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Interview with Cong. Frank Wolf - 2002-01-24

MR. BORGIDA: We are here today with Congressman Frank Wolf, a Republican from the State of Virginia. He is the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, here in Washington. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

CONGRESSMAN WOLF: It's a pleasure to be with you.

MR. BORGIDA: That (video) must have brought back some memories for you. Your reactions that you could share with our viewers about Afghanistan and the refugee camps that you visited?

CONGRESSMAN WOLF: Well, I think there is tremendous need, as the world knows. I think there is also tremendous hope. The people are very, I don't want to say optimistic, but they are very hopeful. They appear to be very encouraged about what is the potential of what is taking place. But there is tremendous need -- education, health care, security. Everywhere you go, for the people there, security is a problem. But I think, if given the resources and with the right leadership, I think there is a good opportunity there.

MR. BORGIDA: Well, let's talk resources, and then we'll take a moment to talk leadership. The donor conference in Japan agreed to about $4.5 billion. In your view, is that enough to get going, and will that respond to what will clearly be a long-term problem?

CONGRESSMAN WOLF: Well, I think it will be enough. Now, that is only for the period of a year. There will be more money coming as you go into the outyears. It really has to be enough, but I think it will be enough. That is a significant amount of money.

I think also there is the opportunity for what I will call people-to-people programs -- hospitals in the West, whether it be in Great Britain or the United States, adopting a hospital in Afghanistan; schools; civic group to civic group. So I think there will be additional resources, through NGO's, that are nongovernmental. But I think that will be a sufficient amount of money.

We need the right people there. I think President Karzai appears to be a good person. He appears to be honest. Although he doesn't have a lot of infrastructure to work with, I think he is a good man. So, overall, good leadership, with enough resources, with hard-working people, I think you have an opportunity.

MR. BORGIDA: Now, Congressman, you talk about the infrastructure, there are those who might say that the tribal warlord society in Afghanistan could present a problem to Mr. Karzai, and certainly in the allocation of resources in the way of corruption. Is that a concern of yours?

CONGRESSMAN WOLF: Well, corruption is going to be a major problem. He said, when he met with us, that corruption would be a major issue for him, and he will try to make the country -- I think he said -- less corrupt, meaning that you will never wipe it out completely right away. But he needs his own military that is loyal to the central government and not to this warlord or that warlord. He also needs a law enforcement mechanism right now.

When we were in Kabul, we heard reports of people coming in and taking over homes -- not robbing their home, but taking your home over. Well, if they take your car or your home, there is no one to go to. There is no law enforcement.

So everything you talk about has to be looked at through security. And I think President Karzai needs his own military, his own law enforcement, whereby people begin to look to the central government and not to the warlord of this region versus the warlord of that region. But, yes, warlords are going to be a problem, and people don't like to give up power.

MR. BORGIDA: Let's talk, too, a little bit, Congressman, about the heart and the soul of the Afghan people. Certainly, for generations embattled in a war-torn country, your observations about the Afghan as they weather all this and look forward to the future?

CONGRESSMAN WOLF: Well, people told me that Kabul in the seventies was kind of a nice city to go to. They appear to be very hardworking people. I have known Afghan people who have been there, stationed there at different times. They say they are very hardworking. The shops are open in Kabul. People were beginning to rebuild. Technically, the war is still going on, although not in Kabul. And yet they are out there breaking rock, hammering and fixing and repairing.

A lot of the Kabul educated have left Afghanistan. Many are in the United States and Western countries. Our hope is that many of them would see fit to go back, at least for a period of time, to help out. But education-wise, they have lost a lot of teachers. Their schools have no pens, no pencils, no books, no chairs, no desks. Schools have been off-limits for girls for the last five years. But there is a hope, there is an optimism, there is a sense of excitement, that they think they can do it.

So, if given the resources and if given the right leadership -- I mean, what would have happened to America if we didn't have George Washington? Let's say we had had Aaron Burr. Maybe things could have turned out differently. If they get the right leadership, and the West stays involved, I think they have a good opportunity of making it.

MR. BORGIDA: That is the perfect segue to my next question. I wanted to take us a little more broadly to the overall U.S.-led war on terrorism. How do you think it is going? And how do you think U.S. allies are helping us out in this? Are we getting sufficient support, do you think, from other countries in this war against terrorism, which is branching out into many other countries?

CONGRESSMAN WOLF: Well, from most countries, I think we are getting a lot of support. Some countries we may just be getting verbal support. I think President Bush and the Congress is committed to this effort. Six months ago, I don't know what I would have told you if you had asked me the question. But we have now uncovered, turned the rock over, and what we see has to be dealt with. You cannot just clean up a portion of the mess.

And obviously, when Afghanistan is resolved, as it will be relatively soon, there are other places to deal with. Al Qaeda is in other parts of the world. We know what took place in the bombings in Tanzania and in Kenya. We know the USS Cole. We go back to the days of the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut in 1983. I was at the Marine barracks shortly after the bombing of the Marine barracks in late 1983. So there are other problems with regard to terrorism around the world. Afghanistan will not resolve it all. And yet I believe the country is committed to dealing with it around the world.

MR. BORGIDA: And that is a good note to end the interview on. Congressman Frank Wolf, of Virginia, we appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.

CONGRESSMAN WOLF: Thank you very much.