Assistant Secretary Brownfield: Ladies and gentlemen, if I can offer a quick 30 seconds and then I promise I will turn the conversation over to you.
My name is Bill Brownfield. I am the Assistant Secretary of State of the United States for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, a bureau that is sometimes misnamed the Bureau of Drugs and Thugs. In fact we have a somewhat broader mission than that. We also have the mission of support for rule of law, support for law enforcement, and support for justice sector and corrections sector reforms.
I have spent most of this week in Afghanistan. I have been here because my government, along with the government of Afghanistan, along with a number of other governments in the international community is now thinking about the process of transition which is to say the year 2014 and beyond. While I have yet to find a human being on this planet who can define with great precision exactly what the transition will be, everyone agrees that 2014 and beyond will be a different set of realities than we are dealing with now, and that logically we should focus and think about what transition will entail over the next 30 months.
The INL Bureau, my bureau back in Washington, believes that we will be part of this process in terms of United States support for Afghanistan in the transition and post-transition process.
There are three areas where we are actively engaged, and I visited, besides Kabul, Herat and Parwan, and had hoped to visit Helmand yesterday, among other reasons to congratulate its very active and energetic Governor for his efforts, but that visit was canceled due to a visit by several other gentlemen to an area not far from the airport yesterday morning which caused a temporary shutdown of virtually all air movement for at least several hours.
In each of my conversations and each of my visits, I talked through and observed existing programs in our three core areas of competence.
Drugs, and my message on drugs is that drugs are not the only issue, crisis, or challenge that the government of Afghanistan must confront in the years ahead, but there is no solution, whether political, security, or developmental, that does not somehow address the drugs issue. And addressing the drugs issue, we have learned over the last 40 years, requires a comprehensive approach that involves both cultivation, production, law enforcement, interdiction and prevention, education, treatment, and rehabilitation.
Our second core area is what we call rule of law and whether this involves courts, prosecutors, judicial and justice professionals, I am proud of the fact that we, though our programs, have touched more than 12,000 Afghan citizens involved in some way or another in the rule of law field, and would hope and expect to continue to be able to do so as we approach transition and in the post-transition era.
Third, and finally, I had the opportunity to visit, discuss, and observe programs in the corrections field. An area where we have learned the hard way in the United States government’s overseas programs within the last 10 or 15 years, must be incorporated into our efforts, otherwise if we address only community policing, investigation, prosecution, and court administration, leaving a gaping hole in the corrections system, all we have done is perpetuate a continuing infinite circle and cycle whereby we process individuals through an effective system until they enter a correction system that does not serve to correct, rehabilitate, or quite frankly even remove from criminal activities, but rather in the extreme situation, not necessarily Afghanistan, merely becomes a perpetuation of criminal activities but in a new location.
That is a succinct summary of how I spent my week. I am delighted to see you all and I open this conversation up to you. The only request I make of you is would you please identify yourselves at the start. I identified myself, you can identify yourself.
Over to you.
WSJ: Maria Abi-Habib from the Wall Street Journal.
I’m curious to know how the drugs issue went, especially since it’s not just Taliban or armed criminal gangs that are necessarily involved drugs, that actually the majority of the drugs crisis here is actually being pedaled by the government, government officials themselves who are very involved in drugs.
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: Let me start by saying Afghanistan is not the only country in the world that addresses an illicit drug challenge and while every country is unique and different in its own way, certain lessons have been learned over the last 40 years that are applicable in Afghanistan or any other country in the world. Let me offer a few of them.
One that I suggested in my opening presentation, I will call it, is that your approach has to be comprehensive in nature. You cannot just do interdiction, you cannot just do eradication, you have to address all aspects of the problem and that very definitely involves corruption or penetration of institutions or individuals by those involved in criminal activity.
Other lessons are the chronological lesson. It took us several generations to get into this situation. It is going to be more than overnight effort to get out of it. Lessons that we have learned suggesting that you must integrate development and security into your drug efforts. If you do not integrate security you’re not able to do operations, programs or activities in the communities. If you do not integrate development and economic well-being you do not have an incentive for those who participate in the illicit drug business.
