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On-the-Record Briefing on Afghanistan

R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
John Fox, Director of the Office of Afghanistan Affairs
Washington, DC
January 26, 2007

MR. GALLEGOS: Good morning. This morning, we have Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns and Director of the Office of Afghanistan Affairs John Fox. They'll be discussing the recently announced U.S. package to support security and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Good morning. It's a pleasure to see all of you. As you know, Secretary Rice was in Paris yesterday for the meeting of a group to support Lebanon and in Brussels today, where she had asked for a meeting of the NATO foreign ministers. With the NATO foreign ministers, 26 of them met this morning. That was followed by a meeting of all the NATO foreign ministers with the Afghan Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Spanta, and with all the troop-contributing nations, so Australia was there and South Korea and Japan and other countries, our global partners.

And the intent of this meeting was to put a strategic focus on Afghanistan and to have the United States suggest that NATO needs to do more in the way of troops, in the way of money, in the way of ridding itself of the restrictions on the use of military forces, that NATO can be successful in Afghanistan. As all of you know, NATO has been in Afghanistan for three-and-a-half years. The NATO forces have put up a very good effort. They are now, of course, in all parts of the country and Secretary Rice's intention was to spotlight what needs to be done to strengthen the mission, to deal with the coming -- the expected Taliban offensive that normally occurs when the snows melt in the spring of the year.

And you saw that Secretary Rice made a major statement and that is that the United States is going to request from the Congress over the next two years $10.6 billion in additional assistance for Afghanistan. 2 billion of that is for reconstruction and for economic assistance to the Afghan authorities and the Afghan people. 8.6 billion is for assistance to the Afghan national security forces. This follows the $14.2 billion that the United States has already provided in reconstruction and security assistance to Afghanistan since 2001. Of that total, just to frame this for you, 9 billion was in security assistance sine 2001; 5.2 billion of that was in reconstruction assistance.

This is a major strategic step by the United States to, in a very dramatic way, increase our assistance to Afghanistan, to show support for President Karzai and the Afghan people, and to make sure that the Afghan National Army and the police are ready to undertake their responsibilities and that NATO and the United States of America can be stronger in the effort that we undertake.

Let me just say a few words, specifics about what this money will go to, should the Congress -- and this is a supplemental request, should the Congress agree to extend it to us and we hope very much that it will. We'll continue to train and equip the Afghan national security forces with an eventual goal of 70,000 people in the Afghan National Army and an eventual goal of 82,000 Afghan national police.

In the past five years, as you know, we have trained and built up with the Afghans an Afghan National Army. It is now roughly about 30,000 strong. We hope to expand to a ceiling of 70,000. And the Afghan National Army has been quite impressive in working with the United States forces and the NATO forces in combined operations in all parts of the country, but you know they have been -- we have been co-located with the Afghan national forces in the east, where the United States has the great majority of its forces.

Police training will also be a priority. We have trained several -- many thousands of police for the Afghan municipalities and for the provincial towns. We have equipped them. The United States has taken a lead on this. Germany has been very active, but much more needs to be done, frankly, to improve the performance of the police and the retention of officers who are trained to keep them in the police corps. That's been a major issue for us.

We are doing this because we want to win in Afghanistan and we intend to win. And we believe that the endeavor there is one that requires a greater effort by the United States and by its NATO allies. And as I said before, we're doing it because we do expect a high level of intensity of fighting, which we have seen over the last six to eight months, to continue. And should Congress grant us the funds, grant the President the funds that he has requested, we're also going to be undertaking a great deal of effort to try to elevate the reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

We have been involved in trying to build roads in Afghanistan. You all know that when the American and British forces went in in 2001, Afghanistan was certainly one of the countries of the world with the least amount of modern infrastructure. And that, of course, hindered economic development, that hindered business development for the Afghan people. We have been involved in trying to construct a ring road, a national ring road -- I think all of you know about it, some of you who have been to Afghanistan have seen it -- from Kabul to Kandahar around to Herat in the west and back up again. About 75 percent of that road is constructed, about 1400 miles of road, and we intend to finish it by 2010.

We're working with a number of the other allies to see if they can accelerate their construction and those portions of the road for which they have responsibility. Italy and Japan are two of those key allies and we've talked to both of them just in the last couple of days about accelerating their own efforts. And the United States, in addition to the ring road, we have completed over 900 kilometers of secondary and district roads. This is important just to facilitate business, it's important in the fight against narcotics production, it's important for security. And so we put a lot of emphasis on road construction.

