Transcript: Part 1 Q&A with Afghan Defense Minister Wardak & Interior Minister Mohammadi at the CSIS panel

Transcript of Part 1 Q&A with Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismella Mohammadi at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on April 12, 2012: 

Robert D. Lamb, Director of Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation Program at CSIS: 

“Thank you so much, Minister Mohammadi, and thank you for your leadership of the minister – the Ministry of Interior. We recognize that your efforts within the ministry to promote professionalism within the police forces and in particular to promote merit- based hiring and promotion as well as ethic unity (ph) within the police forces are much- appreciated efforts, and I think it speaks well of your leadership.

“Both of you are surely aware that many Americans, as evidenced through some recent polls, have decided that the Afghan war perhaps was not worth the effort. You’ve heard that there is a lot of pressure within the United States for the United States to withdraw as many troops as possible as quickly as possible.

“I would think that while that does suggest that Americans are tired of the war in Afghanistan, my sense is not that we want – it’s not that Americans think that we don’t care about Afghanistan anymore or that as we leave, that it would be fine if Afghanistan collapses. I think most Americans want Afghanistan to remain a stable and prosperous country where the Afghan people can benefit from the progress that has been made over the past 10 years, and also where the government and the security forces and the Afghan people together can ensure that the difficulties that take place in your region of the world, including the presence of some terrorist actors who had been of concern to the United States, will not continue to be a concern.

“Both of you are at the center of the efforts within Afghanistan to ensure that kind of success. And I wanted to ask both of you for a little bit more – a little bit more details about your plans in this regard.

“The Afghan security forces are clearly key to maintaining stability within Afghanistan. Could both of you speak a little bit more of the efforts that you’ve made to improve the professionalism and the capabilities of the Afghan security forces, both the police and the army, so that the American people can be confident that as U.S. forces withdraw that there are Afghans there who are ready, willing and able to maintain stability in your country?

Defense Minister Wardak:

“So I will respond to the first – the first part of your question about that decreasing support for the war in Afghanistan.

“Actually, I think nobody knows more than the Afghans what it means, I mean, to lose a dear one. And from the beginning, I think the American policy throughout the second part of the – I mean, (toward ?) – the 20th century, it has been always that – to defend the United States as far away from its mainland as possible. And they were the main reasons for your participation in World War I, World War II, Vietnam and Korea and all that.

“So right now also I think the 9/11 have caused you, I mean, to come and help us for your security and also to us, the Afghan people.

“But I would like to ask the – ask the American people about something else. Actually, we Afghans, not in the past and not now we are fighting only for ourselves or for our own country. We have fought in these last three decades for the collective freedom of humanity or what you call it today, I mean, the global village.

“In the first part, when we were fighting against the Soviets when we were invaded, with our blood and your support and your money and your logistical support, we managed – we managed to trigger the downfall of that empire which was threatening the United States in a great way. We contributed to shatter the invincibility of the Red Army. We caused the liberation of two dozen countries. We have helped toward the end of Cold War, and we have helped toward the termination of arms race.

“At the end of that, in the – in the ’90s, the whole world prospered. A lot of – including United States, a lot of countries have focused – all the money which went – they spending on the defense, they focused it for the welfare of their country.

“But what the Afghans have achieved? They have – they have end up with 2 millions dead, millions of widows, orphans and handicaps and close to 200 billion (dollars ?) worth of destruction based on the estimate of World Bank and IMF while Afghanistan was already the poorest country in the world.

“So I think we always have raised this slogan, especially in the developed world: We talk about liberty, equality, justice for all. So are these only hollow slogans?

“And now also, this threat of international terrorism is not only directed to us. It has already caused damages here in the United States, in Europe and many, many other countries. And it is a type of threat that no country alone can overcome by itself. It need a concerted and coordinated effort of a community of nation with a strategic global response.

“So I ask the people and the government of the United States that you have come a long way with us on a very difficult journey; the final destination is now within the – within the reach. So please help us to reach the final destination.

