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Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak Expresses Full Confidence in Afghan Security Forces during Official Visit to the U.S.

Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak traveled to the U.S. from the 11-20 of October on an official visit. During this visit, Minister Wardak met with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Charmin of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Michael G. Mullen, Deputy National Security Advisor Lt. General Douglas Lute, Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mitchell Shivers and other representatives from military and civilian agencies. On Capitol Hill, Minister Wardak met with Senator Daniel Inoye, Congressman John Murtha, and Congressman Ike Skelton, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

In these meetings, Minister Wardak discussed the progress of the military mission in Afghanistan and the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan. Many discussions focused on accelerating the training and equipping of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police to help stabilize Afghanistan for reconstruction and long-term development. The Afghan army is progressing toward its goal of 70,000 by the end of 2008, as codified in the Bonn and London agreements. The Afghan National Police have reached 70,000 and training is continuing on schedule.

In addition to these meetings, Minister Wardak visited Ft. Drum, New York, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He participated in a full honors wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery.

On October 18, Minister Wardak joined Major General Robert Cone, commanding general of Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan, for a joint press conference. The speakers discussed a wide variety of topics, including the current state of the battlefield and the ANA’s improved performance in combat.  They both referenced Operation Maiwand and Operation Khyber, Afghan operations with Afghans in the lead and ISAF in supporting roles. Additionally, the speakers discussed the implementation of police rank and pay reform and announced a new initiative called the Focused District Development Plan, which will focus on assessing, training and mentoring the uniformed police at the district level.

Major General Cone, who is responsible for training, mentoring and equipping the Afghan national army and police, pointed out the need for improvement in the ANA's ability to operate effectively at the battalion and brigade level, but expressed his full confidence in their abilities. “The Afghan army is the most adaptable force on the battlefield. No one knows this terrain better than the Afghan soldier. I truly believe that the more they are in the fight, the more they experience, their confidence and their competence grows within the ranks,” said Major General Cone. 

Minister Wardak thanked the U.S. government for their support of Afghanistan and the ANA, as well as the American people for their partnership and sacrifice. “We honor their sacrifices. We mourn those who have given their lives. We pray for the families of the fallen. And their legacy and memories will remain in our hearts and minds for years to come,” he said. He predicted that Afghan forces would soon be able to carry an increasingly greater share of the burden, but cautioned that this transfer of responsibilities for major combat was subject to the ANA being provided adequate training, equipment and support to accomplish the mission. “I'm fully confident that jointly Afghanistan, U.S. and NATO will deliver victory,” he said. “Wherever the ANA goes, no matter how remote the village, these soldiers are received with great emotion by the people. The ANA is a genuine national institution. It is a symbol of hope that Afghanistan's three decades of suffering will soon come to an end.”

Minister Wardak expressed his hopes that the U.S. and Afghanistan’s NATO partners would do everything possible to accelerate the development, both in number and capability, of the Afghan national security forces. When asked what is needed to strengthen the ANA to accomplish their military aims, Minister Wardak proposed enhanced protection, air mobility, firepower, combat enablers and force multipliers. “We have achieved a great deal with limited manpower and old weapons and equipment. Imagine what we could do with better equipment and additional help.”

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