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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Deputy Secretary of State > Former Deputy Secretaries of State > Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage > Remarks > 2003

Interview by Ed Luce of the Financial Times

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 9, 2003

(10:00 a.m. EST)

QUESTION: Could you tell me, I see you've launched something this morning called Operation Avalanche.


QUESTION: Clearly, that's a military matter, but there is a perception that however many operations you have, the enemy is not easy to pin down and it's often counterproductive; you do have accidents, inevitably have accidents.

What do you hope will change because of Operation Avalanche?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we've got -- this is both a U.S. and Afghan forces operation, primarily, but not exclusively, in Khost Province, and it's got two aims. One is to root out, capture and kill Taliban who have been causing trouble far and wide, most recently on the just completed road, just today completed.


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Today. And second of all, it is a way to try to start clearing out some of these folks in advance of the Loya Jirga, which will commence on the 14th of December. The important element, it's coalition and Afghan.

QUESTION: Indeed, indeed. I do want to ask you about the Loya Jirga, but just on this question, the links between the Taliban and opium production, and also between the warlords with whom -- sorry, not warlords, the provincial government and people with whom you're allied, is quite close. There is perhaps a cynical view that the Americans are not taking as much notice of opium production as they should be because it would undermine the interests of them. Is that fact?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, that's very cynical, and it's particularly cynical coming from a British journalist when Britain has the lead in the counternarcotics in Afghanistan.

Having said that, the linkage between the Taliban, first of all, and narcotics, during the Taliban reign, there are those, uninformed, who say the Taliban production was -- the opium production was down. I would agree. Of course, we know why it was down: so the Taliban could manipulate the prices and get more for the product.

It is now, the total product available was higher this year than it was in previous years. It was a very negative thing. And President Karzai is quite concerned about it. We are quite concerned about it. The Russians are very concerned about it because, primarily, the product goes into Moscow and then on, so they're developing a problem. And, of course, your own country is quite concerned.


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: And I just was visited, or visited with, Senator Reed, who went with Mrs. Clinton to Afghanistan, who was telling me his views of the narcotics situation and the opium production, poppy production. And based on our conversations, we're going to do what we can to rekindle the fire under that.

So, now, on the question of warlords, you see that warlords have been replaced in certain areas, for instance, Kandahar, which is the most noteworthy, where the previous warlord was replaced by Governor Pashtun, which is an interesting name for a Pashtun, in Kandahar. You can't replace all the warlords at once, but Secretary Rumsfeld has met with Dostum (inaudible), in the Mazar area, to encourage further DDR, demobilization and disarmament. And what's the third? What's the other R?

QUESTION: Rehabilitation.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Rehabilitation. So just you're going after these things, I think, like a high school wrestler approaches a match. You've got one takedown at a time. And that is something that President Karzai has to be in the lead on.

QUESTION: You're also getting involved, you're (inaudible) more civil-military teams in the southern and western provinces. Is that an indication that you think there's going to be more emphasis on that side, specifically military?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, in the western side, the security situation is somewhat better. In the north it's somewhat better. It's the south and southeast which is the worst. But we're getting these PRTs out. I think there are eight of them now.

And it accomplishes a lot of things in addition to the aforementioned civil-military betterment of relations. It also allows the Afghan army and the central government to extend their reach because there are ANA graduates who accompany each of these PRTs. So you, in one swoop, provide a certain amount of security, a certain amount of stability, a certain amount of economic reconstruction, and in some cases some medical or dental assistance. So you're, in a rather grand way, I think, extending the writ of the central government.

QUESTION: And would you hope to up the ante on that to --


QUESTION: To the tune of?


QUESTION: In terms of more?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we've got to make sure that -- I don't know some number, but we're at 8, I think now, going to 9, 10, and I think some people talked about 14. These would be great.

QUESTION: And so, I mean, it's an important (inaudible) on the civil side?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: For -- they're all reasons. It's central government, extension of their authority. It's also the practical improvements that it brings on the ground. It's the whole thing.

QUESTION: I'm not quite sure of the exact number now because I know you've had -- increasing your aid allocation for Afghanistan, perhaps in August or thereabouts.



DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We had, in August, announced something that we call the Acceleration for Success, and we reprogrammed about $300 million plus, which means we took it -- money which was going to go for other uses and reprogrammed it, with the Congress' authority.

