State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 5, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
September 5, 2006
Condolences About Friendly Fire Deaths of Canadian Soldiers /
Incident Under Investigation
Reassessment of Efforts in Afghanistan
U.S. Working to Reduce Opium Production, Build Infrastructure
Afghan Institutions New, Require U.S. Assistance
Different Elements Needed in Order for Afghanistan to Succeed
Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution on Sudan
International Community Urging Sudanese Government to Abide by
Security Council Resolution and Allow UN Peacekeepers
Call for all parties to live up to responsibilities of Darfur
Sudanese Government Consent Invited, Not Required by Resolution
International Community Clear on what Sudan Government Must Do
U.S. Committed to Diplomacy on Iran, but Will Not Negotiate About
Iran must Suspend Enrichment and Processing Before U.S. Will
Resolution 1696 Clear – Iran Faces Sanctions if It Does Not
by October 31
U/S Burns Leaving Tomorrow for P-5+1 Meetings in Berlin to Discuss
Visit of Former President Khatami / Not Invited by U.S. Government
U.S. Does not Wish to Isolate Iranian People / Contact Between
Iranian and American People Encouraged
U.S. Continuing Outreach to Iran / Educational and Cultural
ISRAEL / LEBANON
Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701
Blockade Issue Requires Delicate Diplomacy
Germany Offered Troops to Monitor Coast, Entry Exit Points
Several Logistics to Work Out Before Blockade Can End / Withdrawal
of Israeli Troops, Moving Lebanese, UNIFIL Troops Into Place
Tribal Areas Pose Challenge to Pakistani Government
Government Must Be Able to Exercise Sovereignty Over All of
Ungoverned Areas Used by Terrorist Groups / U.S. Supportive of
Pakistani Efforts to Build Up Institutions in These Areas
Pakistan and Afghanistan Have Shared Interest in Controlled Border
/ Safe Havens for Terror in No One's Interest
12:15 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Just one small note before I begin. Secretary Rice spoke with Canadian Foreign Minister McKay this morning to express her condolences about the recent incident -- unfortunate incident in Afghanistan in which some Canadian soldiers were killed as well as injured in a friendly fire incident. She assured Foreign Minister McKay that the incident was being investigated. And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: What's new -- what's next on Sudan?
MR. MCCORMACK: What's next on Sudan?
QUESTION: Yeah. The thing is -- evolving in the security --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Security Council -- well, I don't know if I'd characterize it quite that way, Barry.
QUESTION: It ain't good.
MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly the situation is troubling. Well, the "what's next" is Security Council resolution that was just passed. That needs to be implemented. Now I understand that President Bashir was reported to have made some remarks, although the remarks weren't attributed to him. My understanding is that this refusal to allow in the UN force, as well as asking the AMIS force to leave has not been officially conveyed to any of the international partners. So we would hope that that is not, in fact, the position of the Sudan Government.
I understand that there were a number of different parties primarily Minni Minnawi's party as well as others to the Darfur Peace Agreement that are urging the Sudanese Government to abide by the UN Security Council resolution, allow in the UN peacekeeping force and have that be re-hatted. I also would note that the African Union has made it very clear that it is their position that the AU force that is currently in Sudan should be rolled over and turned into a blue-hatted force. So that's where we are right now, Barry. I understand.
I've seen the same news reports you have. Certainly, it's very troubling. The reports have built up by the Sudanese army. We would call upon all parties to live up to their obligations under the Darfur Peace Agreement as well as the Security Council resolutions. We are working very hard with our partners in the international community to see that that resolution is implemented now. And we would also encourage troop donor countries to step up and make donations so that this can be a robust force that goes into Sudan and implements the UN Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: But it can't be implemented, right, if Khartoum doesn't go along?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, Barry, you look at the resolution that talks about -- it invites Khartoum's consent. It does not require it. It also talks about this force being able to take all necessary means to protect humanitarian aid workers, civilian populations. You can look at the resolution for yourself, but it does make that quite clear.
QUESTION: And any sign of the envoy who the President has told Frazer would be coming here and she identified it as the Foreign Minister.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, the Foreign Minister. No, I don't have a date for his travel yet, Barry. We'll try to keep you updated on that.