I would suggest to you that the challenge in Afghanistan is long term in nature. Corruption is part of it, but it’s not all of it. There are many nations in our home hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere where -- by the way, including the United States of America, where there are individuals in official institutions -- whether national, state or local -- who have in fact been penetrated and corrupted by massive business organizations that have billions and billions of dollars at their disposition and who can say things to a single individual such as if you just are not at this location between 10 and 11 o’clock next Thursday night, you will earn $5 million. Now that may be a fairly attractive proposition to some people. If you add to it the further inducement of, and if you are there at 10 o’clock next Thursday night, both you and your entire family will be killed, that makes it even simpler. This is the challenge, the long term challenge that has to be integrated into a drug issue.
How do you address it? You didn’t ask the question, but I’m going to give you at least a partial answer in that regard. First, you address it in terms of working with the institutions themselves. That’s a matter of education, capacity building, training, but also vetting and selecting those that are coming into the institution. That tends to take a long time. Years. Often an entire generation. We have developed an approach in many countries in the world that includes Afghanistan of special units or entities that are selected carefully, whose personnel are carefully examined -- vetted if you will -- to ensure that they have not been corrupted or penetrated by those who wish us ill and isolate and separate them from the rest of the institution, allowing you to continue to conduct operations or conduct trials or prosecute cases even in institutions in which you don’t have full confidence.
What will we do in Afghanistan? I assume a combination of several of those that we are already doing. And may I conclude by saying I suspect we will learn as well as we approach transition and beyond that there are certain models that worked elsewhere and will not necessarily work in Afghanistan, and there are certain things that perhaps you can do in Afghanistan that would not work elsewhere.
The Telegraph: Frank Tom from The Telegraph.
You say it’s going to be a long time. What do you mean by that? Are we talking decades? Are we talking -- Do you have a frame of time in your mind for how long this might take?
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: 1999 to 2001 I was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere and I had, among my areas of responsibility, the continent of South America.
In 1999 we worked with the government of Colombia as it developed a strategy and a plan which they came to call Plan Columbia. In January of the year 2000, the United States Congress appropriated more than $1 billion that year to support Plan Colombia.
As the Deputy assistant Secretary of State, in my early engagements with the U.S. and other international media, explaining Plan Columbia and what we hoped our support and cooperation would achieve, I was asked a very similar question to what you just asked me.
I was so foolish at that time as to provide a fairly precise answer. I believe I said something along the lines of, if in the next five years we do not see a reduction of roughly 50 percent in terms of coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia, then we will at a minimum not have succeeded. And lady and gentlemen, it probably didn’t take five years, it took about seven years, and I had that statement thrown back in my face several hundred times. That’s a long story to tell you, I am not going to give you a precise answer.
I am going to say to you, we’re obviously going to be looking at and measuring a number of measurable factors. One is the estimate of how much opium poppy is actually under cultivation. Another is how much is being eradicated on an annual basis. A third might be how much is being interdicted or seized in terms of quantity. What are your arrest figures? But not just arrest figures. What are your prosecution and conviction figures? All of that is kind of on the negative or hard side as we like to say of the equation.
There is also the positive or soft side of the equation such as how many subsistence farmers have received benefits of some sort in perhaps a governor-led eradication effort? How many communities now have access to water or sewage systems or access to electricity? Or for that matter, access to local education and schools or local health service?
At the end of the day if we’re doing the job correctly, and we hope we will, you, as well as we, will have a large number of areas where we are collecting statistical data. And that, if we’re doing the job correctly, should give us a pretty good sense at least as to whether we’re moving in the right direction or the wrong direction. But I remind you, not just Bill Brownfield’s gripping story about how he was so stupid as to have answered precisely that question in a different country 12 years ago, but also logic and common sense tell you that if this is a long-term process that involves a comprehensive strategy that touches everything from basic education of 10 or 12-year-olds to very intense and sophisticated law enforcement operations to tackle financial crime or sophisticated precursors chemical trafficking, it is going to take some time before the entire population agrees serious progress is being made.
That said, ladies and gentlemen, it does happen. There are some concrete examples, and we don’t have to go all the way to Colombia to see these sorts of examples. We can be much closer to home. Twenty years ago one of the countries with the worst heroin production records was Thailand, and Thailand today is for the most part not a heroin producer. It’s a tiny amount. One of the countries with the worst heroin addiction problems in the world was Pakistan, and while there are many challenges in Pakistan today, that is not the dominant challenge of the moment. Countries such as Turkey or Lebanon used to produce fairly substantial amounts of opium poppy. They no longer do.
