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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > March

Remarks Upon Departing Afghanistan

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Tarmac at Kabul Airport
Kabul, Afghanistan
March 17, 2004

SECRETARY POWELL: (inaudible)…time productive talking to the Commander of the 10th Mountain Division, running our operations here in the field, as well as the head of the Office of Military Cooperation. And I also had a good talk with the UN gentlemen in charge of the registration and election process. So, I had a good day here in Afghanistan. I’ve seen a lot that has impressed me, a lot has been done since my last visit two years ago. I think we have a country that is looking forward to the elections coming up, they just completed their constitution, something they can be proud of. A lot of reconstruction is taking place. I think we’re bringing hope back to the people of Afghanistan. When you consider that close to three million people have returned to this country from refugee status in Iran and Pakistan, coming back to make lives for themselves over the last two years. I don’t know what better endorsement you could have for the future of this country than people believing in the country and coming back.

We’re looking forward to the Berlin Conference at the end of the month. President Karzai and I spent most of our meeting talking about security issues, political issues, election issues and funding issues that will be discussed at the Conference, and I look forward to joining him in Berlin in a couple weeks’ time. I already indicated that the United States will be making a major contribution of a billion dollars, donating an additional billion dollars formally at the Conference, to go on top of the 1.2 billion dollars that has already been programmed, for a total of $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2004. Their fiscal year is a little different than ours, so the numbers won’t quite look the same when we balance it over the different fiscal year (inaudible).

Let me just stop there and see if you guys have any particular questions before we head off to Islamabad.

QUESTION: President Karzai sort of suggested there was a possibility the elections would be delayed, possibly until August. Do you have any thoughts on if the election might be delayed or not.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I mean you heard him answer publicly when you asked him at the press conference. The major pacing item right now is registration. One and a half million people, roughly have been registered. The UN has a plan to really accelerate and scale-up the registration process. I think they’re going to start on that very quickly, and try to get up to the numbers would seem appropriate, eight or nine million. They’re not sure what the population of Afghanistan is. They haven’t had a real census in over 30 years, so a lot of this is extrapolation. But, I think if they could get up to eight or nine million people registered, you have got a proper representation of the overall population. So it’s a matter of scaling that up, getting the registration done. And whether its June, July, August remains to be seen, and a decision to be made by the Afghans or President Karzai. I don’t think it makes a significant difference as long as it is done well, and as long as it seems fair, honest and objective. And now whether it is an election for both the President and the legislature, or the President and subsequently the legislature, or whether they can accelerate the Presidential election earlier in that summer period and delay the legislative election. That remains to be seen, but also is a judgment to be made by the Afghanis.

(cross-talk)

QUESTION: In the appropriation, as I understand it, requested for FY05 is $1.2 billion. Do you think that’s sufficient for the needs here?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it’s what we put in. The 1.2 that is in the ’05 budget submission, I think is an appropriate amount of the budget. Now we’ll see where we are when we get into that fiscal year. But $2.2 billion in ’04 is a significant amount and I think it shows the American people that we are dedicated to reconstruction and we’ll fight for the $1.2 billion in the ’05 budget, as already have been testified before Congress. And then we’ll have to wait until we get into ’05 to see if there are additional needs that have to be dealt with by other than the regular budget process.

QUESTION: To be perfectly clear, the additional $1 billion that you talked about is money that’s already been appropriated by the Congress?

SECRETARY POWELL: It’s in our accounts now. It’s not a new supplemental, it’s in our accounts now.

MR. BOUCHER: Ok, let’s go, load ‘em up.


Released on March 18, 2004

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