We're also involved in power construction. We have several multinational projects underway to build hydro and electrical power systems. These include a multi-donor northern power, electric power system project and that is scheduled to be finished in 2009. That will provide Kabul and the northern cities with electricity imported from Central Asia. And we've been trying to stimulate both infrastructural development of Afghanistan from Central Asia and also business development.

We're pushing ahead with the construction of the Kajaki hydropower dam site and the southeastern power system. That will bring electricity to Kandahar, the principal -- the major city in the southern part of the country. We're also involved in rural development. In the past five years, about 5 million girls and boys have been returned to school with the assistance of the Afghan Government, but also of the United States and the other donor countries.

And hundreds of schools and health clinics have been constructed or rehabilitated in the country. This is another area where there is a great deal of need to do more. And so if Congress does extend this money to us, some of it will go to the provision of better schooling and better healthcare clinics for the Afghan people. And it will also go to invest in rural development and that includes schools, it includes rural road, it includes credit, it includes improved seeds for agriculture, basic health services, and irrigation systems and alternative crops.

We also intend to expand our counter-narcotics efforts to reduce the amount of poppy cultivation and its trafficking. This, of course, has been a major challenge. All of you know that after a dip in 2005, 2006 saw, unfortunately, a historically large growth in the poppy production and there's been -- it's been a major challenge in working with the Afghan Government and some of the other international donors to see how the Afghans can make progress in reducing cultivation, trafficking, and the impact that narcotics has on the economy. We are going to redouble our efforts. We'll use some of the funds to help improve and elevate our counter-narcotics strategy.

But I must say to you this is a continuing challenge. There's not a lot of good news to report on counter-narcotics and so we're focused on this and Ambassador Anne Patterson, who is our Assistant Secretary of State responsible for this, she and her staff are focused on this problem.

The last thing I'll say is this. The venture of trying to support Afghanistan, President Karzai, his government, the Afghan parliament so that they can be successful, they can ward off the attacks from the Taliban and al-Qaida, they can improve the economy of the country, they can give assistance to people in the rural areas, that requires a great deal of international effort.

And what Secretary Rice did today in her meetings with the NATO allies and with the troop-contributing countries was to say to them, "We need to do more." The United States put a major contribution on the table. No other country or group of countries has been able to match this effort over the last five years that we put forward and today's effort magnifies the American contribution. And so she said that we need more troops from the European allies. We need to remove all the caveats, the restrictions that capitals and parliaments sometimes place on the NATO forces that inhibits the ability of a NATO commander to move troops around, to redeploy them tactically so that they can be effective in responding to the insurgency that is underway, particularly in the south -- southern part of the country and the eastern part of the country.

And she said that we have to put forward a major effort to help the Afghan people succeed. We are confident that with the over 20,000 American troops in the country, and you saw the announcement from the Pentagon yesterday that over 3,000 troops will be kept there for an additional few months, the United States is doing what it must do to help the Afghan authorities and to help the NATO effort. We now are asking our European allies to do more, to be present in the field. We certainly are going to need European troops ready to deploy to the south in the future as well as the east, because that's where the major part of the fighting is.

And she called this meeting in order to make sure that all of the NATO allies are focused on that strategy and that we have the political will and the capacity to help the Afghan authorities at a difficult time. But we do so with a high degree of confidence that our strategy is right, that the Afghan Government is making progress, and that NATO can be successful with this kind of effort.

So I wanted to say those few words as a way of reviewing what the Secretary was trying to do today in Brussels and George, I'll be happy to take your question.

QUESTION: On the counter-narcotics situation, are you suggesting that the '07 numbers may be worse than the '06 numbers? Also, are the Taliban benefiting from narcotics trafficking? And are you disappointed that President Karzai is opposed to aerial spraying?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, first of all, we're not disappointed with President Karzai. He is a friend, he is a partner, we have great admiration for him. He's got one of the most difficult jobs in the world. He's been a symbol and a figure of real unity for the country and so we work with him in a very -- we respect him and work with him in a productive way.