In other words, there are examples where the process works. And I repeat what I said at the start. Afghanistan’s challenge is not just a drug challenge, but I cannot see a successful conclusion to the challenges that affect Afghanistan today if they do not include progress and forward movement in terms of illicit drug and drug abuse.
Al Jazeera, English: Bernard Smith from Al Jazeera, English.
In your travels the last few days have you begun getting an indication of what size of harvest is expected this year and [inaudible] speaking to?
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: Yes and no. I realize that’s very craft effort to get me to throw probably an arithmetical figure at you and I will once again refrain from that invitation.
What I will say is the signals that we’re seeing, and there are at least two institutions that do a systematic survey on an annual basis. The United Nations does it through the auspices of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, and the United States government does it through our Counter-Narcotics Center, CNC, producing an annual survey.
My guess, and you can assume I’m guessing based upon the conversations that I have had on this visit as well as our own research and assessment and perusing of the data that we have available to us so far, is that we will find that in certain regions of the country opium poppy cultivation is down and down dramatically. Helmand jumps out at you once again in a fairly dramatic fashion.
I’m mildly optimistic in terms of Kandahar. I predict we’ll find there are other regions of the country where opium poppy cultivation has risen. This should not be surprising. It’s not as though we have just discovered the balloon effect. We’ve been dealing to a certain extent with the balloon effect for the last 35 years and that is squeeze the balloon in one place and the air will move and the balloon will expand in other places. This, by the way, does not mean that this problem is never solvable. The process of disrupting those who are in this business is a net positive and eventually the objective is to get the entire region to cooperate in an effort to make it impossible for the balloon to expand into other regions.
My prediction is we will find that nationwide opium poppy cultivation will probably be marginally lower than the past year. We will find that there are more provinces that in fact have statistically measurable amounts of opium poppy being grown, but they are growing less than a smaller number of higher producing provinces in the past. That is my prediction. I could very well be proven to be wrong. And I do remind you that cultivation and eradication in my humble opinion is only one of a dozen areas where a successful narcotics or counter-narcotics program must focus in order to produce long-term and lasting results.
Sunday Times: Miles Moore from the Sunday Times.
You mentioned that you were on your way to see Governor Mangal in Helmand Province.
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: Tried to get there. Was grounded.
Media: I just wondered why Mangal and his policies are often held up as sort of a, why do they often delight the West so much?
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: I’m not delighted. I do admire the results simply -- and the first part of the answer is because they are measureable, statistical, and mathematical. It’s not just that we feel good about it, it is that when you assess the figures, whether how much is being grown or how much is being eradicated. When you visit the communities and compare the community in 2012 to perhaps the community in 2009 or 2010, that is concrete scientific physical evidence of progress which in my opinion is what you have a right to demand from us, the governments of the world as we talk about this problem. If we just say we feel good about how things are going in a particular area, you have every right in the world to say why do you feel good about it?
Second, I will acknowledge that if you have a program as we do, as the government of Afghanistan does and we support, called Governor-Led Eradication, the governor is a fairly important player in the program. It’s not called football team-led eradication or business-led eradication. The program is specifically titled Governor-Led. That would suggest that the position, enthusiasm, capabilities, political will of the individual governor is obviously important.
There are other programs, in fact I cannot name any other country in the world right now that has as its core eradication program a Governor-led eradication. In the major coca and cocaine producers in the Western Hemisphere, I can assure you the eradication programs are national. It is the national government that leads them, implements them, staffs them, resources them. Afghanistan in this regard is unique.
So if the question is why is it important one, to talk to, understand and acknowledge Governor Mangal, and second, perhaps, give him substantial credit for what has been accomplished, the answer in my opinion is when you have a success story as I believe Helmand eradication is so far, you actually want to transmit that success story to the other provinces in the country to suggest several messages. One, it can be done. The argument in essence being if you can do it in Helmand, you can probably do it anywhere in Afghanistan. And the second message, and I acknowledge this is kind of the positive side of it, Helmand received benefits, concrete, specific resources and funding, because of what they were able to accomplish. And if you take that positive message and bury it in a hole in the ground so that no one is aware of it, while it still gets you value in Helmand, it doesn’t get you much value in the rest of the country. That in my opinion is why it is worth acknowledging this and why I actually do regret that I was grounded yesterday and did not have the opportunity to visit with the Governor, to lay eyes on some of his programs that I have not seen since I was last here a year ago, and to acknowledge publicly, as I am right now, that he has done an exceptional job in a very very difficult environment.