QUESTION: You think it's gonna happen?
MR. MCCORMACK: We would expect that it would. President Bashir said that it would happen, yeah.
QUESTION: Several ambassadors at the UN have said that while the resolution invites Khartoum's consent, it doesn't require it, that nobody plans on forcing this force into Khartoum without the government's consent. So what kind of measures are you considering at the UN or unilaterally to encourage or indeed persuade Khartoum to accept this force? I mean, if they continue to refuse, what's your recourse?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's hope that we don't get to that point, Elise. We -- what we have is a situation where the government in Khartoum needs to understand and I think digest exactly what the international community has done. It has spoken quite clearly about what is required of the government in Khartoum and what it needs to do. So we would hope that they would be able to look very closely at the resolution, listen carefully to what is being told them, not only by the United States but other members of the international community, and realize that this is a resolution that is in the interest of the Sudanese people, as well as the international community. It wouldn't have been passed otherwise.
So our approach is to apply diplomatic pressure along -- in concert with our partners in the international community to bring about implementation of the resolution. We would hope that the government in Khartoum realizes what exactly the international community and the Security Council has said to them via the mechanism of the Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, aid groups, the UN envoy for Sudan and human rights and, in fact, all people that follow Sudan are warning of dire consequences if this force doesn't get in and, obviously, the patience of the Security Council isn't unlimited.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So what kind of diplomatic pressure beyond telling them to do it can you apply on the government?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Elise, there are obviously a number of diplomatic levers that are at the disposal of countries around the world and members of the Security Council. But we would hope that the government in Khartoum, the Sudanese Government, would see it in its best interest as well as in the best interest of the Sudanese people to allow implementation of the Security Council resolution. So our focus now is trying to work with the Sudanese Government, work with our partners in the international community and see that this resolution gets implemented.
QUESTION: Do you think you can implement this resolution without the approval of the Khartoum Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Sylvie, let's just say that we would very much like, obviously, the consent of the Khartoum Government. But as the resolution makes clear, it is invited but not necessary.
QUESTION: Sean, do you see the area in southern Sudan as holding the agreements up by efforts of former U.S. Ambassador and negotiator John Danforth? But also it appears there's a third region in Sudan that's at odds with the central government in Khartoum. Do you see the -- also on September 9th, this coming Saturday, and also on September 17th there are going to be worldwide demonstrations against the carnage in Darfour. Do you see those particular demonstrations as having a good effect?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly publicly awareness is an important -- is important with regard to the situation in Darfur. That is why this President from the very first days of his Administration has been pushing on the issue of Sudan to try to get a resolution to the various conflicts that have been ongoing there.
Joel, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is being implemented. Obviously, in any type of agreement such as this where you have two parties that were warring with each other for more than two decades you're going to have bumps in the road. But it is being implemented. Certainly we want to continue to see it to be implemented. We want to do everything that we can. The Darfur Peace Agreement needs to be implemented as well. There are steps that have been taken in that regard, but frankly, there's a lot more work that needs to be done on all -- by all parties to that agreement.
George, do you have a question?
QUESTION: It could be that the Sudanese are worried about UN peacekeepers arresting Sudanese officials wanted for abuses concerning Darfur and, you know, and perhaps the impasse could be broken if the Sudanese were given assurances that the UN peacekeepers will not be sent to Sudan for such a purpose. Has this come up at all in any discussions that you're aware of?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of, George. I'll be happy to look into it for you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Something else?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir, on the same subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll go to Barry and then we'll go to you.
