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Minister of Defense Addresses Security in Heritage Foundation Speech

Afghanistan's Minister of Defense, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, addressed the Heritage Foundation on September 24, 2008, where he discussed current security challenges and how to best overcome them. In his speech, Minister Wardak dissected the current progress being made, including the successes and failures by the Afghan government, as well as elucidating several practical aims for Afghanistan in the coming year.

Minister Wardak opened his speech by admitting that an increasing number of violent incidents in 2008 have proven that both the Afghan government and the international community have not done enough to secure Afghanistan and capitalize on progress made since the Taliban was routed in 2001. He noted that the Taliban and its terrorist allies would likely launch one more offensive in 2008 aimed at diminishing international resolve to remain in Afghanistan.

He expressed optimism, though, on the progress that has been made in rebuilding Afghan security forces, notably the Afghan National Army (ANA). With the ANA growing steadily and taking on additional responsibilities – this year it reached 76,000 troops and took control of security in Kabul – Minister Wardak stated that Afghanistan's security would increase alongside trust in the government and international community.

Minister Wardak also highlighted the importance of regional cooperation in fighting terrorism and securing Afghanistan. International cooperation is a huge factor in achieving success, he noted, especially with regional partners such as Pakistan, India and Iran. This cooperation should move beyond mere diplomacy to the practical realms of cross-border security, intelligence sharing and joint counter-terrorism efforts.

Laying down his three-year plan for success, Minister Wardak explained that new recruitment and training drives for the ANA had been taking place across the country, as well as the strengthening of the Afghan National Police (ANP) to combat corruption. With security being a top priority, the police force would be expected to combat general lawlessness as well as drug-production and trafficking. The acceleration of economic development is also a must, he argued. "If people cannot make a living through legitimate means, they will eventually make a living through other means," he said.

In his closing remarks, Minister Wardak voiced his and the Afghan people's deep gratitude to the U.S. servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Afghanistan. Conceding that while the depth of this gratitude could never be fully repaid, "We will always remember the sacrifices they have made for peace freedom and liberty in Afghanistan, and pray for the families of the fallen, while honoring their memory by building upon what has been achieved."

In closing, Minister Wardak called upon Winston Churchill's famous war-time maxim to describe the struggle for a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

Related News: Afghan National Army Takes Control of Kabul

                      Afghan Commandos Emerge (Washington Post)

                      U.S. Troops Train Afghans to Take Their Place (NPR)

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