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Public Statements

Reconstruction of Afghanistan

Location: Washington, DC

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN JR (D-DE): I'll be very brief, Mr. Chairman. I'd ask unanimous consent that my statement be placed in the record.

SEN. LUGAR: It will be published in full.

SEN. BIDEN: And I apologize for being late. Just 2 months ago the president signed the Afghan Freedom Support Act of 2002. And Senator Hagel and Senator Lugar and I cosponsored that and it was pushed forward by this committee and we finally got it passed. But the Act authorizes $3.3 billion for reconstruction and security for Afghanistan over and above the funds the president might see fit to allocate from other sources.

In recognition of the fact that Afghan recovers is a long term effort, and in recognition of America's continued commitment, the sum was structured as a four-year authorization. The president's budget proposes funding for Afghanistan for Fiscal 2004 that remains approximately the same level as it did in 2002 and 2003. But none of this will make much of a difference without security, and security is jeopardized in my view by the administration's decision not to seek an expansion of the U.N. mandated peacekeeping force. We're already seeing Afghanistan drop off the radar screen, not with our witness but in the country at large and the world at large. What level of commitment will the administration display once Afghanistan lines up behind Iraq and North Korea or whatever comes next?

So, Mr. Chairman, I think we have to remember why you and Senator Hagel and I and our colleagues in the committee decided to pass this Afghan Freedom Support Act in the first place. I can sum it up in three words: warlords, drugs and terrorism. We've made precious little progress in any of the three. We did it to prevent future Afghans from becoming a replay of the past, and we did it for the sake of the people of Afghanistan, but we also did it for the sake of our own national security.

And I'm anxious to hear from our second witness. We are able to talk about it. I can tell Mr. Johnson and others now, I'm going to want to know—I want to know precisely what warlords are in charge, what areas do you have little or no impact? Tell me who our greatest problems are, the names of them.

Is it Ishmael Khan? Is he cooperating with Iran, which I—he is. What's going on with regard to Tajikistan's involvement in the north? These are things I'm very anxious to hear about, and not just generic assertions about our long term commitment, and I look forward to hearing that.

As I said, I ask unanimous consent my entire statement be placed in the record. I thank you for your indulgence.

SEN. BIDEN: The author of that article may not know much about Afghanistan, but I'm going to say something outrageous: I do. And the fact of the matter is they're all hedging their bets. Not one single solitary surrounding country has any faith there'll be a central government. None: n-o-n-e, and both of you know it. Not one surrounding government is betting on the staying power or that there will be a central government controlling all of Afghanistan.

And what bothers me, gentlemen, is not you personally. What bothers me is the administration redefinition of what constitutes security instability. And I've had this longstanding discussion up until recently on a weekly basis with the White House and with the national security adviser, for whom I have great respect. You've redefined what constitutes stability, lack of violence. That was not the mandate. The mandate was a central government controlling all of Afghanistan that was multiethnic and violence-free. You cannot get in an automobile, either one of you, without a military escort and travel from Kabul to Heart. You can't do it. You wouldn't do it. There is no stability in Afghanistan as we defined it initially.

And what is exactly happening here is Musharraf is hedging his bet. Musharraf is wondering whether or not when Afghanistan goes down and Karzai leaves or is assassinated, whether or not—what does he face at home? You have parts of the international security service for Pakistan, once again either turning a blind eye to or cooperating with part of the Pashtun. Why? Because Ishmael Khan is cooperating with the Iranians, because the Tajiks are cooperating with the Russians. This is a replay, a replay of the last 100 years of history, and we knew that. So I wish we'd stop talking about stability.

Give me a break, Mr. Rodman. You cannot—Karzai cannot go outside of Kabul. There is no ability. Ishmael Khan doesn't have to pick up the phone and ask whether or not any program is going to be developed in his part—his part of Iraq—I mean of Afghanistan that comes from the central government. The whole purpose of the central government and us funneling the money through in the first place, as I sat there for hours in Karzai's office, was that he had to have something to give, otherwise he has no—he needs one of two things. He either has to have a goody basket that decides when he's going to build a road, he decides whether a road gets built in Herat or a well gets dug. Or he has to have the military force to be able to do it, to control it.

