy and we have to do everything we can to defeat that enemy.

The American people are committed to Afghanistan. You have to remember that America suffered on 9/11 because we had not stayed committed to Afghanistan. So, I think you can count on the commitment of the American people, whoever is in office.

RFE/RL: There is one thing that Afghans always complain about. They say that they do not trust when the Pakistani government says that they are fighting terrorists. There are madrassahs in Quetta, open religious schools, hundreds of students are there, and they are getting training. These students are sent -- not ordinary people. How can you solve this misunderstanding?

Rice: Let's remember, these are difficult borders. In some places they are mountainous borders; in some places they are very long borders. And how to stop people from crossing the border is a long-time problem in this region. Now, we are indeed sharing information. We have a trilateral mechanism between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States that is sharing information and sharing how to solve this problem.

Condoleezza Rice (RFE/RL file photo)

But I am quite sure that Pakistan and Afghanistan have a lot at stake -- both of them -- in the defeat of these terrorists. And we are going to continue to work very, very hard. We are going to continue to engage the terrorists and to use our military forces as well as to have Afghan forces -- which are getting stronger -- engage them. And the Pakistanis will do their part on the other side of the border.

RFE/RL: During your visit to Pakistan yesterday, media quoted you as calling on Pakistani officials to work better with the Afghan government. Does the word "better" mean that you spoke more strongly with them this time?

Rice: Well, "better" is something I would say to the Afghan government, the Pakistani government, and, indeed,to the U.S. government. We all need to do better because, to the degree that there is still insecurity in the country, to the degree that the Afghan people are not enjoying the benefits of security, we all need to take a look at what we are doing and to do better. That is what I meant. I think that we are all committed.

What the Afghan people need to know is that America is committed to Aghanistan's future and will be committed. We are not leaving. We are not leaving again, as we did in the 1980s. This time, our strategic relationship is strong and it is going to be a long-term relationship.

RFE/RL: Even if the government changes from Republican to Democrat?

Rice: The American people are committed to Afghanistan. You have to remember that America suffered on 9/11 because we had not stayed committed to Afghanistan. So, I think you can count on the commitment of the American people, whoever is in office.

Helmand Province Governor Comments

Helmand Province Governor Comments

U.S. Marines operating in Helmand Province in 2002 (epa)

RULING A RESTIVE LAND: On February 12, RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Jawaid Wafa spoke briefly with Helmand Province Governor MOHAMMAD DAOUD about the ongoing violence in his restive region on the border with Pakistan.

RFE/RL: Recently, there have been many clashes and attacks by insurgents in Helmand Province. What in your view facilitates these attacks, especially in Helmand?

Mohammad Daoud: This province has a 160-kilometer border with Pakistan's Baluchistan Province. In reality, armed people, armed terrorists, from the other side of the border cross the border into Helmand. They carry out attacks and return back. It is a serious problem in Helmand that within our borders there is neither tribal good will, nor are there are special military or security measures to prevent enemies from crossing back and forth.

RFE/RL: The attacks and clashes have not only been between government forces and insurgents. There have been various clashes in different parts of Helmand between police and purported drug smugglers. How do you explain this?

Daoud: Drug smugglers also use the border for their own purposes. They have opened markets on the border and process opium there. This is a serious problem along our border. We are in touch with our authorities on this problem.

RFE/RL: There are government border police patrol your border. What is their role in preventing illegal crossings?

Daoud: Along this 160-kilometer border, there are car routes, walking routes. We have border police, but unfortunately, either because of their own problems or because of weak administration, they have not been able to stop the crossing.


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