Transcript: Remarks by Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak at the CSIS panel

Transcript of remarks by Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on April 12, 2012: 

Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on April 12, 2012.SOURCE:

“Dignitaries, friends, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a privilege to address this prominent audience in this prestigious institution. I would like to begin by expressing the profound gratitude and everlasting appreciation of the Afghan people and the government for the assistance, cooperation and support which U.S., supported by NATO and its partners, have provided to my war-torn country. They are all playing a vital role in shaping the destiny of my devastated nation.

“Progress has been made over the last 10 years, but our giant accomplishments have been secured at a cost measured in lives. The debt of gratitude we owe of our soldiers and citizens can never be fully repaid. We mourn those who have given their lives, and we pray for the families of the fallen and wounded. We suffered immensely in the ’90s when we were left isolated. And as a consequences, the whole world was affected, and you bore the tragedy of the 9/11 attack. So we fully appreciate the value and significance of your enduring support and assistance.

“From 2002 we Afghans were emphatically of the view that the only sustainable and enduring way to secure and defend Afghanistan was to enable the Afghan themself. This approach would have been much more cost-effective, politically less complex, and would have saved the lives of our friends and allies. For many years we failed to develop sufficient Afghan National Security Forces, and the threat assessment was unrealistically low. The initial size of the NSF was far too little by any historic or troop-to-task analysis. And the scale and the challenge of rebuilding a devastated nation were underestimated. In 2006 when the enemy escalated their attacks, we did not responded effectively until 2009. Afghanistan remain an economy-of-force effort, and a great window of opportunity was wasted.

“The new strategy in 2009 paved a clear way ahead to realize our common and shared objectives. This strategy was not narrowly focused on counterterrorism but rather on a comprehensive civil-military campaign which could also defeat the radical ideology and give us an enduring strategic victory. It has been – it has provided a proper vision and had all the element which we have longed for since 2002.

“In regard to security situation, the enemy failed to execute their campaign plan in 2011. They have been losing support among the people, and there is a significant rift in their leadership. With the measurably improved security and with the violence having decreased considerably across all categories, I’m confident that our sacrifices will lessen. The enemy avoid direct confrontation and revert to their indiscriminate and inhuman activities of employing suicide bombers, laying mines and IEDs.

“Many enemy attacks have been foiled. They have lost ground and suffered heavily. But unfortunately, due to the way the media operates, the perception of security has not improved commensurate with the realities on the ground. The narrative of progress since 2002 in different sectors, and ANSF’s achievements, including effectively securing several national high-profile events in the face of repeated enemy threats and actions, continue to – continue to be totally ignored.

“The ANA is a success story of the last few years. It is a potent symbol of reform and a physical manifestation of the new Afghanistan, illustrating our continuing transformation into a nation which can once again take responsibility for its own destiny. In the 2011 Asia Foundation poll, the ANA’s perceived by 93 percent of the Afghan population to be honest and fair.

“Although we have made significant progress, it still remains a challenge to raise a National Security Force and simultaneously conduct a war. The ANSF is increasingly more effective and disciplined. Although we still remain reliant for some enablers, the Afghan National Security Forces is striving to reduce its relying – reliance on ISAF. And I can proudly announce that we are taking an increasing lead on most of the operations, including night raids.

“The operational campaign plan for 2012 was developed by Afghans. We already have over 3,000 Afghans in structure, and we are training over 22,000 soldiers, NCOs and officers every day. We have doubled the size of the army since 2009, and we are six months ahead of schedule in reaching the ceiling of the ANA. Attrition and detention are well within an acceptable level, which will allow us to focus more on quality.

“The most significant hindrance to the continued development of the Afghan National Security Forces is the Afghan economy. Quite simply, it’s unable to financially sustain the ANSF in the foreseeable future. However, rest assured that the Afghan government will increase its share as its economy develops. The future economic prospect are extremely promising and bright. Bearing this in mind, at the last NATO defense ministerial we asked all troop- contributing nation to reinvest some of the transition dividend to the Afghan National Security Forces sustainment. The burden cannot and should not fall wholly on the United State.

“I sincerely appreciate the U.S. commitment, especially for their proposal in sustaining the ANSF beyond 2014. It’s a clear demonstration of their resolve to preserve the hard-won progress and to sustain a free Afghanistan for future generations. While things are looking bright, initially I had strong reservation about any future ANSF reduction without a sustained improvement in security. Any significant cuts to the ANSF on the heels of an ISAF drawdown and the completion of transitions would have presented significant challenges. But fortunately I have been reassured.

“On the assumption of a gradually degrading threat, we recognize the need to develop a planning model to serve as a conceptual basis for the government of Afghanistan and the international community to decide on the future ANSF funding and adjustment of its size and structure through the transformation (decade ?). The size of the force and other planning assumptions will be subject to revision in accordance with conditions on the ground in mutual agreement between the Afghans’ government and the international community.