Now, as the young kids say, we ought to get real here. I mean, look, we have made progress. Americans are out there risking their lives every single day. They are trying to track down the Taliban and they are trying to track down the Al-Qaeda. But right from the beginning the way we characterized this, how many Taliban forces did we say as we moved in we expected to have to confront: 50,000, 100,000, 150,000? Do any of you remember the number that we talked about?

Mr. Rodman, Defense Department, what do you think—what was the number we were talking about a year ago before we invaded, as we prepared?

MR. RODMAN: Yeah, I don't remember the number.

SEN. BIDEN: Well, it was well over 100,000. Now, it doesn't take a mathematician for us to figure out every single Taliban killed, even with exaggerated estimates, every single Taliban captured, every single Taliban member who came along and said, "I have changed my ways. I have seen the Lord," add them all up. That leaves somewhere between 50,000 and 90,000 of them out there.

Where do we think they all went? Do we think they all of a sudden had, as we Catholics say, an epiphany? They're there. They're there. And it frustrates the devil out of me, as you can tell, by us sort of sugarcoating this. It is a terrible job.

But the sine qua non is that no outside power other than us and an international force would mold Afghanistan. And Iran is molding western Afghanistan. Pakistan is molding parts of southeast Afghanistan, and the list goes on. And so my frustration is you still cannot travel in the west. Ishmael Khan has now decided that women should wear burqas again. Man, that's stability. That is real stability.

I don't mean this to be humorous. I'm not trying to be a wise guy. But what we're—I'll speak for myself. What I'm worried about is if the same standard is set down, if this is what we call commitment and, forget the phrase—stability building, because I know nation building is not a good thing to say. Whatever we call it, if this is the standard, we are in, as they say in the eastside of my city, in a world of hurt when we decide what our policy is with regard to Iraq.

I'll come back because I have questions and I've used up my time editorially here. But, you know, when you have Abdul Dostum's rival, the Tajik former Northern Alliance commander Ishmael Khan, you have Gul—you know, I mean you have these guys who are out there who are the strongest of the warlords and there is zero, zero, zero control from the central government. Zero. That is not stability. That was not what we said and announced in Bonn was our objective. We are changing the definition of what success is.

My last comment, Mr. Rodman, is, you say we'll stay there until the mission is finished. Have we redefined the mission? Is the redefinition of the mission that not that many people are being killed because all the women are wearing burkas again, the men are required not to shave anymore that we have ourselves in a situation where no one dares travel the roads, where the university is not functioning as was intended? That's stability. If that's what we define it, you're right. We're approaching stability.

But if the mission is a centralized government that is able to be strong enough to resist the pressure of the surrounding states, to alter the environment in Afghanistan, we are on the first rung of the ladder. So I need at some point a clear definition from the administration of what constitutes the mission—the mission. When do we know we've succeeded?

When everyone salutes Ishmael Khan—I keep picking that one example—but in Herat and no one is dying, is that success? When we know his relationships with Iran and we know they're increasing, is that stability? Is that the mission? If it is, that's not the one I signed onto. I'd be happy to invite comments and I'll be back with very specific questions.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, please don't take my frustration personally. My frustration has existed from this time a year ago in Bagram to today and I have seen—and I can say this without equivocation, without fear of being contradicted and there's no way you could have seen this—I have seen a transition, to use the popular phrase, a morphing of the policy. You know, as well as I do, in its legitimate position that there are senior administration officials who believe—and I'll quote one—"that Afghan is ungovernable, it has never been governable", it is a polyg—my word, so far it's a quote, " ungovernable, has never been governable" and the idea that we can govern it or set up a central government that is going to be capable of governing it is an unrealistic expectation.