Reuters: Jack Kimball, Reuters.
Mr. Ambassador, my question is about, Russia agreed to allow NATO forces to use one of their airports or their bases to take out non-lethal equipment from Afghanistan. I was wondering if there’s any concern that that might actually be used to transport drugs.
The second question I had was about arms. Do you have any estimate of kind of like the number of arms in the country?
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: Let me start with Russia, because while I’m not going to suggest that any specific agreement or specific location is likely to produce greater opportunities for illicit drug trafficking, I am going to say that Russia and the Russian Federation is an exceptionally important partner in this effort.
The logic is pretty obvious and compelling. A tremendous percentage, a third perhaps, of Afghan heroin production eventually winds up in the Russian Federation. Large communities in Russia are in fact victimized by this.
We actually have a very positive and cooperative relationship with the Russian government on narcotics-related matters. In fact in about three weeks’ time I will be joining the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy of the United States government, otherwise known, but not known in Russia as the Drug Czar, in a visit to St. Petersburg where we will engage in bilateral conversations with our counterparts in the Russian government.
One of the areas where we are cooperating is the region of Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics, that yes, I can name -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. I bet none of you could have done that. And the logic is you have at one end the source, if you will, of much of the product. At the other northern end the market for much of that product. Then a number of countries in between through which logic would suggest the product must move in order to go from source to market, and the logic for cooperation is pretty strong and pretty compelling.
So there is in my opinion a fairly good news story there in terms of cooperation with Russia on drug-related issues.
That said, we are not idiots around this table. We are also aware that there is some history involved here and at times indirect engagement and cooperation is more effective and more productive than direct cooperation. Those decisions are made case by case, and issue by issue. At the end of the day it is the government of Afghanistan that determines with whom it will cooperate on any given matter and any given case in terms of the international community.
Arms. I’ll give you a very precise answer to the question how many arms are in this country right now -- a whole lot. Far more than are formally registered or listed in any police roll or any community mayor’s office or leadership office.
Obviously you cannot separate the issue of arms from the issue of illicit drugs. The arms are a potential means to protect those who are engaged in the illicit drugs business. The arms can be a means by which you sell your illicit product of drugs in exchange for which you receive arms. Arms are part of the process by which we have a blending not just in Afghanistan but in other countries as well. But in the case of Afghanistan, a blending of insurgency, activities with criminal and drug trafficking activities, and arms are, if you will, kind of the process, the thing that allows those two activities to blend together.
It’s not unique to Afghanistan. I can assure you, I spend a lot of my time dealing with the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship in which there is a tremendous amount of concern in the United States of America for the flow of narcotics from the south to the north, and a tremendous concern in the government and the communities of the United Mexican States for the flow of arms from the north to the south. Each country is different, but the role that arms, illegal, illicit, and unregistered arms plays in this drama is the same in every country where there is an illicit drugs problem. And that, by the way ladies and gentlemen, comprises the overwhelming majority of the nations on this planet. Whether they are producers, transit, or consumers. Put it all together and I defy you to find more than three or four countries out of the 192 that I believe are now recognized by the United Nations that does not fall into one of those three categories. It is a mistake I submit to you to suggest that this is an exclusively Afghan problem or an exclusively problem of some specific country in the Western Hemisphere.
Another of the lessons learned over the last 40 years is that we all have shared responsibility for the problem and we are going to have to find a joint and shared solution to the problem.
NPR: Shafi Sharifi from National Public Radio, NPR News.
My questions, the institution of the Afghan government, the Afghan Public Protection Force that’s supposed to provide security for non-diplomatic international agencies, and there was a report CGAR and also one on Huffington Post saying that about 29 USAID projects, that some of them deal with related to INL projects are being affected because APPF is not able to provide the security.
The other one is about, do you think the crackdown on narcotics is actually driving populations into the arms of the Taliban because they’re more and more trying to come across as siding with the population. Would it be hurting the campaign for hearts and minds?