I'm suggesting that the '06 numbers were a wake-up call. The '06 numbers, the poppy production numbers in Afghanistan in 2006 were alarmingly high and they do indicate that there's a major challenge underway for the future to try to wean the Afghan economy from this scourge of poppy production and is trafficking, which of course has ramifications not just for people inside the country, but in all the neighboring countries in Russia and in Western Europe where much of the narcotics are flowing. And we understand that we -- well, led by the Afghan Government of course which is sovereign in charge, we in the international community need to devise a more effective strategy to combat poppy production and to combat its trafficking. Now, there are many elements that go into that. There is the issue of eradication. There is the issue of crop substitution, alternative livelihoods because, of course, many of the people growing poppy do so because they badly need the money. These are poor people. And it's the middleman that tend to make most of the money from the trafficking business, so we'll focus on all aspects of it. And we understand that together with the Afghan Government, we have to devise a more effective way to defeat this problem.

QUESTION: And do the Taliban benefit?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Yes, there's a lot of evidence that the Taliban is benefiting from the production of poppy and from its trafficking and that's another reason why we need to defeat this problem because we need to help the Afghan authorities defeat the Taliban.

Yes.

QUESTION: Now how would this plan make a difference? And in terms of, I mean, you have seen that all this while, six years, five years later, more money and military power doesn't assume the results that had been anticipated.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, thank you very much for the question. I don't actually agree with the assumption that you make. If you look back to October 2001 where American forces entered Afghanistan, there has been enormous progress made in Afghanistan. The infrastructure of the country has been built up in a way that I think would have been unimaginable for people looking at this back in 2001. There's been a tremendous amount of assistance to bring boys and girls back to school. The Taliban had shut out all girls from school, as you know and there was a crisis in the educational system under the Taliban.

And now there's hope. If you go to Afghanistan as a number of us have and you go into the provinces and talk to people, kids are leading a more normal life. There is greater security in the country in most parts of the country with some exceptions and you're aware of that. And there's been a tremendous international effort on power, on loans, on health and on education to try to help the Afghan people develop, so we're very proud of what we have done in the international community. And -- but we know that you can't rest on your laurels. And that what we saw in 2006 was a concerted attempt by a large number of Taliban forces to cross the border from Pakistan some of them, others are indigenous of course and live in the country and to strike at both the Afghan National Army and local officials.

There was an increase in the number of assassinations of local officials particularly in the south and east. And we understand that the United States and NATO need to push back against that in a very strong way and that's why Secretary Rice called the meeting today. She called the meeting of NATO foreign ministers to say: Let's agree on a strategy moving forward that will build up our capacity to defeat the Taliban. They also talked about Kosovo today because that's a looming, very important issue, so those were the two reasons why she called the meeting. And we thought we would take advantage of the presence of the NATO foreign ministers to invite the other troop contributors in because there are about 30 countries that have military forces in Afghanistan and some of them, of course, are from countries beyond NATO.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) precise in the sense that I was referring to (inaudible) strategy. The Talibans are back and the source of the problem has not been checked. The Taliban coming over from Pakistan and then much has been said, many meetings have been held with the Pakistani authorities and you have NATO claims basically confirming that these guys are coming from Pakistan.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: The Taliban used to control the government and the country of Afghanistan. It has not since the autumn of 2001, so that's a significant improvement in this situation. But you're right, the Taliban increased its counter -- it's insurgency -- excuse me -- in 2006. It's a real problem. There is a problem of forces coming from Pakistan into Afghanistan to attack and then to return to Pakistan to seek refuge and refitting. We of course are working very closely with President Musharraf and with the Pakistan military and the Pakistan intelligence services to see that Pakistan will do more and make a concerted effort to strike at those terrorist training camps in north and south Waziristan and in Balochistan. That is a major priority for our relations with Pakistan now.

We have a very close relationship with President Musharraf. We admire what he has done and what he continues to do to try to strike out at these insurgent groups. It is a very -- it's very difficult terrain. It is mountainous terrain. And of course, the Pakistani -- our military has lost hundreds of people in these counterinsurgency operations in that part of -- in those two provinces in Pakistan. So we're working closely with Pakistan, but we do think a greater effort must be made on both sides of the border to defeat al-Qaida, because it's also attacking across the border, as well as the Taliban.

Yes.

QUESTION: The fact that you're asking for so much more money, percentage-wise, is this an indication and an acknowledgement that you've under-funded it thus far, that you could have made more progress if you had pumped more money into and had more focus on Afghanistan?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: It's an indication -- the President is asking Congress for $10.6 billion in additional assistance to Afghanistan because we intend to win in Afghanistan. We intend to defeat the Taliban and we intend to help the government of President Karzai. $14.2 billion over five years is an extraordinary amount of money if you look at our foreign assistance totals in any part of the world, in the Middle East, in Africa, in South Asia. So we have, I think, done a lot for the people of Afghanistan.