Of the recently completed Afghan -- excuse me, Iraq reconstruction supplemental, approximately $1.2 billion of that is going to Iraq -- Afghanistan. Excuse me. And now I'm in the process of putting together the '05 budget request.

So you've got on the table north of $1.5 billion. We'll have a very robust request that I'm not at liberty to tell you about now -- it hasn't been made public -- for '05. So there will be a dependable funding stream. And that's just bilateral, the U.S.

QUESTION: A very robust, meaning robust, basically $1.5 billion for 2004?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I'm not saying the total. You've got 1.5 on there now, on the table, which we are spending. You'll have, in our terms, a robust number, for '05 as well. Now, that's in addition to donations from other countries and from the international financial institutions.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the system of aid dissemination, and also monitoring, that you have in Afghanistan?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: The monitoring I'm fairly happy with. I've been out twice and our AID Director, Mr. Natsios, has been out two or three times. He's going again this week to be there for the official completion of the road, though it finished today. On the 16th we'll have a big media event and I'm sure the President will want to be there for President Karzai.

But yeah, I'm pretty satisfied with the monitoring. The system, I think it's always, when you're a policymaker, too slow for what we'd like and what the needs are. For instance, right now about 16 million people in Afghanistan are outside of 4 hours' travel time to a medical clinic. With our Acceleration for Success program, we're trying to make sure that the entire population of Afghanistan is no more than 4 hours from a clinic, which means we put in 400 or 500 of these. And those things, I just can't whistle 'em up with the speed I'd like.

QUESTION: Sir, last question on this (inaudible). If you look at per capita aid (inaudible) receipt in Afghanistan, it looks low vis-a-vis even places like (inaudible) or East Timor, and so forth. Isn't this a far more strategic and far more important than the rest of them put together?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yeah, but I'm not -- yes. I don't know if they're more important because I don't buy into anyone's life as more important than anyone else's, particularly if one is black and one is white. So my own view is that we're all part of mankind.

Strategically, perhaps, then yes, you'd argue that Afghanistan is more important. Having said that, then money is not the be-all and end-all of Afghanistan. There is a certain amount of barter. There's a certain amount of trade that goes on. Although I would acknowledge that Afghanistan started from an extraordinarily low base, their economic projection this year is 30 percent growth from that minimally low base. They had excellent rains. You had no hunger, no food problems, managed the refugee problems. From where we were 2 years ago to where we are today, that's not bad.

The next problem that the international community will manage with the Afghan Transitional Government is the Loya Jirga, and then hopefully elections in June.

QUESTION: I was going to ask you about the Loya Jirga. We are -- we have (inaudible) on Saturday again. The constitutional process is not to everyone's liking. Do you still have --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, that's what the Loya Jirga is going to be discussing. The draft that's on the table now, from our point of view, is not bad. But I'm not an Afghan, and they will be discussing it. And I think what you're getting at is the role of religion ultimately, and this is what they're going to be discussing. We are bound, of course, by the results of the Loya Jirga.

QUESTION: Is there any -- on that particular question, the role of religion, has there been any --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't know. I would call your attention to the constitutions of every Islamic country, every Muslim country, and fully 80 percent of them mention the role of Islam or even, in some cases, Sharia law. The Turkish constitution mentions the role of Islam, **  et cetera. So there is nothing to be fearful of by the mention of the word "Islam" or even "Sharia law." It's -- we have to see the details. But we're pretty confident that we are.

**[Editor's Note: There is no mention of Islam in the Turkish Constitution]

QUESTION: Clearly, one of the most important things (inaudible) things from, say, the American public or the British public's point of view, is the change in the status of women. And there are doubts that in the constitution whether this has been fully protected.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Sure. I think that President Karzai, you'll see that there are, what, 500 members who are going to attend a Loya Jirga, 89 of them are women. And our efforts, in a bilateral sense, many of our efforts are directed at the empowerment of women. And I'd be foolish to try to tell you that in some quarters this doesn't meet resistance, but in other quarters you will find that women are not only being empowered but they're feeling much more confident. And we've had in the articles in our newspapers in the last week Afghan women saying just that. They made the choice to get out of the burka and they're walking relatively free. Now, granted, the farther you get from Kabul, perhaps the less inclined you'd be to totally come from behind the veil.

QUESTION: Donald Rumsfeld recently suggested that handing over to NATO on the military side would be an objective. I don't think he mentioned timing and I don't think he mentioned numbers of U.S. coalition forces that would be retained.


