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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs > Releases > Public Statements on South and Central Asian Policy > 2003

Interview with Pakastani Televsion News Channel, Geo-TV

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers
Islamabad, Pakistan
July 29, 2003

Released by the U.S. Embassy Islamabad

Interviewer: Mr. Hamid Mir.

HAMID MIR: Assalam-O-Alaikum. Today, we have the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard B. Myers. General, welcome to our program.

GENERAL MYERS: Thank you very much. Itís good to be here.  

HAMID MIR: First of all, I would like to ask about your recent visit to India; you are coming from India. India is your strategic partner. But why is the Indian Government not ready to send troops to Iraq for peacekeeping?

GENERAL MYERS: First of all, let me just describe this trip to you. The trip is like most of my trips: we donít spend very much time in any one place, but itís to see U.S. troops and meet with officials in Iraq and Afghanistan, then meet my counterparts in India and Pakistan and Oman, and thatís part of it. Of course, in the issue of troops and support to either Afghanistan or Iraq, those decisions are up to the countries involved. Clearly we have lots of international partners already involved in those efforts. Most people, I donít think, realize that in Iraq there are 19 countries that are providing ground forces today, 19 countries. Fifteen more are going to be providing forces in the next several months: 34 countries, then, providing forces for the international coalition that is trying to make a better life for Iraqis. On top of that, there are many countries that are providing medical support, financial support, and other types of support, other than those ground troops that I mentioned. So I think the international community understands the need in both Afghanistan and Iraq, that itís going to take international effort to do all we can do for these peoples.

HAMID MIR: So, if 34 countries are already providing support to you in Iraq, then why do you want Pakistani troops in Iraq?

GENERAL MYERS: Well, the issue is in terms of numbers and capability. Itís clear that the Pakistani armed forces are very competent, very good. They have been in these kinds of operations before. Again, the decision is going to be Pakistanís decision.
And thatís notÖ. Well, we didnít spend very much time talking about that. This, today, was a counterpart visit. We talked about our military-to-military relationship, and how that is grown over the last several years, and the importance of keeping that relationship very, very healthy.

HAMID MIR: So, What is the outcome of your talks with Pakistani officials today?

GENERAL MYERS: Well, we didnít have any, you know -- there were no so-called deliverables. This was chance to, again, meet with General Aziz, his staff and discuss the military to military relationship, and thatís what we did. We also talked about the strategic situation in the region, and itís always useful to hear othersí views on the region and the issues involved there. And thatís what we spent our time doing.

HAMID MIR: The U.S. started a war in Iraq, and it is the prime responsibility of the U.S. to control the postwar situation in Iraq. Are you planning now to withdraw your troops from Iraq?

GENERAL MYERS: Well, first of all, you characterize it as ďwe started a war in Iraq.Ē I donít think thatís not how we would view it. Obviously, the whole world condemned the Iraq regime for what they were doing regarding weapons of mass destruction, and that was not just the United States; that was the entire United Nations. So the world had condemned them. But theyíd reached the point where you worried about weapons of mass destruction and terrorists falling in that nexus; terrorists getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction. So the decision was made that we were going to Iraq. And weíre there until Iraqi people have a democracy, until they make sure their boarders are all intact and make sure they are not a threat to their neighbors. So we are there for the long term. Weíre going to be there for as long as it takes.

HAMID MIR: So, tell us, what kind of problems do you face in Iraq these daysĒ

GENERAL MYERS: Well, theyíre on three fronts. And it would not be surprising to anybody, but I think there are still security challenges in the country, and weíre working through those. Itís not an even distribution of problems throughout the country in terms of security: the north is relatively secure; the south is relatively secure; the region where we have most of the problems is between Baghdad and Tikrit, which is the region where not only Saddam came from and his tribe came from or is located, but where the Baathist regime -- most of them came from this area between Baghdad and Tikrit. And thatís the area I visited. I can tell you that our troops that are there are very confident in their ability to handle that security situation. But it will take time. And then along with that are things that are a little outside my lane, but Ambassador Bremer, who heads up the Coalition Provisional Authority, is working the political and economic aspects of that. As I think most of your viewers know, there is now an Iraqi Governing Council that has stood up. Three of their members went to the United Nations last week and had discussions with U.N. officials. So now there is whatís starting to become a political, an Iraqi political face on the situation. In terms of the economy, what I saw this time is compare to May when I visited Baghdad, is almost like night and day. The streets, the stores, the stands are all open and thereís a lot of obvious vitality in the economy. So the challenge will be to keep that going.