“On the second part of your questions, I think we are trying wholeheartedly to build Afghan security forces which are nationally oriented. They’re professionally skillful, they are morally disciplined, they’re ethnically balanced, and they are operationally cohesive, and they are democratically accountable. That is our aim and our goal, to reach it. And we express of our profound appreciation for all the help which we have got from NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan and also the CSTC-A. They are helping us to improve professionalism and the capability of the Afghan security forces.

“So if I do go into the detail, I – in my opening remarks, I think I have talked about some of our achievements at the moment. And we do hope that in the near future, we will be able to relieve you from burden of you in training us, as we mentioned. And also, I think we will focus more to improve core leaderships, the capacity and all the capabilities. But some of the capabilities and capacities and enablers will depend on the help of the international community.

“I could go on, but I think I have talked enough.”

Robert D. Lamb, Director of Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation Program at CSIS: 

“Of course, one of the difficulties is that what Americans see of Afghanistan generally has to do with war and politics. And I think that in any society, including the United States, if all you knew about the society was the politics and the violence, you’d be getting a very – a very partial picture of the situation. Americans don’t see news from Afghanistan about some of the hard efforts, the great number of peaceful Afghans. What they hear about are a lot of the difficulties with the security forces, the – when Americans are killed, questions about sustainability and those sorts. They don’t see a lot of the details of the training that – and the professionalism that’s taking place inside.”

Defense Minister Wardak:

“The problem is – the problem is the strategic communication that we failed and you failed also to convey to the American people. And so – and also the way the media operates, that positive news, to not have any bias, so they always focus on negatives. And that is what they are hearing. So I think if we do improve our strategic communication, I think we can do better on this field.”

Robert D. Lamb, Director of Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation Program at CSIS: 

“Minister Mohammadi?”

Interior Minister Mohammadi:

“I do wholeheartedly agree with everything that his excellency, the minister of defense, has said. My opinion is that in Afghanistan, we do need the collaboration of the people with the government, with the international community. And in result of this, we’ve had many successes during the past decade to look back upon.

“During the dark ages of the Taliban, all schools were closed, girls’ schools or boys’ schools. Education was not within reach. But the greatest majority of our young ladies and young men today can receive primary education. We have witnessed many advancements in the field of agriculture, in the field – in various fields.

“But unfortunately, more often than not we hear the concentration and focus upon bad news coming out of Afghanistan. Today – up to today a great deal of reconstruction has taken place in Afghanistan, even though it’s not quite enough. We have many more needs and many gaps to close.

“And 150,000-strong force is in and of itself a big accomplishment in Afghanistan today. And alongside his excellency, the minister of defense, under whom I served as chief of general staff, we set a solid foundation for the Afghan National Army, which we’re quite proud of. They are sacrificing every day. They are suffering losses every day. And the same can be said vis-à- vis the Afghan National Police.

“And during the past years we had the greatest number of independent operations, combat operations, just as we had the greatest number of operations alongside NATO forces. And we’re extremely proud of the fact that in the greatest part of Afghanistan – in the greatest parts of Afghanistan, the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army are enforcing the rule of law.

“We are at a very delicate crossroad point in the history of Afghanistan. All of the nation – the whole nation of Afghanistan wants to decrease the weight that we have placed on the shoulders of the international community. But we must have the capabilities to assume that heavy responsibility, to provide security for the entire nation of Afghanistan. We are extremely grateful and appreciative of the international community’s efforts, led by the United States of America, in the fields of increasing professional capabilities. And we are continuing to increase those capabilities.

“As I touched upon earlier, we have placed a great deal of focus and concentration on increasing leadership capabilities, overall training, from basic to highly specialized. Until 2014 we do have plans – we do have plans set up for the continuous improvement of the capabilities of the Afghan National Police force. And all of our efforts are aimed at gaining the trust, the hearts and minds of every Afghan.

“And fortunately, with the passing of every day, the credibility and the trust put into the Afghan national security forces by Afghan citizens is increasing. But unfortunately, naturally, we do face still some challenges on this path. But we will spare no efforts at overcoming those challenges and problems. But we need each other’s help in order to overcome these issues.”


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