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Remarks with AIA Chairman Hamid Karzai

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Kabul, Afghanistan
January 17, 2002

CHAIRMAN KARZAI: Welcome to Afghanistan. Many many years ago when we were fighting the Soviets. I also thank you very much for the assistance the United States give to Afghan people now, to liberate Afghanistan, to free Afghanistan, from the occupation of terrorism, from the presence of terrorism. They were the government here. And we knew all along that we could not free ourselves from that occupation without the help of the United States and the international community. So I'm here to announce our thanks again and we hope that the two people will continue to have very good relations, very strong relations, to come in the future. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I thank you very much for those very warm words of welcome. It's a great pleasure for me to be here in Afghanistan to meet with you and with your ministers, to bring you greetings from President Bush and greetings from the American people, and to deliver a message of commitment. We will be with you in this current crisis and for the future. We are committed to doing everything we can to assist you in this time of transition, to a new Afghanistan, an Afghanistan where people will be able to live in peace and security, raise their children, dream of a better future. To work with you in restoring your health care systems and your educational systems and all the other systems that one requires to be successful in the twenty-first century. You can take that message to the Afghan people. The American people are committed.

As I said to the Chairman earlier in our meeting, that every morning with President Bush, we talk about how the war has been going, how the military campaign has been going, but President Bush also wants to know, how is the humanitarian effort going and how is the reconstruction effort going, because he is committed to this cause for as long as it takes.

The reason it was important for me to come here today is that an important conference is being held in Tokyo next Monday and Tuesday where a number of nations will come together under the Chairmanship of Japan, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the European Union, to make a commitment to the Afghan people, contribute funds for reconstruction of this country and its society.

I also wanted to have this opportunity to express directly to the Chairman and to his colleagues our admiration of the courage that they have shown in recent months, and to thank them for the cooperation that they have given to our efforts to defeat terrorism and to be a partner in this continuing campaign of anti-terrorist activity throughout the world.

This is the time of challenge for the Afghan people, but it is also a time of hope, and we are determined to work with the Chairman and with the other authorities in Afghanistan to make sure that that hope is realized in a better life for all of the Afghan people. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your welcome, I thank you for your hospitality, and I look forward to my next visit of longer duration.

QUESTION: (question asks if the Secretary was able to tell the Chairman anything more specific about the amount of money that will be unfrozen in assets and the amount that will be pledged at Tokyo.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you know we've made a small contribution to the initial UN fund, and we have already paid that amount. What I said to the Chairman is that this coming Monday at the conference, in keeping with American tradition, as the collection plate is passed, the United States will make a significant contribution, but I think I'll wait until Monday before I announce the size of that contribution because work is still going on in Washington to make it as significant a contribution as we possibly can.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

CHAIRMAN KARZAI: Good question, good question. In addition to money, in addition to help Afghanistan, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, the Afghan people have been asking for staying commitment, staying partnership of the United States with Afghanistan in order to make this region safe, in order to make Afghanistan stand back on its own feet and continue to fight against terrorism or the return of terrorism in any form to this country or to the region. So we are asking for a partnership that is much longer in years and that brings Afghanistan back to its own people to control its borders, to generate its own revenues and income, to bring the people of Afghanistan the prosperity and the freedom to choose their own governments, and to go back to the world community as a stable, strong member of the world community.

Now, with regard to the absorption capability of the Afghan administration, we have comprehensive plans for that. We are trying to correct the administrative capabilities of the government, we are trying to have the institutions that will have the capability to absorb money and then spend it in Afghanistan. Be sure that warlordism is over in Afghanistan. You may not see the signs, ma'am, but it's over. And we'll make sure that it's over. And there, too, is a good question you asked, we'll have the help of the United States to do that.

SECRETARY POWELL: I was particularly impressed, if I may add a word, by the Chairman's commitment to making sure that the money goes for intended purposes and strong commitment against corruption. He was describing to me what happened when he came in and took over and discovered that all the banks have been totally looted, and I was moved by the depth of his commitment to make sure that corruption does not rear its ugly head again as we move forward, otherwise it will be difficult for the international community to make the kinds of contributions in the future that will be necessary. And I got that assurance from the Chairman and all of his cabinet.

QUESTION: (question referred to interim government's ability to print checks, money, central banking, etc.)

CHAIRMAN KARZAI: We have great ability to print as much money as you want. That's part of the problem. (laughter) That's part of the problem. Now, coming back to corruption, I remarked to Secretary Powell that we will be going towards an Afghanistan where the people will have the choice to choose their own government. People will be empowered, will be free there, absolutely. But one area where we'll be extremely tough and rather oppressive will be against corruption. So trust is there. We will be very very very rough there. There is no way that we can allow that. No way, because we know if we allow that, the country will not do well.

