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Public Statements

Hearing of the House International Relations Committee - Afghan National Elections

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service September 29, 2004 Wednesday

HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE

SUBJECT: AFGHAN NATIONAL ELECTIONS

CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE HENRY HYDE (R-IL)

WITNESS: RICHARD ARMITAGE, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE

BODY:

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REP. CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And Secretary Armitage, thank you for your leadership on so many issues.

And one of the issues I know you are very deeply, personally committed to-and I did read your opening statement-not the one not given, but the one that you gave to each member --

MR. ARMITAGE: I put it in there for you, Mr. Smith. (Chuckles.)

REP. C. SMITH: It's excellent. And you do make the point-and I think it's very important to emphasize-that drug trafficking was not the only criminal enterprise that flourished in the absence of the rule of law in Afghanistan. A lucrative trade in women and children also developed. And as you know-and you were there at the TIP office when it was inaugurated. You have been a great supporter of every effort to mitigate and end this modern-day slavery, and for that, I personally-and I know, on behalf of my colleagues, we're deeply grateful.

Afghanistan is Tier Two country. It does lack resources. The TIP report on Afghanistan makes it very clear that they don't have the resources. You point out that they are making some strides towards protecting the victims and doing some very good things there, and I'm very happy to hear that.

One thing I asked Robert Charles the other day-and you might want to amplify on it as well-in the police training and in the military training-and as you point out, we've trained 25,000 national police and 11,800 Afghan National Army-are we integrating a policy and a program of training vis-a-vis trafficking?

General LaPorte, our Supreme Allied Commander in Korea, has done an extraordinary job. We had him testify before a joint hearing of the OSCE, the Helsinki Commission, which I chair, and Duncan Hunter's Armed Services Committee, and the information he has conveyed and the work that the Department of Defense has done in trying to train our military, as part of George Bush's zero tolerance policy with regards to trafficking, gets no notice. I look over at the press table, and I have yet to really see anybody focus on this extraordinary policy. It's two years now that the president decreed, through a presidential directive, that there's a zero tolerance policy when it comes to trafficking.

And we are leading the world. NATO now has followed, as you know. Nicholas Burns has done a good job, as our ambassador to NATO, to get the-us-and the Norwegians have cosponsored an effort at NATO. They now have a zero tolerance policy. The U.N. is working in that direction as well, so that military deployments, wherever they are, are less likely to be engaged in that nefarious enterprise and that horrific exploitation of women.

But about the trainers-and Mr. Charles did indicate that there was some training going on; you might want to amplify on it-because again, I gave Secretary-or General LaPorte's training manual to the attorney general of Uganda the other day. He also heads up the military side. And he went through that, and I think-I mean, it's something that is applicable to all militaries. Again, we're leading the effort on it and certainly training the Afghan military and police.

And secondly, very briefly, the OSCE missions of observing is not going to happen, it's my understanding. There will be a shorter mission of 25 to 30 because of security concerns. If you want to comment on that, whether or not they're right or wrong in not deploying a large election observer force.

MR. ARMITAGE: Thank you, Mr. Smith. I added that to my statement specifically for you, and I reviewed the hearing record of my colleagues who were up here last week.

Since you and I cut the ribbon on that TIP office, we've come a heck of a long way, so much so that it's kind of part and parcel of what we do day in and day out in the bureau. There's still some reluctance in some areas to name names, but I think we're past that pretty much.

And specifically, about training of police. This is a more-the answer is yes, what Bobby Charles told you is correct. It's a difficult issue in Afghanistan because of the literacy rate. It's a lot easier in using-in training in Iraq for police.

And by the way, we do also train in Iraq to look for trafficking, though. We don't have any data to know about Iraq yet.

Because of an illiteracy rate, we sometimes have to use almost talking books to teach about everything from respect for human beings, respect for human rights, but particularly, how to recognize the victims, particularly children. I think it's that training-and the IOM helps us a lot on this-that has allowed the police to stop over a thousand-at least the figures we have-thousand children who were going to be trafficked to Iran, to stop some 50 -- some figures I hear -- 50 children, and arrested eight men on suspicion of trafficking. They were able to recognize potential victims. This is a cultural problem that we work hard on.

The old saying in Afghanistan, forgive me, was it's better to be a mule than a woman in Afghanistan. And that takes a little time to work through, and we're working through it. But I think the fact that 40, almost 42 percent, of the women in Afghanistan have registered to vote, have said, at least as far as they're concerned, they're not interested in that saying being applicable anymore.

The most interesting thing, finally, is that those women who are registering to vote are registering at higher percentages in the countryside rather than in the cities of Kabul and Kandahar, which was much to my surprise. But they clearly have said we can't take it anymore.

On the question of OSCE, I thought the numbers were going to be about 50. It's insufficient. We and others are going to have to make up the difference, and we'll do it. We're also training several thousand Afghanistan monitors to look for irregularities, et cetera.

REP. C. SMITH: I appreciate that. Thank you very much for your fine service.

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