And therefore—and this is a legitimate position—it is in our interest to see to it that the center, quote, it's not even the center, but Kabul is stable, that it has a relationship with the rest of the country, not a dominant relationship in the sense that it's the central government but it is the titular center of the state where you have, replacing in effect the governors of the various provinces, individual warlords who are able to maintain security in their region, the underlying premise being if they gain security in the region, it is unlikely that the swamp can fill back up again and we will have a reenactment of what happened before, that is, the Taliban in control. Because the Taliban did control. They did a pretty good job of controlling the whole country and subsuming the warlords in most cases to their will.

But that is not what our announced policy is. I do have a few specific question. That's my frustration. Our announced policy not mirroring our actions. ISAF. I sat for a couple of hours with the previous commander of ISAF over a year ago in a tent outside of—actually it was in the city limits of Kabul—very impressive guy, General McColl, a Brit and he went on along with two American liaison, -- they're both colonels? -- two American colonels. One, if I'm not mistaken, in Kandahar. Excuse me. One, if I'm not mistaken, from Bagram and one from Kabul. But they were assigned liaison to ISAF, which was—and McColl was just staffing up his force. He was at about 1700, 1800 going to 4,000, I think the number was. I can't recall the exact number. And they gave me a very detailed brief. And I said, "You'll need to expand ISAF beyond—" and I'm not going to attribute—because I don't want to get him in trouble—I'm not going to attribute what I'm about to say to any one person. But I can say to you this is the consensus of all the military personnel representing more than one country sitting in that tent.

You are going to have to extend ISAF beyond Kabul. Uniform view. Absolutely yes. But General McColl and I said, "Are you—is your government going to allow you to stay?" And I remember what he said. He said, "If the big dog isn't in the pen, the small dogs aren't going to be there." He said, "Are you going to stay?" Now, what "stay" meant—remember the discussion that took place, Mr. Rodman, about a year ago. The discussion was would we provide intelligence? Would we be the source for all the intelligence or the primary source of intelligence for ISAF? Would we supply for ISAF as well the lift capacity and would we be the guarantor of extraction? They were the things we were discussing and debating. I came back and talked with my friend, Senator Hagel, about this, talked with a number of other guys, John McCain, others who had been in and out. And the question was and the debate was, was our military ready to make in effect that guarantee without us having boots on the ground with ISAF?

And I remember talking about that at length and being told—and there was a debate that ensued between State and Defense as to the efficacy, the utility, the wisdom of expanding ISAF and it was a relatively hard fought debate. State was saying you got to expand. They're not saying that now. And Defense was saying, don't sign us up to that for the reason my friend from Indiana, the chairman, said. Don't make us the lord and master of the whole area and take on the whole responsibility.

And so I later—then I later heard, well, you know the other countries won't expand. They don't want to expand. Sure, they won't expand. They won't guarantee that we would be part of the operation. They won't guarantee that we would meet the three missions. We said, "Look, don't worry. We're still in the country. We've got 4,000 forces still in the country." They said, "That's not good enough. Are you in on the deal? You, the United States, are you committing your forces, your resources, your guarantee that if we are up against it, you'll be the one that commit." The Brits don't—NATO won't have the capacity to lift into that region without us.

To the best of my knowledge—I may be mistaken and I ask Dr. Blank(ph) behind me to correct me if I'm wrong—but we never gave that guarantee, to the best of my knowledge. And so, now we're told that no one wants to expand. And we also—and I remember, I don't want to implicate my good friend, the chairman, here—if I'm not mistaken, he and I both either wrote a letter or asked the president to be able to see him for the sake of NATO unity to suggest to him that the advice he was getting of not accepting front end, unrelated to ISAF, a thousand German crack forces that Schroeder risked a vote of confidence on wanting to deploy and I think it was 3,000 French, was it? -- I can't remember the numbers. And Defense said, "No, thank you. We don't need them."

