Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul: Russian, Afghan leaders discuss expansion of military-technological cooperation
Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul talks about Afghan-Russian cooperation in countering drug trafficking and military-technological cooperation, and also about prospects of the international security forces‘ withdrawal fr om Afghanistan by 2014 in an interview with Interfax.Question: Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to visit Russia in January. Could you please name the exact date of his visit and say what issues are going to be discussed during it?
Answer: I think this trip will happen in the third week of January, this is something I am looking forward to. The president will have intensive discussions with the Russian leadership on bilateral relations, economic cooperation, on transit and business between Afghanistan and the Russian Federation, and also the issue of regional issues is going to be discussed, regional cooperation, and also the fight against terrorism and the fight against narcotics.
Question: Russia is providing significant aid to Afghanistan in countering drug production. What concrete measures Russia could take to improve interaction with the Afghan authorities on this?
Answer: We are preparing to work out what kind of cooperation we are going to have. Two teams are working, and I think there‘s going to be a very comprehensive outcome.
Question:Is Afghanistan interested in Russia helping it not only destroy opium crops but also providing some assistance in developing its agricultural sector?
Answer:I think the narcotics issue is not only a threat to the region and the world, but also to Afghanistan, and the Afghanistan government is fully committed to fighting narcotics, and we have very good working relations with the Russian Federation, they are training all our anti-narcotic police, we have other issues of cooperation, and that cooperation will be strengthened in the future because it’s the benefit to both countries.
We already have some successes in the fight against narcotics. As you know more than twenty to twenty-five provinces of Afghanistan are free of drug at the moment. Where the Afghan government is in control, there is significant reduction of poppy cultivation. In areas wh ere security is not good, there is an increase in poppy cultivation. So more and more security will come in Afghanistan, more and more [it] will be in charge of reducing that production of poppies. Of course we need the help and cooperation of our friends on agriculture and irrigation, but also on the training of our counter-narcotic police. All these issues have started, and I think we will succeed. It will take time.
Question: Afghanistan is interested in acquiring Russian helicopters, and it has been announced that a special international trust fund is to be established for this purpose. Is Afghanistan considering purchases of other military hardware from Russia?
Answer:You know that Russian helicopters are adapted very much to Afghanistan geography, and we have a lot of Afghan pilots who know about Russian helicopters. So definitely we need these helicopters and we are looking forward to having these helicopters, spare parts, and the training of pilots for these helicopters. The Russian Federation is also supplying the Afghanistan police with Kalashnikov machine-guns and other light weapons, and the prospect of further military cooperation is in discussion.
Question: How many helicopters should be supplied to Afghanistan within the financing to be provided for the trust fund?
Answer: We do not know exactly but there‘ll be about twenty helicopters or something like this.
Question: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia is willing to help Afghanistan restore various sites that were built in your country by the Soviet Union. Could you mention particular projects that could be implemented to this end?
Answer: Yes, we have plenty of old projects which need to be redone, and we are working now in Afghanistan to see what projects are very important, and during the trip of President Karzai to Russia we will discuss and bring [up] these issues [and see] which projects Russia can help us [with], to rebuild and reconstruct those projects that [were] done by the ex-Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the past.
Question: Some experts and officials from various countries are quite skeptical about the prospect of the U.S. military leaving Afghanistan by 2014. What could you say in commenting on this opinion?
Answer:I think the proposal of giving the responsibility of security in Afghanistan by 2014 is an Afghan proposal [made] by our president in his inaugural speech but also supported by the international community during the London and Kabul conferences and finally approved by the last NATO summit conference in Lisbon. Kabul for example has responsibility of the Afghan national security forces, but to 2014 the Afghan national security forces will be in [the] lead of operation in Afghanistan, and the international forces will be - the remaining international force - will be a supporting force. Of course there is a need also that the international community will commit themselves on training and equipping properly the Afghan security forces that will be in charge of security by 2014. We hope the security situation will improve by other means, not only military, by peace process, and by engagement with the neighbors and regional cooperation.