September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Secretary Colin L. Powell Press Briefing on Board Plane En Route Mcchord Air Force Base; January 21, 2002

Press Briefing on Board Plane En Route Mcchord Air Force Base
Secretary Colin L. Powell Tacoma, Washington January 21, 2002

Secretary Powell: Well, I think the conference got off to a good start this morning. I think Chairman Karzai made a moving presentation in his perambulatory remarks and then he laid out a solid agenda for what he wants to accomplish with the interim authority. It's very consistent with what he said in our meeting the other day, and I think you could see it was warmly received by the assembled delegates, and in the course of the next two days, I'm confident that within their capacity, each of the countries represented there will do everything they can to help the Afghan interim authority.

I think the Japanese contribution was very significant as was the Saudi contribution. We were able to come up with a little bit more in our contribution than perhaps some of you were expecting, but Deputy Secretary Armitage has been back there squeezing everybody in sight while we have been traveling around the world, and we found some 416b money, which at least for those of you who follow this, is food assistance money, but what it is, is using food for work, and that's where the delta came from, the additional financing. That's a good program because it gets food to people and then they can use the food or they can monetize it. It starts things moving.

What we really need, in addition to everything you've heard, is really just to get some funds flowing in the circulatory system of this society and keep it in the country, not let it get out of the country so that one person gets a salary, buys something, that person then makes a profit, buys something, and that's how you really start an economy in a society moving again. So I'm pleased with the start of the conference and I don't think I need to say anything more to you about the other issues.

I just might mention we had good bilateral conversations with Foreign Minister Tanaka last night. (crosstalk) We had a good, brief conversation but a good conversation with Prime Minister Koizumi this morning before the start of the conference, once again expressing our support for his reform efforts, and also taking note of and expressing our support for his desire to reach out within the ASEAN region and for Japan to play a more significant leadership role and I think you've seen his Singapore speech of last week. Okay, what have you got?

Question: Mr. Secretary, what can you tell us about the demobilization talks? Apparently, this evening, several countries are getting together in Tokyo to play out a mobilization plan for Afghanistan. Is it like a gun buy-back program, or what exactly is this?

Secretary Powell: I'm not sure what it will look like, but we'll be participating in those conversations. I think it's the one Jim is staying for, yes, Jim Dobbins is staying there to work on that one, buy-back programs. The estimate that Chairman Karzai gave me the other day, has been giving people, is that there may be six-or-seven hundred thousand weapons floating around that country. You've got to get that under control, you've got to start buying back, turn-ins, and taking away from people who have no need for guns, these guns. And so I'm sure that Jim will have some solid ideas from his experience in Bosnia and Kosovo.

People say, can you really do things like that? I would give you two examples of where it has worked far beyond what I would have expected when it was started, and that's Sierra Leone, where all of the guns are pretty much in now, and Macedonia, where we had some considerable success with that operation that when we started it, people said, come on, but it worked.

That is, do you get all the guns? No. But you got enough out of the population and into destruction and into the system that it gave people a sense of security, so we have a lot of ideas as to how you can do a demobilization and disarmament, and at the same time, you convert that into the new national army. I think it should be a very important meeting and come up with some pretty good ideas.

Question: (crosstalk) Did you have anything to say to the Iranians this time? Did you shake hands with Kharazi at all? The other question was, Karzai had a higher estimate of what they need than the UN does. Was he just sort of inflating it for the hell of it, this 1.8, what did he say, like 2 billion and 300 million now? It was a little higher than the UN estimate, than Kofi Annan's estimate. Thanks.

Secretary Powell: I didn't get a chance to see the Iranian foreign minister, he left, as you may have noticed, in the first set of presentations. So I didn't get a chance to say a word to him or perhaps exchange any other greeting to include another handshake. On my way out, I was going to the other side of the room cause I wanted to talk to the Tajikistani rep and the Russian rep, so no, I did not have a chance to talk to the Iranians.

On the dollars that you heard being mentioned, there are lots of different estimates, and that's all they are, are estimates. We're going to have to scrub the numbers that we've heard very, very carefully. I discussed this with Secretary General Annan, Mark Mallick Brown, Chris Patton, and also Jim Wolfenson.

