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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Saturday, Nov. 3, 2001
(Press conference with Tajikistan Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.)
Nazarov: (Through translator) Ladies and gentlemen, you know that we have a great guest, the defense secretary of the Untied States and a big delegation with him. He arrived in Tajikistan in order to discuss the situation in neighboring Afghanistan.
The conversation between the president of Tajikistan and the Mr. Secretary just finished and the parties have discussed very many details of the situation. They both concluded that we needed to enhance our cooperation in fighting international terrorism.
You know that after September 11th, Tajikistan unanimously expressed its readiness to join the anti-terrorist coalition and cooperate with the United States and be its ally.
In today's meeting it was confirmed and several new suggestions in order to enhance cooperation between our countries were proposed.
I think if you have questions, you can ask Mr. Secretary or me, and whoever will answer.
Rumsfeld: I want to thank the minister for his kind words. Our delegation has just met with the president and a number of the ministers of the government. The United States is deeply grateful for the response and cooperation that has been promptly offered by the government. The cooperation is very real and very important from the standpoint of overflights, intelligence gathering and various types of military-to-military cooperation.
Our visit was valuable to all of us. Of course the president knows intimately the situation in Afghanistan. He understands well the dynamics on the ground and the difficulty of the task.
But on September 11th, the United States suffered thousands and thousands of people killed, innocent people from dozens of countries, every conceivable religion and race. The president of the United States is determined that the United States and the coalition partners across the world will in fact go after the terrorists wherever they are and destroy the terrorist networks.
And there is no question but the al Qaeda and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan are target number one. The effort is a broad one, involving economics and finances, diplomacy, as well as military activity. It will take the help of all countries across the globe if we are in fact deal with this problem, and it a problem that is getting worse every year because of the availability of weapons of mass destruction.
I'd be happy to respond to questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, has the United States and Tajikistan come to some sort of arrangement to use bases here?
Rumsfeld: The discussions are going forward. The responses have been very forthcoming. There will be assessments made as to what might be appropriate, and then those discussions will proceed.
Q: So no agreement came out of today's meeting?
Rumsfeld: No. We have an assessment team that is coming in to work with the government, and then they will report back to the Central Command, the combatant commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, and then judgments will be made as to what might or might not be appropriate. All I can say is that we just had a very fine and forthcoming discussion.
Q: Mr. Secretary, but in principle, have you come to an agreement that Tajikistan would allow the use of bases here?
Rumsfeld: I have a habit of allowing other countries to characterize the kind of assistance they might or might not offer --
Q: Mr. President, can you characterize the (inaudible)?
Rumsfeld: -- so that question would be better asked of the official of the government.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, could you please tell us if Tajikistan was already used to carry out military operations in the territory of Afghanistan, and are you going to meet the leader of the Northern Alliance, General Fahim?
Rumsfeld: With respect to the second question, no I will not be able to. General Franks met with him very recently and with respect to the first part of the question, the answer is no, except that obviously we have used overflights of the country after authorization of the government.
Q: Mr. Secretary, when the new government is going to be established in Afghanistan and when the war is going to be over, does the United States intend to leave its troops in Afghanistan or will it withdraw them from Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: The United States would have no plans to leave troops in Afghanistan. Those kinds of decisions are being discussed through the United Nations, through the countries that border Afghanistan, through countries all across the globe that are interested, concerned and anxious to see a broadly based post-Taliban government. It's not something that the United States will decide, it's something that all the countries will participate in, and the people of Afghanistan ultimately will make judgments --
I'm so sorry (pauses for translation).
You'd think I was a college professor giving a 30-minute lecture, but I'm not.
Q: A question to the foreign minister of Tajikistan. You told us that you discussed in the meeting the possibility of enhancing the cooperation between the United States and Tajikistan. What specifically did you mean?
Nazarov: I believe that Mr. Secretary already answered this question, that we are talking about the assessment by experts of the future cooperation.
Q: Mr. Secretary, if U.S. experts were to decide that the Kulyab air base would be helpful in the war against Afghanistan, would your government permit the United States to use that base?
Nazarov: First, I would like the experts to check if the airfield can be used and let them decide first of all that it is worth checking, worth thinking about.
We have already said that so far we have discussed only the issue of experts. They should complete their research and tell us what is possible to do and what is not.
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.
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