QUESTION: Speaking of unlimited patience, is the U.S. still going to drive for sanctions in the UN in light of Kofi Anna's mission to Tehran, which produced pretty much what you knew already that they're ready to negotiate, they say? But they will not accept enrichment as a -- suspension of enrichment as a precondition. The Europeans are talking about the need for diplomacy, the Russians are talking the need for -- do you have anybody on your side? I mean, can you move ahead in this kind of -- or do you have to wait a little while and rally --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- again --
QUESTION: -- rally folks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Barry, as the President made clear that we're committed to diplomacy ourselves, but we're not going to negotiate. We -- meaning we, the United States and our partners, are not going to negotiate about negotiations. The conditions are very clear; they're simple. If the regime in Tehran meets those conditions, which are quite clear, straightforward, then there can be negotiations. And the only thing that they're being asked to do is to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing-related activities. And in return they can begin negotiations to realize what it is that they said that they want to realize a peaceful nuclear energy program. The problem here isn't -- the question here is not Iran's rights under the NPT, although I know that they want to make it about Iran's rights under the NPT. They also want to make it about U.S.-Iran relations. It's not about that.
This is about the fact that there has been a fundamental breakdown in trust between Iran and the international community with respect to the Iranian nuclear program. And that breakdown in trust has come about because the Iranian regime has failed repeatedly over a course of years to answer the very simple questions put to it by international bodies like the International Atomic Energy Agency. And the world has come -- now come around to the view that their concerns are grave enough, with regard to that program that they are at the point of voting for sanctions against Iran.
Now there's going to be some work that's required in the Security Council. I would expect that that's going to be tough, intensive diplomacy over the course of the coming weeks. But Resolution 1696 makes very clear that if Iran failed to meet the deadline of October 31st in suspending it's enrichment-related activities that the Council was prepared for vote for Chapter 7, Article 41 sanctions. And that's where we find ourselves now.
QUESTION: All right. But it was said in early September if this situation doesn't improve the U.S. would move for sanctions.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And of course that could take several weeks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Of hard work. Are you still inclined to move for sanctions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, yes. Nick Burns is going to be leaving tomorrow for meetings on Thursday, September 7th with this P-5+1 counterparts. The subject of that meeting is to talk about the contents of the sanctions resolution.
I understand that Mr. Solana is expecting to meet with Mr. Larijani at some point perhaps later this week, maybe after that, to keep open channels of communication with the Iranians to perhaps clarify something in their -- some of the aspects of their response. Certainly that is a laudable goal. We would encourage -- we would encourage other members of the international community that might have some sway over Iran to engage them and to send the very clear message to them that they need to comply with the just demands of the international community.
QUESTION: Sean, you have said that you would join your partners in talking to Iran only if they suspend enrichment and those other reprocessing activities, but the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese are talking about actually negotiating with Iran before those activities are suspended. Do you have a problem with others talking to Iran about its program before enrichment is suspended, sanctions aside, at this point?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't think anybody is -- I don't think anybody is trying to alter the terms of the deal that was arrived at in Vienna and then again in Paris and then again in New York with respect to the requirements of Iran. This is not a negotiation about negotiations. I know that that's what the Iranians would like to do. They'd like to have their cake and eat it, too. They would like very much to negotiate ad infinitum while they continue progress along their nuclear weapons program. The world has said no, we've seen this movie before, we're not going to pay for it twice.
So again, in terms of keeping open channels of communication, that's fine. As I said, that's laudable. We are committed to diplomacy as President Bush has said. But Iran needs to meet the requirements that have been asked of them, demanded of them, required of them not by the United States but by the international community. It was a 15-0 vote in the Security Council, so there should be a no ambiguity here as to who is asking this. This is something that is being required now of the Iranian regime, and at the moment they are in breach of those international requirements.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the recommendation of the foreign ministers of the EU, who met in Finland last week to continue talking to Iran before suspension takes place, as keeping the channel open between Solana and Larijani and nothing more than that?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's how we view it. We're continuing along the pathway to coming up with the sanctions resolution.
QUESTION: Do you have any additional information about how much time Mr. Burns is going to be away, whether he has any other meetings besides the P-5+1 in Berlin who else he may talk to?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you, Arshad. I don't -- at the moment I don't have that information with me. But he's -- the purpose of his going -- traveling to Berlin is for these meetings, yes.