But it is a reflection of this, not that we've done too little in the past, it's that the threat has risen, has increased. There's no question that we saw in 2006 an expansion of the threat from the Taliban. And so we conducted a strategic review of our policy towards Afghanistan over the last few months of 2006 and Secretary Rice and, of course, Secretary Gates had made recommendations to the President that we needed to make a larger effort, over $8 billion in security assistance, $2 billion in economic assistance so that we can help the Afghan Government succeed and we can defeat the Taliban.

Secretary Rice said this morning the goal is victory in Afghanistan. We believe it is achievable. We're very proud of what we've done, but when the strategic situation changes, when the Taliban have mounted a much more vigorous threat to the Afghan Government, to the local authorities -- you know, they've gone into Kandahar and killed elected authorities, they've killed schoolteachers, they have tried to intimidate people who educate girls, teachers, school administrators. We need to respond to that threat and that's what this $10 billion of assistance represents.

QUESTION: Do you think the Taliban has grown because you took your eye off the ball?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Not at all, not at all. We've had a constant level of over 20,000 American troops in the country for the last two-and-a-half years. We've made a supreme effort. We have been focused on Afghanistan from October of 2001 on and when you're in a fight like this and when the conditions of the fight change and when the numbers of the opponents grow, you adjust and that's what we're doing. And the Pentagon's announcement yesterday of maintaining an additional number of American troops in Afghanistan is an indication that on the military side as well as on the economic side, we're going to step up and try to meet this threat.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Nick, what kind of answer did the Secretary get from the Europeans on the caveat issue and how much of a hindrance has that been?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Frankly, Charlie, it's a continuing battle for us. And we feel this is an existential issue for NATO and I mean that quite sincerely, an existential issue. NATO is all about collective work together and solidarity. And when you have 26 allies in Afghanistan and you have four countries doing the majority of the fighting, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, it is right for us to ask the other allies to make a greater effort to remove the military restrictions so that everybody can be called upon to make the kind of sacrifices that need to be made.

The President and Secretary took this issue up at the NATO summit in Riga in late November. The Secretary took it up again today. Some countries did announce today an end to their caveats and that was very positive news. Other countries have very detailed conditions put upon the deployment of their forces by their national parliaments. Germany is an example of that, where the Bundestag has very carefully narrowed the options and the initiative that the German army can -- the German armed forces can take up in Kundas, where they're stationed.

And what we're saying is there should be no caveats, no restrictions whatsoever on the use, the tactical use of NATO forces inside Afghanistan. Let me give an example very quickly. Two -- three years ago in March of 2004 in Kosovo, there was rioting by the Muslim population against Serbs, in mid-March of 2004. And some of the NATO troops stayed in their barracks because of restrictions, caveats placed upon them. They didn't respond to the commander's call to go into the streets and put down the riots. And there were a number of Serb Christians who lost their lives in this sectarian violence and churches burned.

And we vowed at NATO then, three years ago, that we'd never experience such a degree of restrictions again, that we'd take the caveats off. We did in Kosovo. We now need to do so in Afghanistan. That was the message -- that's our clear message to the NATO allies.

Farah.

QUESTION: Is Secretary Rice asking for money as well as an end to the caveats? And as a second question, is there any move to try to change the way we spend money in Afghanistan? I mean, my understanding is that only about 17 percent of all the money we give to Afghanistan actually goes to the government and the rest goes to contractors who may or may not -- there have been some criticisms from people in Afghanistan that it makes it harder for Karzai to build support when some of his staff are actually employees of U.S. companies or just the complicated setup that is Afghanistan. Is there any move to actually give more of a larger percentage of that money to the Government?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We -- in answer to your first question, we're asking for four significant steps from all the allies. The first is an additional number of troops. The second, of course, is for more money to help underwrite the economic reconstruction and the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. The third is the end of the caveats, the restrictions that some countries and provinces place in their forces. And the fourth is a greater effort by all of us to help the Afghan authorities to combat the scourge of poppy production and narcotrafficking.

On your second question, I actually -- you know, we think we've done a very good job of getting assistance to the Afghan people. Now, there area couple of ways to do that. Sometimes direct assistance to an Afghan ministry, other times we do use contractors all over the world in all of our assistance programs to purvey that assistance and to run the programs. That doesn't mean if you use a contractor that the money is not going to the people, it is. It just means that you don't have U.S. Government employees out building that road between Kabul and Kandahar. You have a contractor, a construction firm do it. And so if that's -- if I get the drift of your question, I don't really see that as an inhibiting factor on the quality or effectiveness of an assistance program.

