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2004 Winter National Meeting: The New Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Remarks by Ambassador Said T. Jawad

National Republican Senatorial Committee: Senate Leadership Network

Mrs. Laura Bush,
Madame Secretary,
Honorable Senators,
Members of Senate Leadership Network, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Two years ago, along a dusty road in Kunduz, in the north of Afghanistan, a young man managed to catch the attention of President Hamid Karzai by throwing a bouquet of flowers at his car. When the president glanced his way, the young man pointed to the pitted road at his feet, and shouted, “Fix the road!” That plea symbolized then – and now- the desire of our nation to rebuild its infrastructure and national institutions, as it picks itself up from war and destruction.

We are grateful to the United States’ Government in first freeing our country from terror and tyranny, and then responding to the plea of our people for reconstruction. The close cooperation and enduring partnership between our two nations, coupled with US economic and security assistance in the amount of $3.7 billion dollars in the past 2 years, enabled us to start rebuilding our infrastructures and democratic institutions. While our common interest in defeating terrorism and strengthening peace and security forms the bedrock of our partnership, our plans to rebuild Afghanistan with a democratic state that guarantees the safety and security of its citizens, protects human rights, and establishes the rule of the law lies at the forefront of our shared objectives.

We are grateful to the United States Congress for its solid support. The Afghanistan Freedom Support Act passed by Congress clearly demonstrates that Congress’ commitment goes far beyond achieving a military victory on the battlefield. It proves US long-term commitment and partnership with the Afghan people. We are honored to see that on our way to recovery, we have great friends at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

We have taken many bold steps toward achieving our shared objectives. Today, hope, peace, education, and democracy are replacing despair, destruction, and tyranny in Afghanistan. Tangible results of reconstruction and infrastructure building are visible throughout the country. More than 2.5 million refugees have now returned to their homes. Urban centers are flourishing and roads are being rebuilt. In December, we inaugurated the first part of our national ring road. The highway from Kabul to Kandahar was completed ahead of schedule, and in record time thanks to the personal commitment of President Bush. Almost 4.5 million children, about 42 percent of whom are girls, are now going to school. Economic growth rate reached 30%, last year, according to the World Bank. A new currency, which is performing exceptionally well, has been launched, and new banking and investment laws have been adopted.

On January 4, 2004, President Karzai signed our new constitution into law. Five hundred and two Afghan delegates from all walks of life and every province and community adopted with unanimous acclamation the most progressive constitution in our region. A constitution that is visionary and balanced, and guarantees equal rights and full participation of women in rebuilding Afghanistan. The new constitution provides for a unitary system to reconstitute the national institutions destroyed by war, but also institutionalizes district and provincial level councils to allow provinces to run their local affairs.

The new constitution balances a powerful presidency and a two-chamber national assembly with extensive powers of inquiry. The President is elected for 5 years by direct vote. The Parliament can impeach him. He can not dissolve the Parliament.

Furthermore, the new charter is a careful combination of respect for moderate and traditional values of the Afghan society and adherence to the international norms of human rights and democracy. It appreciates our rich cultural, ethnic and lingual diversity. For the first time in Afghanistan and the region, the state recognizes all major languages as official in areas where a majority speaks such languages. The Constitution includes specific provisions requiring the state to promote market economy, as an engine of democracy, and encourages and protects investments, private enterprises, and intellectual property rights.

Most significantly, our new Constitution reveals that our Islamic and traditional values are fully compatible, and mutually reinforcing with an open democracy. The Constitution obligates the State to abide by the UN charter and international treaties and conventions. To insure that 25% of the members of lower house of the parliament are women, the Constitution requires that 2 female delegates be elected from each of the 32 provinces of the country. The President appoints 1/3 of the senators, 50% of which appointment must be women. For the first time, Afghan citizens are empowered with unlimited right to access information from the Government. The State is obligated to prevent all types of terrorist activities and the trade and trafficking of narcotics and intoxicants.

The new Constitution proves that the investment made by the U.S. Government and the international community to help us build our national and democratic institutions, has already yielded very impressive results. The people of Afghanistan, with the partnership of the international community, turned a neglected country overrun by the Taliban and Al Qaeda, into what President Hamid Karzai called “a center for the cooperation of civilizations.” Afghanistan is emerging as a model. Afghanistan’s successful advance on the path to democracy and state building will inevitably impact upon the expectations and the aspirations of people in other arenas of the global war against terror and tyranny.

The next milestone for the Afghan people is setting the stage for the first free and fair national elections under the new Constitution. The elections are scheduled for this summer. We insist on holding the Presidential elections on time as scheduled, but we will not compromise the legitimacy, credibility and integrity of process. We are asking our international partners to help the United Nations speed up the voters’ registration to ensure the credibility of the election process. It is crucial for us that the process gives all Afghan the opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights to vote in the first national elections they have waited for so long. So far, 1.2 million out of 10.5 million eligible voters are registered. We are about to drastically increase the number of registration posts from 8 to 4000 throughout the country.

We are realistic about our challenges. We face the general challenge of building a State and providing for good governance, after a complete destruction of all national institutions and a severe shortage of resources and human capital. To overcome these challenges we must reform, strengthen and rebuild our government institutions to make them accountable, capable, and more representative. We must also 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. All Afghans have not yet benefited from the peace dividends. We must eliminate corruption, nepotism and abuse of power that undermine our recovery process.

We continue to confront security challenges posed by the terrorists and other elements. To overcome security challenges we are working to expedite the process of building our national army and professional police force, and implementing the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of former combatants. We have asked our international partners to enhance security in the provinces by expediting the deployment and presence of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and/or Provincial Reconstructing Teams (PRT’s). We welcomed the NATO and United Nation's decision to expand the ISAF outside of Kabul, as well as increasing the number of PTR’s from 9 to 15 before the election.

Narcotics pose a serious challenge for all of us. Cultivation and trafficking of narcotics go hand in hand with terrorism and warlordism. It is to our best national interest to fight them all. President Karzai is committed to mobilize all our resources in the fight against narcotics. We know heroin, which sells on the retail market for one hundred times the farm gate price in Afghanistan, 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. Comprehensive and coordinated efforts are needed to mobilize all available assets to break this vicious cycle. The Government of Afghanistan has adopted a National Drug Strategy to reduce drastically poppy cultivation, encourage alternative income streams, destroy drug labs, increase law enforcement, train specialized national police units, and develop the justice sector to facilitate the proper prosecution and sentencing of traffickers.

While security is a precondition for reconstruction, stability cannot be sustained without robust economic growth. We are prepared to present at the upcoming donors’ conference in Berlin at the end of March, a detailed plan on how to secure Afghanistan’s future. Securing Afghanistan will require pledges from donor nations in the total amount of $4.5 billion per year as part of a commitment spread out over several years.

A moderate investment commitment of $1 billion per year is needed for development of human capital to create a literate nation and provide social protection including social and personal security and access to basic health services. Investments of $2.1 billion per year are required to provide the necessary infrastructure for transportation, communications, mining, power generation, irrigation, housing and urban development. An annual investment of $750 million in enhancing security, rule of law, and reforming judicial and administrative sectors are needed to guarantee an environment conducive to sustainable growth.

We are determined to never again allow our country to become a failed state that once victimized our people and served as a breeding ground for the extremists and criminals that terrorized the world. We appreciate the assistance provided to us, but to make the state building process in Afghanistan irreversible, Afghans need and demand the accelerated support and the sustained engagement by its friends and partners.

Thank you.