QUESTION: Can I ask you whether there's any further indication at all on that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, we've been very delighted with what NATO has done and both Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Powell recently in Brussels had discussions about a greater NATO role, aided and abetted by Secretary General Lord Robertson, who I think is very keen on this. But in terms of numbers, when and how, we haven't had those discussions, to my knowledge.

QUESTION: The assumption would be that, like Iraq, you might have a deadline before next November --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We don't have a deadline for next November for Iraq, so that statement must not stand.

QUESTION: Okay, fair enough. Very well. Fair enough. But so far, ISAF's done a good job --


QUESTION: But in a very limited area, around Kabul, a little bit (inaudible). Is it realistic to expect that given the limitations of ISAF's agreement, for NATO to take over the whole show?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Maybe in time. If you put a very near time frame on it, it will be unrealistic. But again, we've done pretty well with NATO and ISAF, and I think the basis is there for expansion. We'll continue discussions.

QUESTION: Can I ask you one or two questions on Pakistan?


QUESTION: You mentioned last time you were there that you were 200 percent -- that Musharraf was 200 percent behind the war on terrorism. Clearly --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: What I said was that I was sure that his -- I was asked about his own organization, both military and intelligence, were they behind him, and I said they were 200 percent behind him.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: But if you'd want me to say that he's 200 percent behind the war on terror, I'd be glad to say it on the record.

QUESTION: No, don't say it. (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) I don't want for newspapers (inaudible).

But there is clearly overwhelming evidence that even though he's committed that there are rogue elements or beyond within the Pakistan military and within the Pakistan intelligence service, and that Taliban, you know, are openly walking up and down the streets in Quetta, to name one thing --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think that if you were to be able to give to President Musharraf and his colleagues the names and locations of these people walking up and down the avenues in Quetta, that they would not find themselves walking up and down the avenues very long.

It would be, I think, unrealistic to expect that people who had developed or had spent the better part of the last 10, 12 years of their lives working with the Taliban wouldn't develop personal relationships, and also political relationships to some degree. But I'm absolutely convinced it is not the policy of the Musharraf government, that if one can point out who these "rogue elements" are that they would not be allowed to participate any more.

And you must also, I think, agree that the heretofore almost untouched northwest frontier province, so-called tribal areas, the FATA, has changed over the past 2 years, with the government having much better entry into the FATA than was the case before. And this is not something that's accomplished overnight. It's accompanied with the program of building roads and providing schools, that the government is engaged in using U.S. taxpayer money that allows them to have more freedom of movement in the FATA. So, I mean, I think it's a more complicated picture than your question indicated.

QUESTION: I mean, one thing that would complicate that further is the fact that in spite of your good works there, you've got a government that's ideologically very, very -- a provincial government that's very ideologically close to Taliban law.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yeah, and I mean this, the MMA, which is what you're speaking of --


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: -- is much more closely allied ideologically. I will note, however, at one time some of those -- some people were advising President Musharraf that he ought to outlaw and, you know, provide -- appoint his own governor, which I guess he could have done constitutionally.

I think his view is the people chose these folks as leaders, let's see how they perform. And my understanding is they're performing miserably and that the people in Peshawar and beyond are, if not fed up, are quite unhappy with what the MMA's been able to bring them.

QUESTION: You don't feel, though, that in a material way they are affecting your ability to prosecute with Pakistan the --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Oh, I don't think -- using your own words -- with their affinity for the Taliban that they are standing in the way of those who would want to aid the Taliban, and it's a complicating factor. When I say, in Pakistan things change, and what seems to be changing is, at least on my recent trip, the editorial comment coming from the newspapers in Peshawar and other places, were extraordinarily critical of the leadership they had just elected.

QUESTION: Right. Right. So you'd have some hope there that democracy will --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think that people in Pakistan need to have the hope and it seems to me they've run out of a good bit of hope for at least some of the MMA members they elected.

QUESTION: About 3 months after I last interviewed you, which was about June of last year, there were the elections in Pakistan -- October elections. And I covered them, and so I was there for a few weeks. And --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It's a fascinating country and --

QUESTION: It's a very --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It's fascinating, yeah.

QUESTION: Absolutely, second only to a (inaudible) more fascinating, back to my question.