We importuned the president and said whether you need them or not, take them because these guys declared an Article 5. These guys said—the French newspaper, Le Monde, said we are all Americans and now you are telling them we don't need you. And so, now we are at a point where the arguments being made to folks like me when I say, "Why aren't we expanding?" the White House says no one else wants to expand. So that's a long prelude to a short question.

Mr. Rodman, Mr. Secretary, if you know, and you may not know, it may be an unfair question to ask you, and if it is you just tell me and I'll seek an answer from Defense. Is the United States prepared to guarantee lift intelligence and extraction if our NATO and other allies are prepared to expand the ISAF force beyond Kabul into other regions? Do you know the answer to that question?

SEN. BIDEN: I won't beat a dead horse but I'll get for the record the early statements—if my memory serves me correctly, the secretary of Defense about expansion of ISAF, before we had any discussions with anybody about our unwillingness to be part of it, our unwillingness to make any guarantees. Now, I'll let the record correct me if I'm wrong about that, but I will get that information. If I may just make one last point in a very short question. My understanding—now this is about—when's the last time you were—when were you in Afghanistan?

MR. : August.

SEN. BIDEN: So this is almost five months old, what I'm about to say. First hand knowledge. And that is that it's my understanding that one of the reasons why we were having trouble initially recruiting the first two classes of Afghan integrated military under the control of Mr. Karzai was not the money. The money was a problem, it still is a problem, I'm interested in what the Ambassador thinks. But was that the warlords who control the bulk of those fighters who have a capacity to command were very unwilling to give up their best, and wanted to keep the bulk of their force structure in place. And initially we were actually getting people out of mental hospitals and we were emptying institutions the first time out, I'm told by one green beret who was doing part of the training.

This is the first time out, when we were trying to fill up the difference between what we needed to fill the first classes and the difference between what was sent to us and not, because if I understand it, it's a two part question. A, is the way in which U.S. military trainers and others get these forces is that they are sent, we seek support from the Tajiks, from the northern alliance, from the various warlords to suggest sending so we have a multi-ethnic military. And two, is there a—I'll just stick to that. Is that how we get them? Is that the place from which they come? Or is a recruiting poster hanging in a storefront in Kandahar? I mean, how do we get these folks?

SEN. BIDEN: One point I'd make. Being an American citizen, having been an American citizen, you know that it will be helpful if you acknowledge the altruism of the American people. This idea of us not doing this for altruism. My folks back home don't understand the other reason. They think they are doing it to help. So the extent that you are grateful for what is being done is a useful thing because they are not interested in helping any Islamic republic or state for any reason. And so it is borne out of some altruism. It will be nice if you occasionally acknowledge that. Number one.

But number two. Let's take gas and oil, that you said should be—is worth several billions of dollars and, quote, "piped into Kabul." When I last had occasion, as you know, and spoken to President Karzai, not only in person but on the phone, I found out last time I—and this is stale conversation—but let's take the practical problem of, assuming the economic investment is there to develop the gas and oil in the north.

You have Dostum. You have General Attar. You have Fahim, who was, I know, Defense Minister but he has another little hat he wears. And you have Sayaf, who is a very good friend of Mr. bin Laden's, all in the north. All competing for the affection and attention of the people in the north. Tell how you think no matter how much many got sent to the north, there would be a reasonable prospect of being able to safely begin to develop those oil reserves which I strongly support us doing.

And the reason I ask the question so you don't think I'm attempting to mousetrap you here, as we say, is that President Karzai's always made the point to me unless I can secure the area first, there is no likelihood that the resources in the rest of my country are going to be the province or under the control of the central government. Maybe you could speak to that question for me specifically using the gas and oil as an example.

MR. SHAHRYAR: Well, Senator, your point is well taken. As I have indicated that number one is the security of the region. ISAF is very, very important. And money, businesses, oil companies or gas or other businesses in the U.S. I talk to. They don't dare to go inside unless there is security. So my conditions for developing all of that to give an incentive to push up and jumpstart ISAF and increase the security of the country while we can do all of this.

