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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

November 22, 2006

 

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Joshua Gross, Director of Media Relations

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AFGHANISTAN’S MINISTER OF DEFENSE

RECEIVES LEGION OF MERIT AWARD FROM SEC. RUMSFELD

WASHINGTON, DC – Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, met yesterday with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to discuss security issues concerning Afghanistan and the region. General Wardak expressed the gratitude of the Afghan people for America’s continuous assistance and emphasized the need for additional resources and equipment for the Afghan National Army. General Wardak welcomed the recent increase in U.S. military assistance in Afghanistan for 2007.

In a ceremony at the Pentagon, General Wardak was awarded the Legion of Merit Award with the Degree of Commander from Sec. Rumsfeld. The Legion of Merit is a military decoration that is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. Ambassador Said T. Jawad personally presented Secretary Rumsfeld with a medallion made by a prominent Afghan artist in recognition of the commitment of both the Secretary and his wife Joyce to the people of Afghanistan.

Preceding the award ceremony, General Wardak was accompanied by Lt. General Karl Eikenberry, Commanding General for Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan at a Pentagon press briefing.

Gen. Wardak announced that Afghanistan is accelerating its training program for the army, and hopes to have 70,000 troops by October 2008. "Once we are well-trained and well-equipped, we will be able to repay some of our debt to the international community by participating in peacekeeping operations," he said.

Gen. Eikenberry explained that body armor, helmets and other equipment are already being provided to the Afghan National Army. “The Afghan National Army continues to develop and grow in confidence and professionalism. Its soldiers have demonstrated great courage and fighting skill alongside U.S. and international forces in Operation Mountain Lion, Operation Mountain Trust, Medusa, Mountain Fury and now in Operation Eagle,” he said. Gen. Eikenberry stressed that the cost of equipping the Afghan security services will be less than maintaining a large international force.

Gen. Wardak also met today with Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns to discuss key bilateral issues. Gen. Wardak expressed his appreciation for the assistance of both the United States and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan.

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General Abdul Rahim Wardak has served Afghanistan in a number of military roles throughout the last thirty years. Since the fall of communist regime in 1992, Gen. Wardak has been a member of the security committee of Kabul City, Chief of the Army Staff, Director of the Military Officers Society, Director of the Education Commission, member of the rehabilitation of the National Army Commission, Deputy Defense Minister, Director of Disarmament Program and Director of Reform of National Army. He was appointed Minister of Defense by President Karzai in December 2004.

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