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The State Building Process in Afghanistan: Challenges and Achievements
Remarks by Ambassador Said T. Jawad

Asia Society in Washington, DC - Asia Circle Series

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank Asia Society Washington, DC for organizing this event. It is a pleasure to be among young professionals and one of the first speakers of Asia Circle Series.

I will briefly speak about the objective of the state-building in Afghanistan and then discuss our achievements and challenges. Afghanistan has historically been a strong nation, but the state institutions were systematically destroyed in the past 30 years by invasion, war, terror and violence.

Three years ago we inherited a large and dysfunctional bureaucracy, and infrastructure largely destroyed by the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. With the partnership of the international community we embarked upon the task of building an efficient and small government. Our aim is to build a state that is effective, representative and capable of implementing policies and enforcing laws. We do not want to enlarge the state apparatus; we want to increase its enforcement capability, which is the essence of stateness.

If we look at the experience of the United States, we will see that this country was born in a revolution against state authority. The US political structure, constitutional government, protection for individual rights, and the separation of powers, are designed to limit state power. We are following the same pattern of building a state with limited scope and strong enforcement capability. Our new constitution and recent national elections are the cornerstones of our state-building plan.

On January 4, 2004, President Karzai signed our new Constitution into law. The new Constitution is a visionary and balanced charter that guarantees equal rights and full participation of women. It is the most liberal charter in the region, and provides for a presidential system with a powerful parliament.

In October, we successfully held our first national election. The success of the elections is not only a significant step forward for democracy in Afghanistan, but also a major achievement for global security. Every vote cast in Afghanistan is a vote against terror and in favor of democracy and global security. Afghanistan’s transition and successful advance on the path to democracy and state-building will impact the expectations and the aspirations of the people all over the world. When 8.4 million Muslims, Afghan men and women, proudly and patiently lined up to vote, they not only demonstrated their courage, competence, and commitment to democracy, but also sent a strong message to terrorists and extremists.

Generally, people fear elections in post conflict societies for the danger of what they may reveal. Elections may show that there is no nation there at all. Undemocratic forces may win the elections. Free elections in some countries resulted in one man, one vote, one time. The success of Afghan presidential elections proved that these fears are misplaced. The Afghan people once again proved that “they are a strong nation with weak state institutions.” The threat of a large scale terrorist attack, the fear of intimidation by warlords, and the speculation of “deal-making” by the President never materialized.

In fact, Afghanistan’s first presidential election was an historic achievement with phenomenal scenes that Afghans will cherish for years to come. Let me share some snapshots of these great moments of our modern history.

An 80-year old woman, blind and frail, arriving at a polling station in Kabul with her grandson said, “I did not sleep a wink last night. Several times I woke up my grandson, worrying about the break of daylight and missing the chance to vote.”

In Kunar, a rocket landed two hundred yards away from a long line of women waiting to vote. No one ran way. They insisted they would remain in line. One woman said, “If we run away from the terrorists, the rockets will continue to come. We want to stay here and vote because this is the only way to stop these terrorists’ attacks forever.”

Afghans proved that 30 years of misery have strengthened their determination to rebuild their national institutions and a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan. The success of the election was a shared achievement by Afghans, the United States and over 45 countries contributing troops, funds and resources to help stabilize and rebuild our country. We are grateful to each and every one of them. Together we have taken Afghanistan a long way forward in three short years. Let me share some of the other achievements in state-building in Afghanistan.

In December, after weeks of careful deliberation, President Hamid Karzai announced his new ethnically balanced cabinet which pushes out warlords and installs technocrats capable of driving reform and enhancing the enforcement capacity of the state.

There are three women in the cabinet. All Ministers have a university degree, as required by the new Constitution, and nine have doctorate degrees (PhDs). On the security front, the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants continue. Thirty-three thousand combatants including 4,000 child soldiers have been demobilized under the UN-backed DDR program.

We have gathered and moved to cantonment sites more than 8,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery pieces. The heavy weapon cantonment is 95% complete. Over 63,000 names of militias (mostly ghost soldiers) have been removed from the payroll of the Government. The DDR program will be successfully completed in June 2005 according to the schedule established by the Bonn Agreement.

Plans to build the new national army are progressing on schedule. Our target of a 70,000-strong national army will be achieved by December 2006. Twenty-five thousand soldiers have already been recruited and trained so far. Thirty-two thousand police officers are trained as part of rebuilding the Afghan National Police force.

In the economic arena, we have made considerable progress. The government introduced a new currency and drafted new investment and banking laws to revive the private sector, and connected the country by building roads and telecommunication systems.

Today 11 foreign banks are operating in the country and major international companies like Alcatel, Siemens, DHL, Standard Chartered, and Hyatt have invested in Afghanistan.

The Government of Afghanistan has met the structural benchmarks established by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in fact, national revenue collection exceeded the IMF target. We reached an economic growth rate of 29% and 20% in the past two years, which continues at around 20% this year, according to the IMF.