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: Good questions both. Let me start with the APPF. My opening comment is so self-evident as to fall into the category of almost the banal and that is it is the government of Afghanistan that will determine on behalf of the Afghan people who will be authorized to carry arms and provide security and who will not. They have passed a law. That is the law of the land. And the entire international community will have to abide by that law.
Now how we do it, how we transition into that process, how we can adjust programs or projects in a way that will be consistent with the law and yet meet security requirements, I think that’s perfectly legitimate. I think the conversation should be as transparent as possible within the limits of security requirements. In other words, not broadcasting necessarily where you are, how many are there, in essence not sending out a targeting list to those who mean us ill, but transparent in terms of two governments or government agencies dealing with one another on this matter.
INL has a number of programs and projects throughout the country focused on the three areas that I suggested to you at the start -- drugs, justice, and corrections. All of them have some degree of security requirements, although security is easier in some areas than in other areas. And my answer to your question is we’re working the issue case-by-case, and as we move into this transition period, and I emphasize, we’re looking to 2014 as a transition, an uncertain transition, but an absolute certainty that there will be a transition. We are figuring the manner in which we can provide the necessary implementation, oversight, monitoring and auditing within the security and APPF requirements of the law.
We’re in the first year of this process. There has never, to the best of my knowledge in the history of the human race -- let’s take it back the last 10,000 years or so -- where a new law has been implemented without any hiccups, bumps or problems along the way. And we will undoubtedly find from time to time issues that cause some concern and perhaps even percolate into the media. That’s reality. And quite frankly, we would encounter that in any country in the world, not just Afghanistan.
The second question, which by the way is not just an Afghanistan question. I addressed this frequently during my three years as the United States Ambassador to Colombia. That is, does an ambitious and energetic counter-drug and counter-narcotics program push communities or individuals into the arms of insurgencies or other extra constitutional, extra governmental organizations.
My own view is that’s a false argument. First, the subsistence farmer, whether you call him a compecino in Latin America or a subsistence farmer in Afghanistan, is not inherently a criminal or a guerrilla. He is normally one who is living just at the level of subsistence whose principal function in life is to provide a basic living for his family. At the end of the day he is looking neither to become a criminal nor to become a guerrilla. An effective counter-drug policy is not just the hard side. It is not just forced eradication, interdiction, arrests, prosecution and incarceration. It is, as well, the positive side. It’s alternative development. It’s equipment and seeds and technical training on how to grow licit cash crops as well as opium poppy. It’s building clinics and schools. It’s building road systems that allow the farmer to get his crop to market since there is nothing more useless than growing a commercial crop and then being unable to sell it because you can’t get it to the market and instead find yourself competing with the illegal drugs trafficker who comes to you, will basically take your product from you and pay you unquestionably a higher, a greater sum of money than you might have earned if you took the same hectreage and grew wheat or perhaps in other continents frijole or corn.
At the end of the day we believe what the history of the last 40 years suggests is you need a balanced program in which there is a threat of law enforcement. Take that threat away, and market economics suggests that the subsistence farmer will continue to grow the illicit crop because he makes more money.
But you have the positive inducement side as well which in essence sends a message to the subsistence farmer that while you may not make as much money growing wheat as you would make growing opium poppy, you also do not run the risk of having your crop eradicated two growing seasons in a row, subjecting your family literally to possible starvation, nor do you run the risk of being arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated for participation in drug trafficking, taking the principal money earner or bread earner from the family out of circulation for an extended period of time.
The history suggests to us that if you have the right balance, the farmer will make the right decision.
Will some go into the hands of the Taliban? Yes. But by the same token people from urban centers who have absolutely nothing to do with agriculture also join the Taliban. There are lots of reasons whereby people join the Taliban and the fact of the matter is the overwhelming majority of subsistence farmers do not. My argument would be the reason they do not is they have seen that movie before. People are not inherently stupid, whether they are formally educated or not. If they have seen as they have what the Taliban actually means, if given an opportunity not to join them, they will take that opportunity.
NPR: A follow-up on the APPF. So are there projects, INL projects right now waiting, that if the APPF fails to provide security they will be canceled, or would they just continue to depend on private security for protection?