SEN. BIDEN: I think that's a very important point for you to continue to make. The president makes it to me every time I see him and I think it's a central and critical point in order to be able to give people who are reluctant, whether they are members of the administration, members of Congress, leading business people in and out of the United States in the region and that is that there is a prescription here but it all rests upon the idea that Afghanis as well as outside donor groups, as well as outside development initiatives, can come in and feel they can operate without finding themselves in the crosshairs of these competing interests in the region and whatever region we go into.

And so it's not merely—and that's been one of my primary arguments with the administration when they tell me don't worry, there is basically "calm and peace," quote unquote, in the region. And I'm going to be very, very hardhearted about this for a moment to make a point. I am more concerned about the duct tape and the plastic that's being sold in the stores today in Washington DC and around the country than I am about making sure the human rights of the people of Afghanistan are returned although I've demonstrated by my record I am very concerned about that.

And so it's very difficult for us to convince the administration, or at least the dominant here in the administration and our colleagues—I shouldn't say us—it's very difficult for my anyway to convince them that we in fact should be taking a greater risk by extending ourselves even more relative to Afghanistan unless it can be demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between our failure to do that and the duct tape that's going up on people's windows here in the United States or potential.

And so to the extent that you can make the argument because you are persuasive. You are a very successful businessman. You're an Afghani by birth and now an Afghani by choice in terms of a citizen but you made your fortune here in the United States.

You know how this place operates to the extent that you are able to connect the dots for people like that. I think it would be very helpful. I think it would be a very helpful point. And I know you're trying very hard to do that but I want to reinforce the broad points you're making.

When you talk about—what is your impression? Let me put it another way. The president of the United States, not Chairman Lugar or Joe Biden or Chuck Hagel or Paul Sarbanes, the president of the United States is the one who used the phrase Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. I don't recall any of us using that phrase.

And the president used that word and he talked to us privately and publicly as a nation that we needed a Marshall Plan and he sent Colin Powell to a donor's conference in Japan immediately after the fall of the Taliban or very closely thereafter and a man who I have an inordinately high regard for—the number two man at the State Department, Secretary Armitage, came back and he said they thought that number for the next several years was about $10 billion. I thought it was closer to $19 billion but about $10 billion.

Now, from your perspective, from Mr. Karzai's perspective—and I realize you're in a tough spot because you're here and you know you have to convince the administration to stay the route so you don't want to be publicly critizing anybody and not that you necessarily would—because you're here not with hat in hand but with petition in pocket. And so it's kind of hard to say some things but to the extent you can with us, I'd like ask you, have we, from your perspective, met our specific commitments under the $10 billion umbrella that almost became the definition of a Marshall Plan by the president, which I don't think is a Marshall Plan. But have we met that commitment and to what degree and with how much timeliness have the other donor countries met their commitment? If they've met it, tell us they have. If they haven't, why do you think they haven't? Would you speak to that for us, please?

SEN. BIDEN: I just have one—not a comment—one closing question if I may, Mr. Ambassador. Can you give us a sense of—I was going to say how confident, that's the wrong way to phrase it—your and President Karzai's most optimistic assessment of when he would be in a position to have a military that had some actual capacity if need be to secure anything from highways to gubernatorial provinces, if need be, that he would have confidence in. How far out is that?

SEN. BIDEN: One of the things that I'll respectfully suggest that I found last year when I spent so much time with President Karzai. I asked him to do something he initially thought that I was—that maybe was a little bit too, I don't know, too precise. But his brother was with him, who is a Maryland citizen and a constituent and a Baltimore restaurant owner, and I remember him sitting in the room with us and turning to his brother and saying, this is a good idea, you ought to do this. What I asked was, specifically, not generally, what his most urgent need was.

And he said, he gave me a general answer about administrative facilities, meaning buildings that you could occupy, electricity you could turn on. I said, can you be more precise, to make a point. And he then began to get down to specifics. And a gentleman walked in who worked for the president—I mean, worked for the executive, not personally for the president. And he said, for example, I'm going to lose the man who just brought in these papers for me because I can't pay him and because I do not—he does not have what is the equivalent of a computer terminal or even an old typewriter.