HAMID MIR: Do you think that some neighboring countries are still interfering in Iraq?

GENERAL MYERS: Well, the important thing is to remind people that there are enough challenges in Iraq without interference from other countries, and weíve made that point, I think, publicly and in private demarches to these countries from time to time. Certainly we know that there are foreign fighters that have flowed in through Syria, and in fact, 80 of them were engaged several weeks ago in a training camp, and they were not Iraqis: they were from outside Iraq. They had plenty of weapons. They fought very hard. They were to come in there and trying to disrupt all the good things that are happening for the Iraq people. And so that flow is just very, very unhelpful. So all that outside the influence -- whether it is from Syria, whether it is from Iran -- is not helpful; is to be discouraged.

HAMID MIR: And tell us why Saddam Hussein is still at large.

GENERAL MYERS: Well, the first thing people need to understand is that even if we were to get Saddam Hussein this minute, it would not dramatically change the challenge that remains before us in Iraq. Obviously, there is a fear factor that is associated with Saddam, and any chance that he might come back keeps a lot of Iraq very afraid, afraid to get on with their lives. So there is that aspect to it. But from a strategic viewpoint, he is on the run; he is a survivalist and very worried about taking care of himself right now. Itís a big country. My guess is we will get him. Itís hard to find one individual in a big country that wants to hide, and heís pretty much hiding by himself, with maybe a few bodyguards. My guess is that we will get him in the same way we got his two sons, and that is, an Iraqi citizen will come forward and say ďHeís over here.Ē And they will just get tired of harboring somebody like that that brings such fear into the hearts of the Iraqi people.

HAMID MIR: And now come to Afghanistan, because your troops are deployed there. I was there some days ago in Afghanistan. Please tell us, what are the main reasons for the law and order situation, which is not good, in Afghanistan?

GENERAL MYERS: Well, I think there are several factors, and as you know if youíve visited there, itís not the -- again, itís not the same in the entire country; it varies by region to some degree. But the biggest threats to the Interim Administration there, and President Karzai, I think, come, again, from the outside: itís a resurgence of the Taliban and remnants of Al-Qaeda that do not want to see success inside Afghanistan. They would like to go back to the Afghanistan that existed a couple of years ago, where the terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda could have training camps, could do the kind of operational planning that led to not only September 11, 2001, in the United States but other terrorist acts in the area. So thatís probably the biggest threat. Thereís lots of other things to do; there has to be a lot of reconstruction in Afghanistan. The infrastructure is severely degraded; it needs to be rebuilt: roads, wells, sanitation, medical facilities, and educational facilities. Thereís an awful lot of work to do, and all of that has to come along at the same time that a central government has to stand up that has some influence in the various provinces, and that is the work that remains. There are a lot of countries that are helping do that. The United States again will be there for some time to continue to give the Afghani people some hope.

HAMID MIR: General, according to the Bonn Agreement, there is no place for any private army in Kabul. But the Tajik troops of General Qasim Fahim are still visible in Kabul; I have seen them. So why are you tolerating the clear violation of the Bonn agreement in Kabul?

GENERAL MYERS: Well the Bonn Agreement is important and itís important that people adhere to the Bonn Agreement, and there are lots of issues that remain that have to be worked. Thatís one of them; there are others. And that is an issue, on the one hand that President Karzai and his administration have to deal with. They are in charge, and they need to help make those important steps that will be in compliance with Bonn. And we need to help them; the coalition needs to help them, and we will.

HAMID MIR: Do you think that Pakistan and Afghanistan can solve their border disputes through your mediation?

GENERAL MYERS: Well, right now there is, as you may know, a tripartite group thatís actually on the border trying to resolve some of the technical issues associated with the location of the border and so forth. And we think thatís going to go a long way to mediating that Afghan-Pakistan dispute over the border region. Yes, I do; I think we can help. I think we are helping, actually.

HAMID MIR: Okay. Some of the Afghan officials, very high-profile Afghan officials, are still accusing that Pakistan is still secretly supporting the Taliban, and they think that Taliban are conducting operations inside Afghanistan with the secret help of Pakistan. Are you satisfied with Pakistanís role in the war against terrorism?

