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Afghanistan's Minister of Defense Receives Legion of Merit Award from US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense General Abdul Rahim Wardak met on November 21 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 Secretary Rumsfeld. The Legion of Merit is a military decoration 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 Rumsfeld 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.

General 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.

General 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.

A FULL TRANSCRIPT of the press briefing is available here


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