“With the tireless effort and heroic sacrifices of U.S. and the rest of the international community and their generosity, it has been made possible the – to that transition become a reality. On that momentous day in Bamyan back in July 2011, we started our giant endeavor to allow Afghans to fulfill their historic responsibility to defend and secure their nation. We successfully completed tranche one. Tranche two is almost completed, which will place half of the Afghan population under protection of their own countrymen. And tranche three is now in detailed planning. Rest assured, we Afghan are fully committed to the process and will spare no effort in sacrifices to ensure its success.

“Clearly the challenge in the long term is the need to develop the ANA from a light infantry-centric force for COIN or counterinsurgency operation to a modern force capable of defending our nation. (We ?) must therefore strive to build our enabling capabilities currently provided by ISAF as quickly as possible. We should accomplish this task while developing further the ANA to enable the Afghans to preserve the achievement of our giant endeavor, relieve NATO completely from the brunt of fighting and prepare the ANA for an irreversible transition.

“As we look to the future, to 2014 and beyond, we have operational and strategic imperative which require considerations. Operationally we need to now look to the coming years and the systems we need to embed to counter the drawdown of ISAF forces, the remaining lack of enablers and the capability gap that will be presented post-2014.

“Strategically it is in our collective interest to not view and define Afghanistan through a NATO prism of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, but rather in the much wider global and regional security context. It is our earnest expectation that our allies revise their strategic evaluation, appreciating Afghanistan’s geographic proximity and potential for its future role within the region and beyond, and to take into account Afghanistan position as a linking bridge for all stakeholders, with its considerable potential to impact global markets from our projected minerals and natural resources. Moreover, you should count on as a reliable and – (inaudible) – for international peacekeeping operation and other activities of mutual interest in the framework of forging collective regional and global security arrangements to curb the negative impact of al- Qaida and other radical, disruptive and destructive powers.

“Afghanistan is located in the most volatile region of the world and lies within an extremely dangerous neighborhood. There are significant threats in the region, including conventional warfare between states, nuclear proliferation, territorial dispute, economic underdevelopment, radical Islam, transnational terrorism and organized crime, including narcotics and weapon trafficking.

“Afghanistan has on many occasions been allotted in unhappy role on the international stage as the proxy battleground for competing interests. A weak, fragmented and failed Afghanistan quickly invites external interference, and our strategic position continue to attract unwelcome and disruptive attention. Many nation are once again pursuing their own narrow interests at the expense of the Afghan people. There is no better alternative than self-reliance, but the highly sensitive Afghan condition of a tumultuous neighborhood and the nature of the threats makes partnership, include security cooperation with our friends and allies, an inevitable requirement.

“Even when we are all capable of taking over physical security, it will still be vital for our national survival and success in this volatile region to maintain enduring strategic partnerships. This is why we are signing and seeking long-term partnerships and agreements. These partnerships help us look beyond 2014, to secure Afghanistan into years ahead and to provide stability for both Afghanistan and the region and also to prevent the recurrence of the catastrophic disaster of the ’90s, in order to realize a stable and secure Afghanistan beneath national unity and inclusiveness of its entire people.

“This can only be possible with the continued implementation of reconciliation and reintegration program. We are seeking a genuine peace that makes life worth living, a peace that enables man and nations to grow and hope to build a better life for their childrens. Over recent months, there has been a visible increase in the pace of people reintegration; 4,014 insurgents have reintegrated since the program inception and 1,658 are under negotiation. As far as reconciliation is concerned, we will continue our quest for peace, despite those hindrance from external players.

“As for the enemies of liberty, those who are trying to impose revolutionary changes worldwide and seek to transform the Islamic world and reorder its relationship with other cultures and regions, they will not succeed. But peace is the highest aspiration of us all. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it, but we will never surrender for it – now or ever.

“We are definitely at a critical juncture and defining moment in our joint campaign. Although the serious efforts only began in 2009, I’m well aware the war has been prolonged beyond expectation. I know that economic austerity on a global scale has constrained the international community ability to support this enduring nation. I recognize that election and local political agendas may not favor this continued effort. Above all, I’m acutely aware that the growing number of casualties becoming unbearable.

“We must not let these challenges diminish our resolve. At stake are not only the hopes, the aspiration and the future of over 30 million Afghans, but the safety and harmony of the mankind. So for the sake of all – sake of our joint and shared objectives, and to ensure that sacrifices of thousands of brave souls were not in vain, we must adhere to our enduring commitment that we will never allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven or an ungoverned area again where terrorists can hide, train and threaten the rest of the world.

“To paraphrase General Allen from the most recent defense ministerial, the international community’s continued support for the Afghan National Security Forces in the post-2014 period will be perhaps the single most important (determent ?) in finally achieving our shared objectives for the future of Afghanistan. We are all confident that campaign in Afghanistan is imminently winnable, but only if Afghans are enabled to defend their homeland as they have done it throughout the history.

“So our march to victory is inevitable, and we come through the worst. It is now time to begin the effort to secure the future. One day we will have a celebration of victory and witness the triumph of good over evils, right over wrongs and justice over tyranny. We will be all proud that we were all part of this noble endeavor. Thank you, and God bless you.”



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