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Sen. Daschle Speaks at Embassy in Afghanistan

Aired January 16, 2002 - 05:32   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: As we have been telling you, we have been monitoring the situation in Kabul, Afghanistan. Sen. Tom Daschle expected to come out of the U.S. Embassy, nearly open there, to speak to the public. As you can see, a group of reporters gathered around, and I guess he's arriving in that vehicle there -- Sen. Daschle. He'll approach the podium, where he'll begin to speak, no doubt talking about the delegation that's been there for a week now. They are assessing the situation there, so they can make congressional decisions in the future. They are also going to support U.S. troops to see what's happening there.

Of course, the embassy, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, has been closed for many, many years. It just reopened, and inside there were old newspapers lying around from the year that it closed, and I think that was sometime in the '80s. It was very eerie. Everything was left as is. Food was left on the table and all of that. But of course, the U.S. Embassy reopened when most of the Taliban were kicked out of the country. They are still fighting a few pockets there.

As you can see, heavy security, or maybe you can't right now. But when the picture was a little wider, we saw armed men all around the embassy. And as you can see, my picture is kind of -- oh, there it is. As you can see, the senator -- oh, they're getting the podium ready. It's later in the day in Afghanistan, so they have no excuses. They should this all ready for the senator, don't you think? He is actually in Kabul with a whole delegation, which includes Sen. Byron Dorgan -- yes, Byron Doran of North Dakota, Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota and Representative Ellen Tauscher of California.

And there you can see, they're getting the microphones ready. All of the reporters too, they're putting their microphones on the podium, so that they can pick up sound to send to their viewers back home. Sen. Daschle looks like he's in a good mood, maybe a little tired. It would be hard to sleep there in Afghanistan, because the accommodations are not the best, because of course, that country has been war-torn for some time.

As you can see, most of the people gathered around the U.S. Embassy are not Afghans. They're actually reporters. In fact, probably pretty much all of them are reporters. Sen. Daschle is surrounded by his delegation, his congressional friends, who came along with him for the journey.

Oh, he's approaching the podium. Hopefully, he'll begin to speak, so...

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I am Tom Daschle, and I'd like to introduce my colleagues: Sen. Dick Durbin from Illinois, Sen. Bob Smith from New Hampshire, Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher from California right behind me, Sen. Byron Dorgan from North Dakota and Sen. Mark Dayton from Minnesota. We've been traveling, as some of you may know, for a few days in Central Asia. We are here for a very brief period of time.

We are here really, first and foremost, to demonstrate as strongly as we can our commitment to the effort under way to democratize Afghanistan. We recognize that, while our effort began as a war against terrorism, it continues now as an effort to rebuild this country and to work with the people of this country to restore the quality of life and the kind of government that they have fought so hard to obtain now.

We recognize that our success and the success of the Afghan government, in large measure, will be on their shoulders. All we can do is help. All we can do is lend our support. In that regard, we strongly believe that our country needs to be here for the long haul, and that we aren't going to leave once the effort to defeat terrorism has been completed. That we know once that effort has been successfully completed, that the work begins in establishing and rebuilding and creating the kind of government that will serve this country as we expect it will.

We have just met with the chairman, and we must say that we are extremely impressed with his leadership and his vision for this country. We're particularly impressed that he has been able to bring together factions from the country, and has included a number of women within his government. All of those signs are very positive ones. All of those signs are indicative, I think, of his determination to lead in a way that is in keeping with the expectations of people around the world.

So we leave with a renewed empathy with a renewed determination, and with an expectation that the United States can be a partner in working with this government in the long haul to ensure that we can be successful.

We'd be happy to take some of your questions.

QUESTION: Senators and Congressman, there's a group of Americans visiting Afghanistan this week. They had relatives who were victims of the September attacks meeting with relatives of Afghans who lost their lives because of errant U.S. bombs. No one is placing blame on the U.S., but one of the things they're suggesting is starting a kind of similar victims' fund here for those kind of individuals as part of the rebuilding effort. Any thoughts on that brand new suggestion?

DASCHLE: Well, obviously there's a great deal of need here. The chairman outlined a number of specific needs that he has, and we'll work very closely with this government, as we prioritize those needs and provide the resources as best we can to meet the needs in both the short and the long term.

QUESTION: Well, Senator, the government is out of money, according to the U.N. It needs $100 million within the next few days. To what extent can the U.S. help, and to what extent is there a will among Congress and the U.S. people to make that immediate commitment and the longer term commitment?

DASCHLE: Well, without quantifying the assistance, I think there is, at least in our group of bipartisan effort, to -- a bipartisan willingness to provide assistance. Obviously, this is a matter that will be of great interest to the administration. The secretary is here tomorrow, and we'll consult with the administration. We'll work on a bipartisan and bicameral basis with the administration to try to meet some of that need in the coming days. We recognize the urgency, and we also recognize the extraordinary magnitude of the need, and we'll try to address that when we get back to Washington.

QUESTION: Senator, what's your view of the possible expansion of the International Security Systems Force beyond Kabul, and the participation of American troops in that the administration appears to be against that?

DASCHLE: Well, I think it's a matter that will be under review for some time. I don't know that anyone has been able to determine yet what role the United States, or other countries, will play. But clearly, as I said a moment ago, it is our strong desire to continue a presence here, to recognize that we cannot leave with the job half done. But we'll determine the role and the degree of presence in the coming weeks and months.

QUESTION: Did Chairman Karzai tell you that he wanted more International Security Systems Forces beyond Kabul?

DASCHLE: Well, he talked about the need for additional security. We weren't -- we didn't get into specifics about what that meant, how we'd define it, or what role the United States might play.

I would also -- let me make sure I invite my colleagues to answer some of these questions.

COSTELLO: OK. You are listening to Sen. Tom Daschle, who is speaking live in Kabul, Afghanistan, pledging to work with the people in Afghanistan to establish a fair government. And he also pledges bipartisan support in not leaving once the war on terrorism is over. And we're going to leave this press conference now. If there is any more, we'll bring it to you a little in the hour.




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