Coming to the banking system, we have a fine gentleman here that came from Washington, who's not with us today, who's been appointed as the deputy Chairman of the central bank, the deputy governor of the central bank. We are looking for other fine Afghans, very educated, very experienced in the banking sector, to come and join as governors of the bank. It's an important area. We will correct it, we will regulate it, we will make it in tune with the banking system of the rest of the world, and we have also made plans to allow foreign banks to come and set up shop in Afghanistan. So yes, Afghanistan has a tradition of banking, we will stop the printing of checks and money, that's one thing that we will do definitely. We are looking for ways to make the money supply in Afghanistan in accordance with the needs of the economy and the production that we have here.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it's, no, the cooperation between the interim authority and US forces has been excellent. There have been various reports of people who turned themselves in and were subsequently let go, and we're chasing all of that down. But the cooperation has been fine, quite satisfying. Obviously, there's still Al Qaeda and Taliban people who are on the loose, and that's the continuing mission of General Franks and his troops, working with Afghan military units to bring them all to ground because we don't want to leave any contamination behind, and I think that's in the interest of the Afghan people and certainly the mission we came here to perform.

QUESTION: There are millions of Afghan natives now in the United States. Very few of them have returned to help you and your cabinet to rebuild their homeland. Why do you think that is?

CHAIRMAN KARZAI: Well, let me look around. One --


QUESTION: There's two of you there.

CHAIRMAN KARZAI: No, no, just wait. Two, three, four. And I can show you at least 20 right now. Professor Amin, yes. No, he's been with us all the time.

QUESTION: But that's what I'm asking. That's a small percentage of the millions --

CHAIRMAN KARZAI: It is not for three weeks, sir. We're here three weeks only. And I tell you, there are so many Afghans calling us. Unfortunately, I've not been able to respond back to them. They will all come. But we must first do something else for our people. We must provide them a full sense of security. That has to be shown to them. That has not been yet shown to them. And you'll see that those Afghans will come. And we will be counting on the United States to help us bring those Afghans back. And there has been help in this regard.

QUESTION: Have you discussed security with Mr. Powell, and the use of US forces in a peacekeeping or other security mission?

CHAIRMAN KARZAI: Do you want to answer that?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have discussed the security situation. We understand the importance of it. The United States presence here is still directed toward pulling up al-Qaida and Taliban. That will help improve the security situation, just the continuation of Operation Enduring Freedom, until such time as General Franks believes he has accomplished the mission he came here to perform. That will help improve the security situation.

Then, of course, you have the international security assistance force that is here that is providing security in Kabul. And as it grows in size and capability, I am sure it will be working with the Chairman to see what else it might do.

So, yes, we did discuss those issues. But ultimate security will come from the creation of an Afghan national army committed to the new Afghanistan, and the creation of police units that are also committed to the new Afghanistan. That is the area that we have to really focus our attention, training Afghans to take care of themselves and not depending on foreign forces to do so.

CHAIMAN KARZAI: The lady over there has been asking for many minutes now, please.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, were you able to tell the Chairman what the status is in regard to (inaudible) the Afghan fund in the United States? You told us that the (inaudible) away so that he had access to that money (inaudible). Can you give us an update on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, the Chairman is aware of the status of those funds. We didn't have to spend a lot of time on it, because it's pretty well known that the gold reserves -- access to that money is moving along, and several other accounts, access is moving along, and new accounts are being found. And as I said, I believe to you yesterday, I expect in the very near future, in a matter of days or so, some of that money will start to be available to the government.

CHAIRMAN KARZAI: Last question.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the United States (inaudible) that the alarm fell on Tuesday, saying that the $20 million start-up fund was not enough; they upped the ante to $100 million, and very few of the players have actually committed the money and put the money in the bank. What is the United States going to do about that, and how can you help?

QUESTION: And also, how much have we contributed?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, of the $20 million in the initial start-up fund, our commitment to that was $1 million, and we have put it in the bank. I think the number is somewhere in the neighborhood -- and there are others here better qualified to speak to this -- perhaps four of the 20. We can do a lot better than that. I will be calling some of my colleagues in the international community to encourage them to pony up as fast as possible, and we'll be making other calls to people who are not part of that initial $20 million tranche to see if they can do something right away. And of course, the Chairman will be traveling immediately to visit countries that might have the ability to make a contribution.

And so we had a good discussion. In fact, I would say the majority of our time was spent on the fiscal needs of the country over the next year and a quarter.

CHAIRMAN KARZAI: All right. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN KARZAI: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: See you in a couple weeks.

Released on January 17, 2002

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