QUESTION: I mean, you can wave the flag of 1696 and keep waving it. But you know you have a series of discouraging comments from the people who are supposed to help you uphold 1696 including most recently Wen Jiabao today telling Reuters that sanctions could be counterproductive. So I guess the question following on my colleagues' is, why are you optimistic that 1696 will be upheld? The winds don't seem to be blowing in that direction.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, James, I would expect that this will probably be tough, intensive diplomacy like I said. But the fact of the matter is the P-5+1 have an agreement. They made a deal. We would expect everybody -- all members of that group to live up to the agreement as well as members of the Security Council who made it very clear that if the Iranians don't comply with this, then we're headed down the pathway of greater isolation for the Iranian people, which is not something we desire. We don't desire that. We don't want that. But this is something that the Iranian regime is bringing down upon the Iranian people, and it would really be a shame because it is a great culture, it's a great people, and it would be a shame to see this regime further isolate the Iranian people from the rest of the world. By all reports, that's not what the Iranian people want. They want greater engagement with the rest of the world.
QUESTION: If there was such a solid agreement, what is it that you expect will be the tough and intensive and difficult part in the next few weeks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's the nature of these negotiations, James. We've all see Security Council resolution discussions. It's just the -- it's the nature of multilateral diplomacy. And anytime you're talking about a serious matter like imposing sanctions, we would expect -- we fully expect -- that other countries take that as a serious matter. So as a result, you have a lot of discussion, a lot of diplomacy, and we've all seen this before on the Iran issue, on a variety of different issues.
QUESTION: Maybe I'm wrong, but don't you need the Solana-Larijani event/meeting to guide the Burns, et al, planning session?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: If you know what I mean?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't think so.
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: I thought one would have to come before the other to clarify --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, because you notice it's a binary issue at this point; it's either yes or no in terms of the have the Iranians -- have the Iranians met the conditions. Have they stated that they're going to meet the obligations? No, they haven't. Can you have further discussions with -- between Larijani and Solana? Maybe the Iranians want to communicate something different than they have previously. Absolutely. But for the moment, Barry, we have an answer that allows us, meaning we and the P-5+1 and the Security Council, to start to go down that pathway of sanctions.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else?
QUESTION: Guess not.
MR. MCCORMACK: I would guess not. Yes.
QUESTION: Former President Khatami said this weekend that he supports a two-state solution in Middle East, which is a pretty open way to recognize the right of Israel to exist. And at the same time, President Ahmadi-Nejad said that -- repeated that the Holocaust was very much exaggerated.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So do you think you can use the gap between these two people to obtain a suspension of the enrichment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a few things, Sylvie. First of all, President Khatami is here on a private visit. He is not here at the invitation of the United States Government. He is here at the invitation of the United Nations and then some private United States organizations. Private U.S. citizens wanted to have this interaction with him.
As for President Ahmadi-Nejad, sadly we have come to expect these kind of comments from him and it's just another sad repetition of a ugly, ugly myth that he is trying to perpetuate.
One other thing about President Khatami. He has in fact said this previously and he in fact said it while he was president of Iran, that while Iran continued to supply money, assistance to Palestinian rejectionist groups, namely Palestinian Islamic Jihad. So those are certainly laudable thoughts, but the reality is that Iran has been and continues to be a state sponsor of terror.
Now, as far as the divergence of opinion within the Iranian political body, I'll leave that for others to try to analyze. Certainly we would hope that President Khatami would carry when he returns back to Iran certainly help the Iranian people understand that the American people don't wish to be isolated from the Iranian people.
QUESTION: Is that why you offered him -- is that why you granted him a visa? Sorry, sorry.
MR. MCCORMACK: I can get to that. We have no change in official U.S. Government policy with regard to government-to-government contacts between the government of the United States and the government of Iran. Simply, however, we encourage private contact between the Iranian nation and the American people. Those contacts, we believe, are healthy. So, again, I'll leave it to others to try to define where along the political spectrum these individuals may lie. But we ourselves have no desire to be isolated from the Iranian people.