GENERAL MYERS: I can tell you that, unequivocally, yes, the role that Pakistan has played has been very, very important and also very significant. The number of Al-Qaeda that have been arrested here in Pakistan, either by Pakistani authorities or in conjunction with U.S. and other countries, is a very high number; itís by far the majority of leadership of Al-Qaeda, and thatís good for everybody. Terrorism is the sort of thing that doesnít do us any good anywhere in the world. It inhibits economic growth; it inhibits prosperity, and it targets indiscriminately men, women and children of all different races and ethnic backgrounds and religions. So the work Pakistan has done has been very good, and we appreciate their partnership.

HAMID MIR: But the Afghan Foreign Minister, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, told me that if more than 500 Taliban and Al-Qaeda people were arrested from Pakistan, it means that maybe Bin Laden is still hiding in Pakistan.

GENERAL MYERS: Well, I mean, nobody knows for sure that Osama Bin Laden is alive. I donít think anybody knows, for sure, where he is.

HAMID MIR: So youíre not sure that he is alive.

GENERAL MYERS: Well, I wouldnít make that statement. I donít know; itís like Saddam Hussein: everyone assumes that heís alive, but itís hard to have -----

HAMID MIR: And you donít have any concrete information about his location, where he is hiding?

GENERAL MYERS: No, I think a lot of people think that most probably itís in the more difficult terrain between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where there are people there that might be willing to support him, particularly if they are well compensated for that support, but they also, philosophically, might be more supportive. Thatís a likely location, I think, but I donít know anybody that knows, for sure, where he is.

HAMID MIR: If you can mediate between Pakistan and Afghanistan, why donít you mediate between Pakistan and India?

GENERAL MYERS: Well, I think the U.S. Government position on this is very clear, and itís certainly outside my lane as a military officer, but the U.S. Government position on this is clear, and all can I say is that weíre very encouraged with the recent developments and diplomatic efforts in that regard, and that we hope that they continue, because itís important, itís important that we diffuse that tension.

HAMID MIR: And what is the future of U.S.-Pakistan defense cooperation?

GENERAL MYERS: Oh, I think the future is very bright. I am old enough to remember when Pakistani military and U.S. military were very, very close. I think our cooperation on war on terrorism and in other military to military forums is very, very strong. My view is that it will only grow stronger with time. We have an awful lot in common, and I hope that future is bright one.

HAMID MIR: And do you think that Pakistan needs conventional weapons, at least for the war against terrorism? And is there any possibility that in future United State will provide some conventional weapons to Pakistan?

GENERAL MYERS: I canít predict the future. I know that there is a process in place; itís part of any sort of package, as President Musharraf and President Bush discussed at Camp David, the support package. There are elements of military support; thereís a process that we go through in our country to evaluate requests from Pakistan. Certainly Pakistan, as a sovereign nation, has the right to defend itself and the right to arms, and we will go through our process and try to be responsive where we can.

HAMID MIR: Every second Pakistani would like to ask you a question of why you are not willing to provide F-16s to Pakistan, because on the other side Israel is selling AWACs to India with your approval.

GENERAL MYERS: I understand that itís a big issue here. I will go back to my previous answer in that there is a process for that. There are, as I understand it, many items that the Pakistani military would like. Our job is to evaluate those, look at the available monies and try to provide the kind of support and the kind of things that are required, and so forth. But there is process we go through to do that, and we are very aware of the issue.

HAMID MIR: President Bush said many times that the United States needs a long-term partnership with Pakistan. Would you like to elaborate on what kind of partnership you want to establish with Pakistan?

GENERAL MYERS: Well, Iíve already talked about the military part of that, and to stay inside my lane, my military lane, I probably shouldnít comment, but itís obvious that there is --------.

HAMID MIR: You can elaborate on some strategic points.

GENERAL MYERS: Well, I think itís obvious that from an economic standpoint that needs to be a full strategic partnership, but I think thatís what is meant: that thereís economic cooperation; that thereís security cooperation; that a strong relationship, as there been here in the last couple of years, does a lot for security in this region and if this region is secure than it does a lot for the world. So itís a very important relationship, and thatís why the President Bus and the rest of the U.S. administration is putting so much effort into it.

HAMID MIR: And do you think that establishing diplomatic relations with Israel will be in the interest of Pakistan?

GENERAL MYERS: That is way outside my lane. I am a military man; Iíll leave that up to Pakistan.

HAMID MIR: Okay. Thank You.

GENERAL MYERS: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.

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