U.S. Official Speeches and Interviews
Remarks To The Press By U.S. Deputy Secretary Of State For Management And Resources Jacob J. Lew
April 15, 2010 | Kabul, Afghanistan
Deputy Secretary Lew: Thank you very much for being here this afternoon. I am completing the better part of a week here. This is my third trip to Afghanistan this year.
I think that, as you all know, we spent the early part of the week going deeply into a review of our civilian-military plan and, very importantly, with the active participation of many Afghan Ministers and with the participation of President Karzai. Coming out of those sessions, we have identified areas where we need to work to refine our program, to work with the Afghan government to have the most effective approaches to dealing with the needs of the Afghan people.
In a series of meetings with the Afghan Ministers, we discussed at length how we can work together to increase the amount of assistance that moves directly through the Government of Afghanistan, and how to work together to support the building of human resource capacity, the staffing of the Afghan Ministries, and the procedures to ensure accountability. I think coming out of these meetings will be a heightened effort to make progress in this very important area.
In addition to meetings here in Kabul, I had the opportunity to spend a day traveling to Herat and to Marjah. In Herat, I participated in the marble conference that was being held there and saw, in many ways, what the goal of so much of our effort - the effort of the Afghan Government is: to get the economy moving, to create jobs, and to see hundreds of people at a conference that was dedicated to developing export markets. It was really a very hopeful sign.
In Herat, we also visited the police training program, where we saw the excellent training that the ANCOP forces are getting and saw the development of an effective police force, which is so important to Afghanistan's future security.
In Marjah, we saw the work that was being done by Afghan Ministries to [extend] their reach [and] the local Governor to [extend] his programs to meet the needs of the people of Marjah in the period of stabilization. And while there's still much work to do, it was very encouraging to see the signs of governance being established in an area that was so recently under Taliban control.
I conclude my trip today and go back to the United States where we will continue to work on issues related to Afghanistan, having discussed with President Karzai the meetings coming up in Washington and the Kabul Conference. We have much work to do together planning for these events, which we're quite confident will be very positive events, which will produce more and more steps so that we can make progress.
With that, I would be happy to take your questions.
Question: (in Dari, via translator) Your trip has happened at a time when President Karzai had some verbal tensions with the west, and he accused the west in being involved in massive corruption, massive fraud, in the election. You met with President Karzai. Did you discuss this, and how was your meeting?
Deputy Secretary Lew: We had a very good meeting with President Karzai. It went on for close to two hours. We discussed at great length the work that we were doing here to develop...to make sure that our program was supporting the programs of the Government of Afghanistan. We talked about the upcoming Washington trip, and looked ahead at a schedule that would include discussions on a range of topics that would address the program areas that we talked about here while we were at the meetings, but take them to the next step, and to engage in a discussion on a strategic basis - to look at how to develop the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship in the strong, strategic spirit that we're working - and to look ahead at the Kabul conference.
Looking ahead at the Kabul Conference, I think that the goal is for these events to build on each other - the meetings we had this week, the meetings that will be held in Washington, and the meetings at the time of the Kabul Conference - so that coming out of it is a clear sense of progress to meeting the needs of the people of Afghanistan, as much as possible through the Government of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: (in Dari, via translator) You were one of the participants of the [Rehearsal of Concept] Drill. Can you tell us what were some of the weak points of the drill? What were the negative points, if you would please identify those? Which areas need more focus?
Deputy Secretary Lew: Well, first I would say that the most important thing about this meeting was that we discovered the areas of strength, that there's a very strong coordination between the civilian and the military plan, and between the Government of the United States and the international community and the Government of Afghanistan. There were some areas that we saw that there was the opportunity to do better, to do more. In the rule of law, that's one area where coming out of the conference we are going to increase our level of attention and level of effort.
I actually met yesterday with the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice. I had meetings yesterday and today with our team here. I think that we're using this kind of policy review to effectively fine-tune our programs so that we can be more effective.
So, in that area, the rule of law, the question is: how can we more quickly and more effectively help the Afghan justice system to get to a place where it's better able to meet the needs of the people of Afghanistan?
From our Afghan partners, the message that we heard several times, and very importantly, was that as we look at having programs with immediate results and as we look to help Afghanistan reach a more stable place in the near term, we also have to look ahead to make sure that the programs that we put in place have positive impact in the long term. In a number of cases, we'll need to work back and forth together to make sure we achieve both of those objectives. That was a very helpful kind of conversation to have.
In particular, we need to be very careful with regard to the long-term impact on the economy of Afghanistan, on labor markets in Afghanistan, and to make sure that the impact of programs is sustainable over a long period of time, not just during this very intense period.
As important as the individual issues raised, the nature of the conversation between U.S., international and Afghan partners reflected the highest level of collaboration and mutual respect.
Question: President Karzai's spokesman said this week that the UN had agreed to fund the parliamentary elections later this fall. I'm just curious, where does the U.S. stand in regards to funding the elections this fall, with regards to the election commission and new people heading the election commission?
Deputy Secretary Lew: These are issues - elections - that the Government of Afghanistan has to work through. We think it's important that elections be run in a way that is good for the people of Afghanistan and where there are good elections. We wait for the Government to make its decisions and, as we have in the past, want to be helpful in making sure that they have the ability to run elections.
Question: So, the U.S. has not committed any money yet? Or it has?
Deputy Secretary Lew: I don't know that a plan has been worked up yet.
Ms. Hayden: I can follow up with you, Conor, to see if there are any parts of this that have already been funded. But, I think we are waiting on the Afghan Government...
Deputy Secretary Lew: We are waiting on a plan, actually, so I'm not aware of that specifically.
Question: (in Dari, via translator) I have three questions. The first is about, recently there has been a series of visits by western officials, high-ranking officials, to Afghanistan. It happened in the middle of tensions between the West and Kabul. What's your idea on that?