QUESTION: Well, there's some issue of a visa because he has the potential to carry back this message. Is that why you offered him a visa? I mean, what do you think of the trip that he's making here? And it doesn't seem as if any U.S. officials are -- he's not a member of the government anymore, but it still doesn't seem like any officials have any appetite to meet with him or anything like that. Why not if he's -- if he can carry this message back? What's the --
MR. MCCORMACK: He doesn't need to meet with U.S. Government officials to convey the sense that he was welcomed by these private American organizations. You know, look, there are differences of opinion with regard to granting of this visa. Fully understand that and fully understand the arguments on both sides of the issue. We ourselves made the decision. We've talked about the reasons for the decision, but he is not here at the invitation of the U.S. Government but at the invitation of these private groups.
QUESTION: Earlier you spoke of the Iranian culture, the Iranian people. Something new that the President apparently has decided or called for is sort of a campaign targeting more liberal academics and other opinion leaders in Iran because of their, I guess, pro-Western views on certain things. Do you have anything to say on that in terms of the links between the government and academia?
MR. MCCORMACK: Before offering a specific comment on that, Nicholas, I have seen the news reports. I'd like to check them out for myself.
Certainly, if in fact true it would be a sad commentary on the state of freedom of speech in Iran. We already know what that's like. We already know that certainly the Iranian regime flunks the town square test as outlined by Natan Sharansky.
You can -- just looking at the records since President Ahmadi-Nejad has taken office, it is a distressing record of further clamping down on individual rights and individual freedoms. And if true, this is just another sad commentary about the state of freedom in Iran. It's sad for the Iranian people.
QUESTION: Following on from that, if, you know, one might be looking out there as a stirring of a cultural revolution, then is that going to make the 17 million odd dollars America has invested in Iranian opposition groups more harming than useful?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have a variety of open programs to try to encourage information flow to the Iranian people because I think that if you talk to Iran experts, I think they will make it very clear that competing points of view sort of penetrating the Iranian media is something that's really not very commonplace. It's very difficult for the Iranian people to get a wide variety of information about what is really happening in the world.
One example is I would be very suspect if the Iranian people truly understood the offer that was put before the Iranian regime about the potential benefits that might be derived from negotiations on the nuclear issue, so we have a number of programs in that regard. We have also -- are going to try to work on educational exchanges and we're also working on trying to do a better job in terms of understanding what is going on inside of Iran. We have allocated more resources here in the State Department so that people on a daily basis can better understand what is going on inside Iran.
As for -- you had a question -- you had the question about some specific groups, if you have any other further details I'd be happy to look into that for you.
QUESTION: A follow-up on the same thing. You talked about the desirability of cultural exchanges with the Iranians.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yet you just said that you're working on educational exchanges.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Could you perhaps find out the extent of cultural exchanges if there have been. Are there people-to-people exchanges with Iran going on now and if so could we have some idea of the magnitude of these exchanges?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. I'll try to get you some ways to quantify that, George.
QUESTION: Please, thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Elise.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. Is there anything else on Iran?
QUESTION: On the universities. Does this strike you as an attempt by Ahmadi-Nejad to perhaps distract the people of Iran from other potential internal problems or failures -- domestic failures of his regime in one way or another?
MR. MCCORMACK: James, the decision making -- first of all, I can't confirm the reports for you. I'd really like to look into them myself before I provide a detailed response. But, you know, as for the decision-making processes of the Iranian regime, that is -- they are relatively opaque to us. I couldn't tell you why, James.
I mean, your point about the fact there is domestic politics in Iran is taken. I take that point. But certainly their ability to express different points of view is clearly very, very restrictive.
QUESTION: I just wonder if you are able to assess whether his regime is failing in terms of providing certain services or the economy or other things that are measurable and that U.S. analysts can assess?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything to share with you at the moment, James.
QUESTION: On Lebanon. Can you talk about the Secretary's efforts to work with Secretary General Annan in lifting the blockade? He spoke to the press about -- that he's been working with the Secretary on it.
MR. MCCORMACK: The Secretary has been very involved over the past several days in working on various aspects of the Security Council's 1701 implementation. Part of that has been this question of the blockade. It's a very important issue not only for Lebanon but for Israel. And they want to make sure that it is done within the letter and the spirit of the resolution. Now the resolution lays out the framework and certain principles, then you get down to the hard work of implementing Security Council resolutions and we knew that that would require a lot of diplomacy and a lot of work.