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: Right now there are no specific such programs, although there are some programs in which INL is thinking through how to adjust the program to take into account both security realities and the new law. The adjustment can take many forms. This is not an exhaustive or exclusive list, but I’ll offer just some thoughts that come into play.
Is it possible to use local employees who are already integrated into the community to perform certain missions that previously were done by INL personnel directly? Is it possible to do auditing or monitoring by sporadic visits as opposed to permanent presence or systematic presence in the location? Is it possible to concentrate programs out of a limited number of hubs rather than trying to be in dozens of locations at the same time? And then manage with a limited amount of reliable security the necessary implementation and auditing work from those hubs. Is it possible to do some things by air that might otherwise previously have been done by ground? These are just four examples of the sorts of considerations that we go through as we assess program-by-program and project-by-project how to address the security reality and the implications of the new law.
And by the way, in many cases we will conclude and already have concluded that the APPF is up to the job. In other words, it is by no means a negative decision-maker to say we must rely on the APPF. The decisions are made case-by-case, project-by-project, and at this point we have not canceled any program or project. And may I tell you my guidance to my people here is that is the absolute last option that we will consider. If the program and the project were important enough to begin with, to start up and to fund, then we do not want to shut them down and we want to find a means by which we can continue them.
WSJ: I had a follow-up question. First of all, you kind of are taking very great pains to tell us the problems in Afghanistan are not uncommon around the world. A point which is fair to an extent. But I think what’s quite unfair is the fact that you have entire government institutions, it’s not just infiltration as you say, like the Afghan Air Force. I’d be curious to see what is going on with that investigation into them running illegal drugs and weapons. You have like -- down to the core of the government. And some of the most senior people in government who are expected to be running drugs and weapons across Afghanistan and beyond. So what kind of transition are you exactly seeing, and why are you trying to downplay the problems?
Also I’m trying to figure out what’s happening with the Air Force investigation because I’d like to kind of [inaudible] that story.
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: I’m not going to be able to help you on the Air Force investigation literally because I have no particularly useful data or observations to offer you there. So you can threaten to pull my fingernails out one-by-one and I will still not give you any useful thoughts there.
I will answer your larger question.
WSJ: -- when you go to D.C., by the way. There will be somebody hiding under your bed.
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: I may speak in my sleep, I don’t know. I’ve never heard myself, so I am not in a position to confirm or deny it. A person who should know has said that I snore, but she has never accused me of excessive speech after I appear to be asleep.
Look, the reason I am suggesting that the issue of corruption of individuals and penetration of institutions is not unique to Afghanistan is one, because it’s true; and two, to suggest that there are some examples whereby we have developed approaches, strategies to address that reality. I tried to offer kind of conceptually, two approaches.
One approach is, deal with the institution itself. It takes a long time. It means whether by recruitment, whether by massive firings, whether by creating whole new institutions, say this current institution is hereby abolished by law and we are creating a new one, you have to recruit, vet, train, and then deploy and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a matter of years if not decades to go from your starting point to the point where you have a functioning institution.
A nation, a people have a right to say we’re actually suffering some problems right now and we’re not really wild about a government that says, well, in 15 to 20 years we’ll have this problem solved. In the meantime, sorry about all the murders, the homicide, the violence on the streets, the drug trafficking, the addiction, and so forth.
The solution that at least has been worked through by many countries of the world and in the international community is to develop specialized units. Whether those units are basic community police or are investigators or are prosecutors or are courts and in fact in some cases are also the detention facilities or penitentiaries where you would put particular categories of convicted individuals, these units serve as the bridge, if you will, from your starting point as you have described it, to the point that I would suggest any country wants to reach which is where their institutions themselves work. And you identify, you build those units by identifying individuals, either currently within the institution or recruited from outside the institution. You check their backgrounds aggressively, and you vet them. And vetting may mean an intensive background check, or in some countries it means you wire those fellows up and you subject them to a pretty aggressive polygraph examination. That depends upon the country, the laws and traditions of that country, but at the end of the day what you have created ideally is a unit of individuals who despite the fact that they are part of an institution that is corrupted, nevertheless are able to operate independent of that institution and accomplish things. Whether it’s investigating the sensitive matter, going after the senior government official -- and I’m not just talking Afghanistan now. I’m still talking generically. Whether it is going after the major criminal organizations that are otherwise untouchable, whether it is prosecuting those cases. In some countries special courts have been set up that literally are given a phenomenal amount of security and protection to allow them to prosecute and to adjudicate those cases. And this has been, if you will, the bridging solution.
