Says U.S. Will Stand by Afghans,
Would Do the Same for Iraqis
Sgt. 1st Class
Doug Sample, USA, AFPS
Feb. 14, 2003 — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told an
audience of civic and business leaders that the U.S. remains steadfast
to its promise to aid Afghanistan’s stability.
And he said
experiences in Afghanistan could apply to a post-Saddam Iraq.
me be clear," he said, "No matter whatever else happens
in the world, we will not abandon Afghanistan. Afghanistan remains
an important ally, not only in the war against terrorism, but
in that larger struggle for freedom and moderation in the Muslim
those remarks at a black tie dinner of the Intrepid Freedom Foundation,
where he also received the Intrepid Freedom Award, the foundation’s
highest honor. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who heads up U.S. Central
Command and was last year’s recipient, presented the award.
In a speech
often interrupted by applause, Rumsfeld told the audience that
the results of the terrorist attack on America actually helped
liberate the Afghan people and transform their country.
Sept. 11, Afghans lived in fear. Freedom to them was but a distant
dream — today they are free," Rumsfeld said. "Afghanistan
is no longer a safe haven for terrorists, girls and boys are back
in school, and over 1 million refugees are back at home. This
is a remarkable transformation," he added.
Much of that
transformation is because of U.S. support, Rumsfeld said, including
an investment of some $850 million for reconstruction in Afghanistan
and another $3.3 billion pledged over the next four years. That
investment has included the United States assistance to the Afghan
that U.S. strategy in the war in Afghanistan was never to occupy
to country. "From the onset of the war, our guiding principle
has been that Afghanistan belongs to the Afghans. The United States
does not aspire to own it or run it," he said.
he said the U.S. did not send a massive invasion force to occupy
the country, but instead teamed with coalition and Afghan forces
that opposed Taliban rule. As part of the military campaign, U.S.
Air Force planes dropped thousands of leaflets over the country
that carried the message that America was not coming as a force
of occupation but as a force of liberation, the secretary noted.
"As a result we did not alienate the Afghan people,"
The same philosophy
would apply if the United States were to lead an international
coalition against Iraq, Rumsfeld stated. He emphasized that President
Bush has yet to make any decision on the use of force in Iraq.
But "the same principles would hold true, that Iraq belong
to the Iraqis," he said.
hope to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and liberate
the Iraqi people," Rumsfeld continued. He said that America’s
commitment in Iraq would be to stay as long as necessary, but
leave as soon as possible.
he said the U.S. would work with coalition partners, just as they
have in Afghanistan, to help the Iraqi people establish their
own new government in "a single country free of weapons of
the Pentagon is looking at post-war planning for an Iraqi government.
The secretary said the process would be made easy with solid infrastructure
already in place in Iraq: working road networks and resources
such as oil that will provide the Iraqi people the means to get
back on their feet.
He also refuted
rumors spread among the Iraqi people that the United States seeks
war with their country because of oil and even, as some believe,
Iraqis) are being told lies, that the U.S. wants to take their
oil. This is utter nonsense," Rumsfeld said. "This has
nothing to do with oil in my modest opinion. He recounted how
history and the facts have documented America’s respected work
with other countries in the Middle East and the Balkans with Muslim
to a media question on North Korea’s threat to the United States,
Rumsfeld said nuclear weapons are a "real threat to the world."
terrorist states are in the process of making a good deal of progress
toward having a variety of ranges of ballistic missiles as well
as a nuclear program, "What they need in many instances is
the nuclear material," Rumsfeld said, pointing to North Korea
as the world’s leading proliferator of missile technologies.
that means is that the world we are living in in the next five
to 10 years could end up with another four, five or six countries
with nuclear weapons, several of which are on the terrorist state
list. That would be a notably different world than the world we’re
Freedom Award is presented to leaders who have distinguished themselves
by promoting and defending the values of freedom and democracy.
Past winners have included Secretary of State Colin Powell and
Vice President Richard Cheney.
Prior to receiving
the award, Rumsfeld said that he and the aircraft carrier Intrepid,
now moored at a New York pier and serves as a museum drawing more
than 600,000 visitors annually, share much in common.
was commissioned into naval service in the middle of the 20th
century — and so was I. She went on to serve the Navy in
various capacities for more than three decades — and so have
I. She retired from government service in the late 1970s but she
was brought back from the scrap yard—and so was I."
that the Intrepid is living proof "that a couple of broken
down Navy vessels can still strive to serve this great country."