So the role that she has been playing, she's been talking to Prime Minister Siniora. She's been talking to Secretary General Annan. She's also been talking to the German Government. They have made offers with respect to patrolling the Lebanese coast as well as making some offers on helping with the issue of monitoring of various entry/exit points. And I believe that the Lebanese Government has expressed some interest in this.
Now, working out the specific mechanism whereby Germany might be able to help the Lebanese Government and meet the requirements of German law and German politics, that meet the requirements of Lebanese law and Lebanese politics is something that we're working on right now and that's what she has been involved in over the past several days -- been a lot of phone calls. But, you know, this is what comes along with implementation of a Security Council resolution as soon as it was passed. We're very pleased that it was passed, but we also said that now the hard work of implementation begins. And it is our job, meaning the U.S. as well as the work of others in the international community, to make sure that this resolution succeeds -- part of it is working the issue of the blockade.
QUESTION: How close do you envision the blockage being lifted?
MR. MCCORMACK: We would, you know, we would hope that this is able to happen in the near future. I don't have a timeline for you. But again, it requires some dedicated, delicate diplomacy and that's what we're doing now. You have a number of different moving pieces here. You have Israeli troops withdrawing. You have Lebanese troops moving into these places. You have UNIFIL moving in -- the new more robust UNIFIL -- and you also at the same time have to get people in place and the processes and procedures in place so that you are able to monitor those entry/exit points so that you don't have the inflow of arms, which is another part of 1701, preventing the inflow of arms so Hezbollah can't rearm. So there are a lot of different -- there are a lot of moving pieces here.
And I know it seems like commonsense to people -- why can't Germany or other countries just go ahead and move in and help out. You know, each Government has its own requirements in that regard. So what we're trying to do is match up those requirements and those needs with the various countries who want to help out.
QUESTION: The Secretary General said it could be done within the next 48 hours. Do you think that's an overly optimistic assessment?
MR. MCCORMACK: We want to see it done as soon as possible.
QUESTION: My question is about Afghanistan.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: The Senlis Council out of Paris issued a report today that was critical of the international mission there, suggesting that the emphasis on a military approach in Afghanistan had in effect undercut democracy and that because there hadn't been enough spend on development and reconstruction that the effort there should be reassessed. At what point do you think the mission in Afghanistan needs to be reassessed?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen this -- I haven't seen this report, but I think it's -- I think in order for Afghanistan to succeed, you need a lot of different elements to that. You need the support and training for a military and a police force. While that is happening you need the assistance of an international force to help out -- help out an Afghan Government that is still a fledgling, democratic government that is trying to expand its control beyond Kabul. That's a tough fight because the Taliban is attempting to come back. We've all seen the results. We've seen the tough fighting in the south which NATO -- the NATO forces have done a good job in engaging the Taliban.
You also need economic development assistance, helping the Afghan -- the Afghan people develop a working, viable economy. This was a country that had been ravaged for decades by civil war. It is not a country that is rich in natural resources. I think their probably greatest natural resource are their people. And so we are working hard to help the people realize different means of making a living, you know, moving away from opium production -- and that's a hard fight.
Part of that -- part of that effort also includes helping them build an infrastructure, an infrastructure that was either nonexistent or had been severely degraded by years and years of civil conflict and war. One of the things that we are trying to concentrate on and the Secretary is very intently focused on is the building of roads because one of the things -- one of -- and it's one of the things the Afghans really want, because we talk about alternative livelihoods, moving away from poppy production and moving into other kinds of livelihoods. You can grow things like pomegranates and other kinds of agricultural produce, but in order for those things to get to market in a way that they are -- that it is a viable commodity, you need to have the road. So these things are all interconnected.
So the sort of short answer to your question is you need a lot of different elements and they all need to be closely coordinated and linked together. But the key element is working with the Afghan Government to try to help them build their own institutions and their own infrastructure, but they need a lot of help. That's what we're trying to do.