QUESTION: I guess if I could just follow up, up till now many people see the international community as playing a kind of caretaker role with the Government of Afghanistan and that to a greater degree than many other countries we limit the actual funding that goes into coffers of the Afghan Government. And you know, maybe you don't agree with that premise, but --

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: If you look at our worldwide economic assistance programs to any part of the world, we rarely give cash contributions directly to governments. We normally will agree on a government on certain projects and then we may work in tandem with the ministry, but most of that money will go to local authorities or most will go to the projects themselves, so that's no unusual. And in this case, obviously one of the things we've tried to do is to try to build up the capacity of the government itself, so some of the money will go to training of Afghan civil servants and Afghan ministries so that they can be more effective. But we have a great deal of trust in President Karzai and in his ministers. Like any government, they have growing pains. But look, they've come from really a very, very difficult start in 2001 and 2002. They've gone through elections. They have slowly expanded the control of the Central Government into the major provincial cities. And so we can see progress, but there's a lot more that needs to be done. And we always felt when NATO made the decision in 2003 to go into Afghanistan, we felt this was going to be a long term mission and that's been the assumption that we in the United States Government has made as well. And you know, you see incremental progress and you build from there.

QUESTION: Maybe I'm just -- did you ever answer George's question specifically on Karzai's opposition to spraying?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I did not answer that question

QUESTION: But might you take this opportunity to tell us now?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, I can just tell you that the Afghan Government is sovereign and so President Karzai and his ministers will make the decisions as to how these counternarcotics programs are carried out. And one of the issues of course, is whether or not the Afghan authorities and their international counterparts will engage in ground-based spraying or aerial eradication of the poppy and that is we're having an ongoing discussion with the Afghan Government on that issue. How's that for a good diplomatic answer, Charlie?

Mr. Lambros?

QUESTION: On Afghanistan. Secretary Burns, according to Plutarch we --

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Excuse me, who?

QUESTION: -- Alexander the Great forces --

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Plutarch?

QUESTION: Excuse me?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Plutarch.

QUESTION: Yes, correct.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Okay.

QUESTION: He was a Greek historian. Alexander the Great forces, as (inaudible) to Mr. Rumsfeld once upon a time, had been defeated in Kandahar, which means Alexandria is exactly the area where the U.S. and Navy forces are still fighting today, Mr. Burns. Therefore, I'm wondering how do you predict the final outcome of this war since during the entire history everyone has been defeated and it looks like a war of attrition?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Mr. Lambros, you know that I share your great affection for Greek history and for the Greeks, but we live in the 21st century and the conditions that we're facing in Afghanistan are very much of the 21st century.

Here's how I would answer your question seriously. The Taliban have not been able to mount a strategic threat to the Afghan Government. The Taliban mainly focus on tactical strikes against defenseless people, civilians. So they attack teachers and try to intimidate them from not opening the schools, particularly schools that educate girls, because of that opposition to educating girls.

They attack elected officials because most of those non-elected officials support the Taliban. And so they try, through intimidation, to present a threat to the local populations, but they haven't been able to affect national policy. And so the Afghan Government's job and our job is to repel that threat. Now that threat may not go away in 2007. I would think it would not go away. We'll have to deal with it for a number of years, but as long as we prevent the Taliban from disrupting the work of government and as long as the Afghan authorities can essentially protect themselves and we can help them so that they can govern, the Taliban is not going to present the kind of strategic threat to the Afghan Government that it wishes to.

So in other words, we and the Afghan authorities are winning this fight against the Taliban. What I thought was underreported, if I can say this, in the international press in the second half of 2006 was the way that the Americans, British, Canadians, and Dutch counterattacked against the Taliban in the south and east in August, September, and October of 2006, achieved some very significant victories against the Taliban.

Obviously, and I understand this, the international press reports the resurgence of the Taliban, the greater numbers. That's part of the story. Another part of the story was the effectiveness of the NATO forces in repelling those attacks and that has even happened in -- just in the last month. And you've read about some of those battles that we fought where the NATO forces have decidedly gotten the better of the Taliban forces.

QUESTION: Anything to say about the Greek policy that we understand today? Because as you know, they're securing the airport of Kabul.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We're very grateful for the -- we're very, very grateful for the presence of the Greek forces and for the participation of Greece. We would hope that Greece, like the other allies, could consider doing more. We would hope that Greece could contribute a greater number of troops and that's the message that we have for the other NATO allies as well.