One of the big variables is civilian salaries, how much you're really going to pay people. What we don't want to do is create an inflationary cycle in the first get-go. So I don't want to tell you whose estimates are right because I think that will be changing over time. But I think we've gotten them down into a range that seems to bound the problem, a left and a right, as opposed to some of the wilder figures that were floating out a week or two ago. Mr. Wolfenson spent an hour and a half on this last night, and there will be a lot more discussion in the course of the week and in the weeks ahead.

Question: Mr. Secretary, first of all, what's happened with our assets that were frozen that you've been trying to unfreeze for Lord knows how long? And what the heck is taking so long if they're not yet unfrozen? Wait a sec, and, you've found a lot of extra money. Who's not going to get money because Afghanistan is?

Secretary Powell: On the unfreezing of assets, they're slowly thawing. It's turned out to be a very complicated process of legally unfreezing these assets and then finding somebody who you can legally give them to, and I still am quite sure that it will all start to break free in the next couple of days as I've been saying for the last couple of weeks, but we're getting closer. I made some certifications last week, we got some signatures from Mr. Karzai and from Foreign Minister Abdullah, which we needed.

The Brits thought they would be able to release that money very quickly, but then their lawyers started looking into it so it's going to take a little longer. I would think that this week, it should start to move. I think we'll get over the immediate cash flow problem. The Saudis came up with some immediate cash for them, and if we could get some of those early pledges toward the twenty million moving, this should be a solvable problem.

I can't answer the question of how we have reallocated accounts, how we have readjusted accounts. I'll have to wait until I get home and beat up Rich.

Question: It seems to me, the 296 figure, it seems to me to be pretty small. On a per capita basis, I believe, Kosovo and Bosnia got a lot more. Two ninety-six will pay for one stadium in Boston and is about a third of what the Angelos law firm got in the tobacco litigation case in Maryland. Two ninety-six doesn't seem like much.

Secretary Powell: I don't know, 296 million dollars seems like a lot to me, on top of 400 million dollars, on top of I don't know how many billions of dollars that created the opportunities for the new interim authority to be there in the first place through our military action, so I don't think that it is ungenerous at all as a start, in one year. Remember, we also found 200 million dollars last year to start the HIV/AIDS fund. So there are a lot of things that come along that have not been programmed and budgeted for, and I think that we have done a pretty good job.

There's a lot of money elsewhere in the world, as we saw today, with the European Union and the European Commission, members of the European Union and the European Commission coming up with 500 million. So I think it is quite generous and I'm pleased that we're able to exceed the estimates out there. I don't want to make comparisons between Bosnia and tobacco settlements, if you don't mind.

Question: On the other hand, I know that you were impressed with Karzai's commitment to clean government and rooting out corruption, but how quickly can real financial experts get in on the ground? I mean, just the fundamental basics of running that government, we hear these figures about 270,000 people on their payroll not being paid. Will they accept the kind of advice and is that advice available from the UN or from our own people?

Secretary Powell: I think the advice will be available, we're going to try to get the implementation group, which I think is the key group up and running as quickly as possible. I can't tell you when it's going in. I take him at his word for the simple reason that he knows that if he doesn't do these sorts of things, then the second year money won't be there, and maybe a lot of the first year pledges won't be there, if they don't see a system of accountability.

You heard him also mention, I don't know if he mentioned it in his speech or it was something that came out in the course of the last twenty-four hours, but they've already gone out, I think he mentioned it in his speech. They've gone out for accounting firms. (crosstalk). They have gone out for accounting firms because they know that as the money starts to flow, people are going to want to find out what it flowed to and how was it spent.

Now, I can't give you a definitive answer to your question. The proof is in the pudding. The proof is in what we see happen. I think he understands the importance of doing this right, and we've got to help him make that happen.

Question: I think in your speech you said that some of the US money would go to the current expenditures of the interim administration, and yet, the details we had from your experts didn't seem to include that. I just wondered whether you could explain what money will go to the current expenses?

Secretary Powell: I can't, I don't have the breakdown, and so I'll try to get it for you from, yeah, Richard's got a fact sheet. Okay, is that it?