QUESTION: I guess the concern is that there has been an overemphasis on the military spending and less emphasis on the reconstruction and assisting poverty in a sense that has prevented winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people in a way that would make those initiatives like you talked about succeed.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you need a lot of different things at once. You need to help provide a secure environment for people so they feel as though that they can step up and participate in new kinds of institutions, democratic institutions, without fear of violence to them or to their family. So that's a very important part.
You need to -- you also need to encourage them to think differently about their economy and ways of making a living. So in order to do that, yes, you do need to help them with the infrastructure and with a different -- build a different way of life. But security is an important part of that. They need to feel as though that they can put their trust in these institutions. These are new institutions for them and they will -- they need to demonstrate that they can deliver for the Afghan people.
Now, since they're new institutions, they need our help, need the help of the United States. They need the help of the international community. So there has been a lot of investment in roads and a lot of other infrastructure and a lot of assistance with, as I said before, working on promoting alternative livelihoods of agriculture and so forth. So there's been a lot of investment outside of just the military sector.
QUESTION: I want to draw your attention to the peace agreement the Pakistan military has reached with pro-Taliban tribal leaders in north Waziristan. A lot of people are saying that two years after the military venture, a lot of people have been killed and not much has been achieved and General Musharraf is essentially looking for an exit strategy. How do you look at this development and what implications does this have for U.S. war on terror?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen the news reports that are addressing the agreement to which you referred. I know that -- so I'll try to check into that for you.
I do know that when Secretary Rice was last there she did talk to President Musharraf about his approach in the tribal areas and he talked to her at length. It was his presentation to her about how he was going to bring about an integrated civilian military-political approach to the tribal areas to try to work with them, work on development in the tribal areas as well as on the security aspect. So this was again something that he talked to her about. It was a Pakistani -- a Pakistani proposal.
It is in the interest of Pakistan and the Pakistani people that the government be able to exercise its sovereignty throughout all of Pakistan. This is an area that traditionally has not been under the control of the central government, so it's -- this is not -- this is a historical problem I think in Pakistan. And certainly everybody understands the importance of not having safe havens where you can have these ungoverned areas where al-Qaida, the Taliban, other terrorist groups can launch -- plan and launch terrorist attacks not only against Afghans and international forces in Afghanistan but against Pakistanis and Pakistan. So President Musharraf has a healthy appreciation for that. Certainly we want to be as supportive as we can in his efforts to build up those democratic political institutions in Pakistan. And with respect to the specific proposal, we'll see -- I haven't seen the specifics of it.
QUESTION: The U.S. is not aware of this peace treaty?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I just haven't seen the news reports. I haven't had a chance to look into it. I was just trying to make the point that Secretary Rice did speak in general terms with President Musharraf when she was last there about his proposals.
QUESTION: Apparently,they will be withdrawing the 80,000 troops along the Afghanistan border? I mean, this may come as a major source of concern for Hamid Karzai as well as the U.S. because that area is still, you know, still very active in terms of a lot of armed groups there.
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, in terms of the specifics, I'll have to look into it for you. But Afghanistan and Pakistan have a shared interest in seeing that that border is controlled. Like I said, it's in everybody's interest if they're not being safe havens along that border. So I know that has been a source of tension in the past between Afghanistan and Pakistan. What we have done -- what we have tried to do is encourage them to talk and to work together and to solve problems as opposed to -- and solve them privately as opposed to trying to do it in public which is sometimes a little bit harder.
QUESTION: As you speak here, the Turkish parliament is voting on a bill to send peacekeepers to Lebanon, and the results was widely expected to be a positive one. What's the U.S. view on Turkish peacekeepers in Lebanon?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look into the -- look into that for you. Certainly we have encouraged countries to contribute to this effort. But I'll have to check that out for you as it is an ongoing event.
QUESTION: Chris Hill in Asia today said that there is a possibility of reviving talks on North Korea if not necessarily as part of the Six-Party Talks but perhaps some other types of forums. Is there any movement on getting parties -- interested parties on North Korea together in some new format?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of, no.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that an Assistant Attorney General of Ethiopia has requested asylum in the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: We don't talk about asylum cases.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:54 p.m.)
Released on September 5, 2006