The second question is that the peace jirga is due in two weeks in Afghanistan. If in the peace jirga, elders of Afghanistan decide that foreign forces need to withdraw from Afghanistan and leave this country, what would be your reaction?
The third and last question, as you have been to Marjah, what can be the alternative product for poppy cultivation in that area, in the province?
Deputy Secretary Lew: There will be frequent visits from senior officials on an ongoing basis. This was my third visit in a year. Many of us were here because of a long-scheduled conference, which we were delighted President Karzai was able to join us for.
On the peace jirga, when we were at the meeting with the Afghan Ministers, Minister Stanekzai made a very strong case that the peace jirga is an important opportunity to bring a national consensus together, which is important for the Afghan people. We understand that and look forward to the outcome of it.
On Marjah, there are many crops that can be grown in the area around Marjah that are crops that serve to help feed the people of Afghanistan and even could create export opportunities other than poppy. It was very good to see that programs were being set up to assist farmers to plant different crops.
Question: You said that you had to increase the proportion of money going through the government. Do you have any figures for that? Secondly, how are you going to link that to good governance, to make sure that it isn't just embezzled?
Deputy Secretary Lew: We have set a goal of increasing the amount of the assistance budget by more than double over the course of the year. In order to do that, we'll work through a number of mechanisms. Certainly we have been supporting the ARTF [Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund], and will continue to do so in increasing amounts.
To work directly with the ministries of the Afghan Government, we have a plan for that, as well. It's really a two-part approach. We have a process of certification and certification requires that there be accountability for funds and the human resources to manage a program.
There are several ministries that have already been certified, most recently significant parts of the Ministry of Finance. There are a number of other ministries where we hope to make progress in the coming months in the certification process.
Question: I have one question. There are concerns that President Karzai's last statements have a negative impact on American-Afghanistan strategic cooperation. What's your comment in this regard?
Deputy Secretary Lew: Well, we just had a very successful week, I think, reinforcing U.S.-Afghan strategic cooperation. The active participation by senior officials from our two governments in serious policy discussions and a very productive and constructive meeting with the President have us on a path together for a successful series of meetings in Washington and a successful Kabul Conference.
Even with close friends and strong strategic allies, there will be days when we agree and days when we disagree. Friends and strategic allies work through their differences.
Question: Sir, you mentioned, Marjah. We are told that Marines are paying farmers there to destroy their poppy. Can you give us a sense of how much money is being spent on paying farmers, paying farmers to destroy poppy? Is that going to be the focus of some areas where there is poppy now to harvest?
Deputy Secretary Lew: I can't speak to all of the details of the military program, but our policy has been not to target farmers. Our policy on dealing with the poppy issue is to deal with the higher level of production and not to put the burden on the basic farmer.
Ms. Campbell: And it ties in with all of our programs to support alternate crops.
Deputy Secretary Lew: Even just weeks after the military operation began, there's already the people and the material in place to start distributing seeds for legal crops. The challenge is to plant legal crops so that farmers can support their families by growing wheat and other food products that serve the food needs of the Afghan people and [provide] Afghanistan [with] export crops.
Question: (in Dari, via translator) The question is about your visit to Herat Province. It was said that the U.S. would open its Consulate in Herat Province, but due to a rocket attack to the Five-Star Hotel, where the Consulate is going to be opened, that was cancelled and didn't open. There were reports that Iran was behind that attack and Iran doesn't want that Consulate to be opened. Can you tell us why you don't open your Consulate in Herat Province?
Deputy Secretary Lew: We are on track to opening our Consulate in Herat later this year. We have completed the process of leasing the hotel. It took a little bit of time to complete the lease. We're now in the process of getting workers in to fix the windows and the plumbing and the elevators and the walls. And we're doing it on as rapid a basis as we're able to.
When the Ambassador and I were on the roof of the Five-Star Hotel the other day, looking across Herat and seeing construction, commercial traffic and people coming and going, it really was quite a moving picture of what a prosperous Afghanistan can look like.
Ambassador Eikenberry: Our hope is, and our plans are now, that by the end of this calendar year we should have our Consulates in Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif both open. They can be delayed. There's construction, renovations that have to occur, as [Deputy Secretary] Lew said. There's the possibilities...we're continuing to work on upgrading the security. We have to get communications in. But right now it looks pretty good for the end of the year for both Mazar and Herat.
We're eager to get established in both of those cities. Those will be the first Consulates that we've had in your country in decades, if at all. Have we ever had Consulates in Afghanistan? We need to check that.
Mr. Bashari: No, you never had.
Ambassador Eikenberry: So, this is historic. It's a sign of normalcy with our relationship. It's a sign of normalcy and confidence in Afghanistan, and confidence in our Mission. We have an expression - it's "the sooner, the better." We're eager to get those Consulates open quickly, we say, the sooner, the better for everyone.
Ms. Hayden: Before we wrap up, sir, was there anything you wanted to add on election funding?
Ambassador Eikenberry: On the elections I heard a question came up before I got here. Just very simply, point number one, the United States of America - and indeed almost all of the international community - we are absolutely committed to supporting the parliamentary elections which [have been announced to be held] on the 18th of September.
There were questions about the funding. The point I would make about the funding, first of all, we have to know what the full requirements are - that has to be identified. And then the level of support that the international community makes will be dependent not only on the requirements but our assessment of what arrangements have been made for the election, our confidence in it.
But, again, back to the bottom line up front, we are going to be in full support of these elections. We're eager now to get on with the planning for them. And with the decisions that the Government of Afghanistan should make - we believe in the near future - over arrangements for the election, then those decisions of funding, I believe, will be made not too long afterwards.
Deputy Secretary Lew: Thank you very much.