Question: I'd like to ask if I could, just a little bit broader question, trip-wide. We started, you seem to have single-handedly managed to avert war in the subcontinent, you've given the Afghans almost 300 million dollars, reassured the Nepalese that you're going to be there, and seen first hand what it's like in Kabul. What are your impressions of the trip?

Secretary Powell: I thought it was, from my standpoint, a good trip. We were able to cover a lot of ground, not just figuratively, but literally. I'm pleased with what we were able to do in India and Pakistan for the moment, but I've got no illusions, I now need more movement there before something happens to have us sliding backward, so as soon as I get back to Washington, I will reengage as fast as I can with both the Indians and the Pakistanis.

Nepal was a wonderful stop, and I'm impressed at the commitment that the prime minister is making to good governance. You saw how when I mentioned this, isn't this embarrassing to the prime minister? No, it wasn't, he and I had talked about it just before the press conference and he made the pitch to me on the need for good governance, so that was a softball for him.

Kabul was impressive but it also gave me a sense of the depth of the problem and the breadth of the problem, and which ahead in some ways is going to be far more difficult than what we've seen behind in the last four months. This is going to be a long-term investment that the international community has to make. There are bad people still out there in waiting, trying to frustrate this. What they will see is that success will only, what they will see is that if they want to be part of a future Afghanistan, they're going to give up these practices of the past and join this new authority and become aligned with this new authority because it is a new authority that is going to get the resources and the support of the international community.

Question: On our way out here, you said, welcome to the magical mystery tour. Was it as magical as you thought it was going to be?

Secretary Powell: Yes, and it was not as mysterious, thank heavens. I think it was a good trip and I'm very satisfied with the outcome of the trip. You guys are the judges of that more so than I am.

Question: Since we left New Delhi, have you had any more conversations with Musharraf, Jaswant Singh, any of the other leaders, and if so, what did you discuss?

Secretary Powell: Since we left New Delhi, I've only had one (inaudible) conversation, and that was to President Musharraf. I haven't talked to Jaswant, but Christina [Rocca] has been in touch with Ambassador Blackwill and with Wendy Chamberlin, so we're staying engaged and we're still exchanging ideas and information, but I haven't been directly engaged for reasons you understand.

Question: In the Musharraf conversation, what did you discuss? Did you ask him to take action on the list of twenty?

Secretary Powell: I conveyed to him the importance of the list and reminded him that, he said he was going to, when he was with Prime Minister Blair, intended to analyze the list carefully. We exchanged views on the aide memoires that the Indians have provided with additional information, and I told him that I looked forward to talking to him early again this week, which will probably be either this afternoon when I get home or tomorrow morning. Okay, Teri?

Question: Okay, much of our attention has been paid to, many of the things that you say and the other co-chairs say, is that part of their job has been to impress upon members of the international community about the multi-year commitment. But do you think you're also going to have to have another selling job back in Washington, do you think Congress is going to be as supportive as this, especially if their economy doesn't turn up? And also, do you have anything to say on the Mideast? Things have been pretty bad there while we've been gone.

Secretary Powell: I think Congress is going to be willing to support our multi-year approach, but as with every single program, I'll have to go up and defend it, beginning on the third of February? Richard?

Ambassador Boucher: Fourth, I think.

Secretary Powell: Fourth, either the third or the fourth, when I make my annual presentation to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then the HIRC the next day. I think it's three, four or four, five, I forget. And so that's where I'll start to lay out what I think the need is going to be and start to make the case for support.

On the Middle East, I've been following it closely, I haven't had any conversations in the last, well, since the trip. No, I've been kind of busy, and I've been staying in touch, but I've got lots of other people who can make contacts and calls for me. Ambassador Burns is in the region, and he's been very active. I think he's still there, isn't he? Yeah. Tony Zinni is in Washington but staying involved, and Rich, of course, has been staying close to the situation, and I have other interlocutors that I speak to that keep me very much involved, but I haven't had occasion to speak to Chairman Arafat or Prime Minister Sharon. I expect I will in the next day or so.

Question: Has anyone in the State Department conveyed to you about Arafat and the ship?

Secretary Powell: No, I don't have anything more than what I've shared with you already.

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