Is that going to be the Afghanistan solution? I doubt that’s going to be the entirety of the solution. My guess is there will be Afghan elements that would be part of it as well, but I’d offer you the following kind of lessons learned over the last 40 years. You do not change a society overnight. It takes decades for a society to reach a certain situation and it’s going to take decades for that society to change.
Second, the change is inevitably going to produce some push-back. We call that push-back homicide rates, violence, blood, which is to say those criminal organizations and corrupted individuals who are signaling they do not like the fact that their institution is now being cleaned up. It is their livelihood. It is their salary, or for that matter it is their business empire that is threatened. And that is almost inevitably somewhere at about stage two or three of a five stage process. In a certain sick sort of way it’s an indicator that you are having some impact. When that sort of homicide rate grows, it means you’re actually beginning to hit them now and they are reacting to you.
At the end of the day Afghanistan has a series of challenges. Corruption is one of them but it’s not the only challenge, which is why you’ll notice I am not saying that without addressing the corruption issue you cannot do anything in Afghanistan in terms of insurgency challenges, economic challenges, law enforcement, and drug challenges. It is part of the process. It is one of a series of challenges. It is one where obviously we are working with the government of Afghanistan.
Quite frankly on all of our three core areas -- the drugs issue, the justice issue, and the corrections issue.
But I guess my response to you is, if you’re asking for a massive and immediate solution, you’re probably not going to get it. If you want to hold me to a standard where every time I come back here, fortunately it’s only about once every six months or so, and you say so what progress has been made on the corruption front over the last six months, I should be in a position or held accountable if I'm not, in a position to say here are three, four, five concrete examples of where progress has been made.
It’s cumulative. It’s not massive. It’s evolutionary. It’s not revolutionary. You put your finger on a very important issue. I’m going overboard on this, but 20 years ago in the Republic of Colombia they had what was known as blind justice. Are you ready for this? The concept was a judge, an anonymous judge. You had this group of about 50 judges and they would come in and they would conduct a trial where neither the defense nor the prosecutors actually saw the judge. This was necessary in the early 1990s, otherwise with one hundred percent certainty the judge and his or her family was going to be wiped out.
Now is that justice? Would that pass muster by any constitution that we know of in any of our home countries? An anonymous judge that no one is even aware of who this human being is, who is determining whether you’re going to be incarcerated for the next 30 or 40 years? No. But that was the reality that they had to deal with given the corrupt system that they had at that time.
Mexico, another country with which I’m quite familiar right now, has a situation in which judges, prosecutors and police in a number of large metropolitan areas are not only afraid that they are going to be whacked, but when identified, that their entire extended family is at risk. The solution there is building a phenomenally complicated security structure around those institutions, and moving them around, literally every six months or so.
Is that good for law enforcement, that every six months a new team of police officers arrives in the city, doesn’t know the city, doesn’t know the people, doesn’t know the streets, doesn’t know anything about the local criminal organizations? But they are able to operate for roughly six months before they’re sufficiently well identified that people are going to go after them and their families. No. In the long term that’s not a permanent solution. It is a way to address as a bridge the corruption issue.
What will Afghanistan’s solutions be? I doubt it’s going to be either of those two, but there are going to be Afghan solutions because at the end of the day, and I will now close, there is no society on the planet that actually wants to have corrupt institutions. You honestly, with the exception of those that are actually in the criminal business, I defy you to go out there and find a human being and say, what is your dream? What is your vision for the future of Afghanistan? And find someone who will seriously say to you, my vision, my dreams come true is a totally corrupted government, institutions that are corrupted and do not function, and a structure in which there is no law, no rule of law, no administration of justice.
There may be such individuals. Those individuals I think are called criminals, and they would take that position because they actually profit from it.
I actually am an optimist. I know you hate dealing with optimists, but I come from the state of Texas and we’re an inherently optimistic group of people. Of course we have a great deal to be optimistic about. [Laughter]. No, you may not ask a follow-up question on that issue.
WSJ: The country of Texas?
Assistant Secretary Brownfield: I merely said Texas. I may have views, but I choose not to share them. See you all in six months.