Jan. 30, 2008 —
Press Briefing Hall, Presidential Palace, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, January 22, 2008
Adm. William Fallon, commander, U.S. Central Command, addresses the media during his trip to Tajikistan Jan. 22. (U.S. Embassy photo)
Admiral Fallon: Thank you very much, it is a pleasure to be back in Tajikistan. I wanted to stop and see President Rahmon to exchange with him our views on the security situation and cooperation between Tajikistan and the United States. So we discussed several initiatives that we might undertake to the mutual benefit of both countries. And of course I began by expressing my appreciation to Mr. President and to the people of Tajikistan for the support that they have given to the U.S. particularly regarding our efforts in Afghanistan. I expressed my appreciation to President Rahmon for the initiative that is beginning this month to train a number of Afghan young men - cadets for future service at military academies. This course for the young cadets beginning this month here at the Tajik Military Institute is a good initiative to reach out to the people of Afghanistan and help them with their many security challenges. And I think that’s probably enough monologue from me, so I’ll turn over to you for your questions.
REUTERS: Mr. Admiral, are you going to visit Tashkent after your visit to Dushanbe and if you are, would it mean defrosting of relationships between the U.S. and Uzbekistan and the possible reopening of your base in Uzbekistan?
Admiral Fallon: Well, I would like to visit there, but I am actually going from here to Islamabad to meet with my Pakistani military counterparts and from there on to Afghanistan. But I would like to pay a future visit to Tashkent. But in any event, a visit there would not involve any discussion of a base from my initiative, that’s not something that we have on our agenda.
RIA NOVOSTI: I would like first of all to ask if there were any specific purpose for your visit to Central Asian countries, and are you planning to cooperate with Tajikistan in the involvement of Tajik servicemen in the NATO “Partnership for Peace” program.
Admiral Fallon: I come here to visit this country and others in Central Asia because each of the nations here are within my area of responsibility, as we call it. Because of the pressing business realities I spend most of my time occupied with issues in Iraq and the Gulf areas and with Afghanistan. But I want to make sure that I am staying in close contact with leaders of countries of Central Asia, so that I am aware of the situation and that I might be able to offer assistance as we see to the mutual benefit of both countries. We did not have any discussion about NATO partnership; our focus was on bilateral relations between Tajikistan and the U.S. particularly regarding border security.
PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE: It is well known that regional economic cooperation contributes to security and stabilization. So, is the United States intending to turn to security or other large scale projects after putting into operation the Tajik-Afghan Nizhniy Pianj Bridge?
Admiral Fallon: I agree with you that one of the most important things in this region would be economic cooperation. And so my visits here encourage each of the nations to look for opportunities to work with one another, because I believe that there will be great benefit economically if there is more interaction between the countries. I would be anxious to see how this bridge project expands the economic activity when the bridge is open full time and we get to see the full benefit of the increased traffic back and forth. So we would like to see the results of this project, and then we would be happy to consider what other things that might be of interest that would be helpful to the economies of the region.
REUTERS: According to U.N. data, the international community last year spent around $1 billion on counter drug projects in Afghanistan the result of which are inaudible. Do you think that the international community has the means to get involved in Afghanistan and will the ISAF fight drugs in Afghanistan?
Admiral Fallon: I am not sure about the number, the amount of money, but I know that there is certainly a desire on part of the ISAF nations, and also the Government of Afghanistan, to try to reduce this drug activity. I have some opinions based on my observations in many places within Afghanistan. There needs to be close cooperation between the Government of Afghanistan and the contributing nations, particularly the security and law enforcement organizations. I believe that one of the most important factors is good leadership. I have seen provinces within the country of Afghanistan that have strong leaders that are willing to stand up and to fight and rally the people to resist this drug culture, and in many cases they are very successful. Of course they need help from the security forces, and I can tell you that we intend to cooperate closely with the government leaders to try to improve the security conditions so that these leaders can be successful in their resisting the drug culture. Thank you very much, it has been a great pleasure to be back here.