But clearly these elections were flawed, but you chose to accentuate the positive. Are you now, 15 months on, having observed the relatively disappointing development of mainstream secular liberal parties in Pakistan, having cause to second-guess what your original judgment was? Sorry it's been (inaudible)?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No. I think I've -- I don't know if I said this to you necessarily, (inaudible) I believe I've said it publicly that the people of Pakistan, since partition, under martial law or under democracy, have always got the short end of the stick. It's unarguable that about the time of (inaudible) administration and now (inaudible) obviously (inaudible) that the people of Pakistan are still not any better off for having had a full-blown, democratic experiment.

President Musharraf is set. He's got a plan. He's got -- he's set a course for a responsible democracy and he appears to be on it. He met recently and publicly with, I think, 30 members of the diplomatic community. He was with the ambassador and spoke about these matters, and I don’t think there was much cynicism in the room. So we're not second-guessing.

QUESTION: Finally, the India and Pakistan situation --


QUESTION: -- is, for a change, looking very hopeful. I know you're not formally involved, but you clearly have a lot of conversations with both sides. What are you saying to them right now?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We are urging both sides to not lose the momentum that they, themselves, have developed. And Prime Minister Vajpayee, since his rather dramatic statement in Senegal has been, has, I think, had his desire to reach the hand of peace across to Pakistan and has seen that there is a desire there to reach out a hand.

Whether they'll actually grasp each other, we'll see. Right now they're enormously in a better place than they were just two months ago with both the ceasefires at the Kashmir Line of Control and the Siachen Glacier, with the high level visit exchanges, high level diplomatic exchanges, and the public announcement by the Prime Minister he's coming to the SARC. So both sides have, I think, greatly modulated the rhetoric and, at least for the 3 years that this administration has been around, it's the best place that India and Pakistan have been in.

QUESTION: Yeah, so just finally, because I know you are trying to stop this, but on Afghanistan --


QUESTION: It's kind of the same question I asked at the beginning but what do you say to those whose general perception is, your sins in Afghanistan were ones of omission, you know not, not nearly enough emphasizing the civil assignments, which I believe it's 10 to 1 expenditures, roughly 10 to 1 military versus civil (inaudible). This is -- even if it's wrong…

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, that -- you're doing an apple and orange.


DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: You're doing an apple and orange. What you -- and the reason I say that, when you do a military expenditure, you're talking about not only the day's expenditure, you're talking about all the training that went into it, and all the detail that goes into the military. When you're talking about the civil society, the money that's being put into that, that's a much more direct 1 to 1 relationship. So you really can't, you can't make the comparison.

I might ask you, do you believe that you could have any of the civil society improvements that one desperately needs in Afghanistan without (inaudible) military expenditure, and the answer there has to be no. But I would really suggest that you don't try to compare the dollars spent. If you want to be critical, you could say that maybe the efforts of the international community haven't been up to the task, something like that, that's a pretty unarguable position. I think there's only a certain amount of money and we're far and away the one who's leading the way. I wish others would pick up a bigger share of it, but I mean, the dollar ratios, there's not a -- if I may, it's not a good idea. It's not a good way to do it.

QUESTION: But the disbursement ratio of other nations, Japan and so forth, is really feeble. Presumably, you exercised by the --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We had a discussion. No we’ve had discussions with trying to get people to be more proactive. We've asked the Germans to pick up the pace on the, with the police training, which they are doing, things of that nature. We've talked to some of our friends -- the Japanese have kept faith in this very well.

QUESTION: And presumably there's no limit, actual limit, to the speed with which you train the Afghan national army and the police. It's a…

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It's a function of money and whatnot, and so we've got a (inaudible). We've turned out a (inaudible). Do you how many battalions, John? ANA?

A PARTICIPANT: We're currently -- we're currently at 6,800 (inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yeah, 6,800 (inaudible). So, 500 in a battalion roughly, so --

QUESTION: You have a target there by --

A PARTICIPANT: Next year in elections.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: June elections? 10,000?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We're also bringing up highway police, border police and police -- all these things are ongoing at the same time.

QUESTION: And security for the Kabul-Kandahar road, how does that work?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: They're private contractors, for the most part, and when possible and when coalition forces are available in a response, they've responded. Primarily, the USAID brought their own security, train themselves and paid for Afghans to provide them with security.

QUESTION: I think that's about it.


QUESTION: It's very kind of you.



Released on December 11, 2003

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