I do have a story I wanted to share with you and that is that the United States sponsored a Holocaust resolution in the General Assembly today. And the Holocaust resolution was to repudiate those countries that -- whose leaders say that the Holocaust did not happen. We do this because Auschwitz -- the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is tomorrow. And we felt it was important, in remembering the Holocaust, to remind the UN General Assembly of our obligation in our times to also remember the Holocaust and repudiate it.

The resolution sponsored by the United States attracted 104 sponsors and it passed by consensus. One country disassociated itself from the General Assembly's action: Iran. And we know that President Ahmadi-Nejad has taken the international lead -- in fact, he has sponsored conferences which allege that the Holocaust didn't occur. And we think this is an effective action today to repudiate the Iranian Government by the United Nations General Assembly. And to have over 100 countries join us is an effective repudiation to President Ahmadi-Nejad's baseless and gross mischaracterization of modern history.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) questions. Firstly, do you think the Karzai-Musharraf spat will impede your hopes for Afghanistan and your strategy that you want to pursue there? If I may take the liberty also of asking you about Iran today, The Washington Post has a story about authorized killings of Iranians in Iraq. Are you worried that this strategy could hurt your efforts at diplomacy in the region?

And lastly, UN officials are saying that Iran plans to start installing thousands of centrifuges in an underground facility next month in Natanz. Could you comment on that and give us your response and just anything you'd like to add to that?

MR. GALLEGOS: One more after this.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We're working very closely with President Karzai and President Musharraf to see that the Pakistani and Afghan local establishments and militaries can work more effectively together. You remember President Bush had a meeting and had a dinner with both of them in the White House in September. It's an embodying preoccupation of ours. You've seen that sometimes, they have public disagreements, but in the main, both governments have indicated to us that they know they have to have coordination and cooperation between them to be successful.

On the second issue, I really don't have much more to say than what Sean said in the gaggle with you. The fact is that as President Bush and Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates have said on several occasions over the last month, we know that Iran has been providing sophisticated, improvised explosive device technology to some of the Shia insurgent groups. We know that that technology has been used to target American forces. We have every right to go after those Iranian paramilitary and intelligence agents who are engaged in that activity inside Iraq. And that's what President Bush and the two Secretaries have said on several occasions over the last month.

I can't speak to the story in The Washington Post because I can't speak on issues that relate in any way, shape, or form to intelligence activities. So I'm not speaking about what was in the article, but I'm speaking about the general proposition that the Iranian Government needs to know that whether it's the Quds Force or any other kind of Iranian organization, we are not going to tolerate American soldiers being targeted in that fashion.

Third and finally, I did see, as I was coming down here, the comments of Mohamed ElBaradei from Davos where he predicted that he felt that next month the Iranians might announce that they might accelerate their scientific research in Natanz to 3,000 centrifuges. This would be a major miscalculation and mistake by the Iranian Government.

The signal from the Security Council, a 15-0 vote on December 23rd, is that Iran should suspend its enrichment programs at Natanz and if Iran takes this step, it is going to confront universal international opposition. They've already had China and Russia and all of the European countries and the United States oppose them. They've also had India and Egypt and Brazil oppose them a year ago at the IAEA Board of Governors. This will, I think, solidify the international opposition to Iran. It's a miscalculation. And if they think that they can get away with 3,000 centrifuges without another Security Council resolution and additional international pressure then they're very badly mistaken.

QUESTION: Fine. If I could ask you a question just to be more specific about when you say the -- some European countries aren't doing enough. I guess you're not including Holland and Britain in that. Can you be a bit more specific and name names as to which countries? I think you've suggested Germany had limitations, caveats which weren't acceptable, but which other countries are you talking about here?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, I think I'll respectfully decline that opportunity because we obviously want to work amicably with all these countries. But let's put it this way, the Netherlands and Canada and Britain and the United States are the four countries, along with Romania and Estonia, as additional contributing countries who have taken on the brunt of the fighting in the south and east. And we're very grateful to those countries. We're grateful to all the other allies who have troops in Afghanistan. We just think that collectively all the allies -- all 26 of us need to make a better effort: more troops, more money, and an end to the caveats. And if we can do that then NATO is going to mount a more effective effort than it already has done. We're proud of what NATO has done, but we think that we can even do more in 2007.

Thank you very much.

2007/053



Released on January 26, 2007

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