Afghanistan has now been approved to initiate the membership negotiations with the WTO, which will lead to further trade, investment, technology transfer and income growth. Afghanistan's booming economy is attracting workers from neighboring Pakistan and Iran. Over 50,000 Pakistanis and Iranians are presently working in Afghanistan.

In addition, our Government secured more than $11 billion in funding for reconstruction, and we expect another $20 billion over the next seven years. International assistance has enabled 3.6 million Afghan refugees to return home and 5.6 million boys and girls are going back to schools across Afghanistan.

Eighty-six percent of Afghans think that they are better off today, according to an Asia Foundation survey. Stability and reconstruction have bred many opportunities for investment. Afghanistan is uniquely located at the heart of Central Asia connecting the region’s resourceful countries with profitable emerging markets.

Our country is a land-bridge between Central Asian and the Indian subcontinents. New roads and a modernized customs and trade policy are facilitating faster and broader regional trade. With the construction of the ring road in Afghanistan being completed, no Central Asian capital will be more than 32 hours from the Persian Gulf. Afghanistan is a large market. With 25 million people, it is the second most populated country in Central Asia, and Kabul is the largest city of the region.

The success of mobile telephone, with 700,000 customers to date and more than 1.5 million expected by the end of 2005, is a sign of economic growth and illustrates marketing opportunities for consumer goods. Despite our achievements and opportunities, the new government faces numerous challenges. We are realistic about our challenges.

All Afghans have not yet benefited from the peace dividends. We must eliminate narcotics, corruption, nepotism, rule of gun and abuse of power that undermine our recovery process.

We face the enormous task of building a state and providing for good governance, after complete destruction of all national institutions and a severe shortage of resources and human capital.

Corruption and bottlenecks in the legal system is a major problem. We have just adopted a new law that requires all ministers and high ranking officials to disclose their financial holdings, properties and business dealings, along with those of their spouse and children.

While the fight against terrorism is succeeding across the country, narcotics and the accompanying corruption are now the biggest threats to the state-building process in Afghanistan.

Taliban are defeated, but they are not eliminated. The government policy of encouraging low ranking Taliban to lay down their arm and return to their home and villages had left the leadership of the Taliban fragmented and isolated.

Narcotics pose a serious challenge for all of us. Together with our allies, we will be spending one billion dollars to fight the menace of narcotics this year. Cultivation and trafficking of narcotics go hand in hand with terrorism and warlordism. It is to our best national interest to fight them all.

We are committed to mobilizing all our resources in fighting processors and narco-traffickers. As President Karzai has told an anti-drug conference in Kabul, “the nation of Afghanistan, for its survival from this disgrace, has to fight against poppy ... like it fought against the Soviets.”

We have also established a new Ministry of Counter-Narcotics to improve coordination among various state agencies in the country. Unorthodox approaches of providing amnesty and absorbing the money of some of the traffickers into the reconstruction projects are being evaluated.

We know heroin is one of the sources of the illegal money that funds international terrorism and crime across the region. It also finances the destabilizing activities of warlords and criminals in Afghanistan.

We are asking the coalition forces to play a greater role in assisting the Government to fight against drug traffickers and clandestine laboratories. The Afghan people demand that we tackle the problem of irregular militias. The DDR program has solely focused on militias of warlords affiliated with the Ministry of Defense.

To this end, the government, the International Security Assistance Force and the Coalition Forces have almost completed a nationwide mapping of irregular militias. The irregular militia is a source of insecurity and consists of autonomous militias and rogue groups, groups linked to individuals employed in the Government Security Sector, groups involved in counter terrorist activities alongside international forces, and private security forces.

To overcome these challenges, we need resources to reform, strengthen and enhance the enforcement capacity of our national institutions, especially the Afghan National Amy and the national police force to make them accountable, capable, and more professional. We need funds to improve local and district level governance, and enhance government capacity to deliver services to every corner of the country, especially areas prone to terrorist infiltration.

Afghans are optimistic and have high expectations for the future. They voted to elect a president who is committed to improve security, enhance the rule of law, fight narcotics and corruption, and dissolve private militias. They want schools and education.

On the Election Day, a widow said, “Our children are deaf from the sound of rocket explosions, I am voting for a President who will build schools for us and give us peace. I cannot read, but I do not want my children to be illiterate.”

In six months, Afghans are going to the polls to choose their parliament. By then, Afghans must feel the tangible results of their first investment in democracy. We are working with the UN to set up an independent parliamentary election commission. We need financial resource for the election, which will cost $130 million dollars.

The Afghan people are grateful to United States for all the assistance provided to them and thank all US soldiers who are fighting alongside Afghans to make Afghanistan and the world a safer place.

Afghans have put their trust in the benefits of democracy and partnership with the United States and the international community.

Thank you.