And I met with the Minister of Women's Affairs, a woman who said—I asked what she needed, and she said, I need a desk. I mean, she wasn't being facetious, she needed a desk. So I came back and we talked about what that immediate need was, and it was about—what was the actual number, was it $20 million?

SEN. BIDEN: About $20 million that was needed just to keep the lights on, and literally as we were talking the lights flickered on and off in the president's office. And so I came back and I went to a guy I said I liked dealing with very much because he gets things done. I went to the Assistant Secretary of State, the --

SEN. BIDEN: Armitage—deputy. And I said, this is what we need, and he said, well, we don't have the money. I said, no, there's a thing in your department where you have this fund and you can use it. So he immediately released $20 million. I got a note and a call from the president saying it was transforming. It had immediate impact.

The reason I bothered to tell you that is this. To the extent that you can—and the president's coming to see us—to the extent that you can advise him about what—not even asking for a specific amount—what specific things that are totally able to be digested by our colleagues, myself included, that are, to use American slang, bite-size, that would make a difference. Case in point.

SEN. BIDEN: Well, see that—I totally agree with you on that. But that is a programmatic, that is a policy decision we've been having trouble getting the administration to sign out. Let me be more specific. The American people understand that because we've told them, you've told them, everyone's told them, that very conservative elements of Islam, particularly Wahabi in origin out of primarily Saudi Arabia, over the past years have built roughly 7,000 madrassas in parts of Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

We spent some time, Dr. Blank and I, spent some time and got a very hard number and checked it out with your people at the Department of Education as well, whatever you exactly call it. You can build a school in Afghanistan that will house warmly and cleanly boys and girls, teach them reading, writing, arithmetic and hire competent teachers because you have this plethora of women qualified to teach—and by the way, the 50 percent of the women in the bureaucracy, most of those are teachers and they're not employed. You're not paying them.

There's no schools for them to go to, so it's a bit of an exaggeration on your part to talk—it shows intent, it shows that you are open to, that you're committed to a society that includes women, but they're not working. And so we actually worked out some figures. It costs $20,000 to build from scratch and operate an Afghani school. I think you should be coming back to us and saying things like, build us 1,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 schools now and here's where I would build them.

I promise you as somebody who's sat here for 30 years, we can get you that money. We can get you that money, because it's virtually impossible for anybody, including the administration, to say no, we won't support that. So the irony is the more you are able to, in addition to your macroeconomic requirements and fiscal requirements for the government and the country as a whole to the extent that you can pinpoint for us, particularly as an American who understands what appeals to American's hearts, interests and desires, I think we can be of some immediate help beyond what's already occurring that in fact might have some cumulative impact on your ability to do what you're going to have to do, is show progress.

The irony is the burden's on you to show progress, the irony is the world is not giving you all the tools you need to be able to demonstrate progress, and so you're going to be held accountable to a standard that we imposed but did not help apply. And so that is unsolicited advice, as your unpaid counsel, but I promise you it's worth the effort. As they say, trust me. I may not know much about a little—about foreign policy, I have a little bit of knowledge of politics, and it would be a very useful thing, I suggest. Schools are a single example, I'm not suggesting anything beyond that. You decide what those needs are to the extent that the president can come, giving illustrations to the American people and the administration, I think it may be helpful.

SEN. BIDEN: Again, I would be like my daughter and not my son. My daughter's smart enough to give a list she knows I can fulfill, so I would not overdo it, but I would come with some specifics. I really mean it, seriously, I think you'll find you'll get some help. Our friend Senator Coleman is an extremely qualified guy, new to this committee, new to the Senate, I'll bet you $1,000 there's no way as mayor he could have known that, to build 1,000 schools at $20,000 a school, if he could do that in Minneapolis, St. Paul area, he would have done it anyway. So, my point is this is doable, this is doable. And I think you might find you get some support.

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