Transcript: Wardak & Mohammadi on the security transition in Afghanistan

Transcript of 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: 


“Thank you. Said Jawad with Foundation for Afghanistan. The Afghans are very proud of their security forces. And both the minister of interior and minister of defense, you’re not only the long-standing fighters for Afghanistan, but also the founding fathers of the new Afghan security forces. So the great degree of gratitude by all Afghans for what you have done for Afghanistan.

“I’ll be very specific on my questions. Both of you have mentioned the issue of mentors, enablers and trainers. Minister Wardak, what are your needs as far as enablers and mentors on the long run, considering all the discussion that’s going on about the reduction of the troops and others? And Minister Mohammadi, what is the role of the trainers that they’re playing in enabling you and your ministry? And how crucial it is that their mission continue, especially in the light of the – some of the recent challenges that you are facing in Afghanistan and also some discussions here in Washington? Thank you.”

Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak:

“Thank you, Ambassador Jawad, for your compliment. And as we go to 2013, the role of NATO is going to change – including the U.S. forces, it’s going to change from actually fighting. It will be – they will be just training, advising and assisting until we get the enablers, I think they will have a role in enabling too. But the question of the enabler is one of the most crucial questions which – I have raised it all these – all these years, that the Afghans should be able to conduct independent operation with lesser reliance on the international forces and that will be the only way that we can relieve the international forces from the brunt of fighting.

“So, at the moment, in the structure which has been developed, there are some enablers and some enablers are still needed, I mean, to make us capable of conducting independent operation(s). And most of the – the most serious ones are (AND ?) air assets which are needed by transportation, for reconnaissance, for the support of the ground troop(s) and also in the absence of the ISAF forces to secure the Afghan airspace. That is the biggest one.

“Then I think we also need a means – definite improvement as far as the fire support is concerned and also (protected ?) mobility with integrated firepower. And since the enemy is also relying heavily on IEDs and mines – so more counter-IED capability and more improvement in it – and some enablers are in the process of coming, but more focus on that area will also be required.”

Afghanistan Interior Minister Bismella Mohammadi:

“I do thank you, sir. You touched upon a valid point, and I do thank you for your compliments, but also for all of the efforts that have been brought to bear by the international community. Undoubtedly they’ve gone to a great deal of trouble during the last 10-plus years. The conversations that we’ve held during the past two days with the secretary of defense of the United States and the Chief of Joint Staff has only reiterated the information (they ?) previously which is the need for continuity in the number of trainers, an increase in the number of enablers and advisers and mentors. And as you know, the process of transition does not mean a complete exit from the picture; it means only a supportive role. Of course, the minister of defense touched upon what falls under the jurisdiction and the umbrella of the MOD. Within the ministry of interior, we have had many of our personnel come to the United States and receive training for counternarcotics efforts, we also have had some intelligence training exchanges. And as far as budgeting, the aid that will be brought to bear after 2014, that will be part of the Afghan budget. Again, I do wish to reiterate my gratitude and appreciation for all of the help of the international community.”


“Hi. My name is Javada (sp). I’m from the German Marshall Fund of the United States. I have a quick question for Minister Wardak. Mr.Wardak, you spoke a little bit about – in your remarks on the conceptual planning model, and you just recently announced that the Afghan security forces number were going to be reduced from its peak size of 350,000 to 260,000 forces, which essentially means you’re going to lay off about 80,000 soldiers. Believe it or not, that’s a big number. And given that the U.S. and the Afghan governments have invested in them over the years – in training and equipping them, can you talk a little bit about what’s going to happen to them and what are they going to do? Thanks.”

Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak:

“Actually, I think the downsizing will take place gradually. It will not be very immediate. And then I think we will also take into consideration that those people are taken care of. Some of them, I think, will get reduced through the normal process of attrition and that the contracts that – their three-years contracts will be over, so the majority of the numbers which you are talking about, they will not be – the major – the – all of them will not be a burden on us to take care of. But still we are thinking on the – that we will come up with ways and means that – to transfer them too as a reserve force and also give a lot of them vocational training, so that they can have a job to make a living.”

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

“Thanks. Let’s talk a little bit actually about the question of sustainability. Obviously security forces are enormously expensive, and the capacity that the Afghan government has to raise revenue within Afghanistan is limited. Some of that gap clearly is going to be filled by the international community. How confident are you that the resources will be available to sustain both the police and the army?”

Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak:

“Actually, at the moment, I think we are through this negotiation for the last month (plus ?) on this question of sustainability. From the beginning, I think, it was quite obvious that the Afghan economy at the present is not able, I mean, to sustain the force. And also – but in the meantime, we were telling the international community from 2002 that the only sustainable way to secure Afghanistan is to enable the Afghans themselves because, as far as sustainability is concerned, it is almost 70 times cheaper than the deployment of large formation of the international forces. And as I mentioned before, unfortunately, I think, from 2002 to – up to almost 2009, I think there was not much investment as far as the Afghan security forces was – were concerned. So we have always argued with the international community that it will be much cheaper for you, it will be politically less complex, as I stated before, and it will save live(s) for our friends and allies.

“And the reason was that in our history – this is the first time in our history that our friends and allies are shedding their blood on – in our side to defend and secure us, and that goes against our honor because, throughout the history, the only thing which we were the most proud of was that we have defended that country against overwhelming odds in this – different periods of the history.

“So right now, I think, still I believe that, with the transition, the dividend at the moment – the international community was spending about $150 billion a year roughly to do that. We just wanted to (please ?) invest 4 (percent), 5 percent of that money to sustain the Afghan security forces. And as I mentioned before, the future prospect(s) for the Afghans – I mean, if we put it through and we get it right, I think we can be one of the richest countries in that part of the world because of all what have been discovered. There is a great potential in different sector – primarily, I mean, on-the-ground resources. Then if we can harness our water for both for agriculture and hydroelectric, and then I think we’d also need improvement how to collect revenue and taxes.”


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2 Comments on “Transcript: Wardak & Mohammadi on the security transition in Afghanistan

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