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Beyond Berlin - Afghanistan: Promise & Fullfillment
Ambassador Said T. Jawad


05/25/2004

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to thank the Middle East Institute and the American Institute on Afghanistan Studies for organizing this conference.

I would like to begin with a story. Two years ago, along a dusty road in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, a young man caught the attention of President Karzai: He tossed 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, as now, the chief desire of our nation as it picks itself up after 25 years of war and destruction. Afghans measure success in nation-building and progress in war against terrorism by improvement in their everyday life and security. At the donors' conference in Berlin, we presented a detailed report on how to secure Afghanistan's future through international partnership and the security that Afghanistan’s stability and prosperity brings to the world.

Years of invasion, war and misery have made us tough, bedrock people. We are known for our ability to fight and pray. Now, with the partnership of the international community, we are proving our skill and determination for reconciliation, reconstruction and building a civil society in Afghanistan.

Historically, Afghanistan has been at the crossroads of Asia and served as a bridge between civilizations in the Indian Subcontinent, the Middle East, China and Europe. Today, my country is passing through another crossroads of history. One path rises to prosperity and democracy, bridging civilizations. The other path descends into human rights violations, extremism, corruption, narcotics and ultimately the breeding of terrorists.

We have with certainty chosen the path of prosperity and democracy and done so with a spirit of national pride as shown in our new Constitution that is the most progressive charter in the region, and our preparation for the upcoming national democratic elections in September 2004.

In partnership with the United States, and led by President Karzai's vision, our people are experiencing new freedoms and unprecedented opportunities. Afghan women are returning to school and to the workplace. They are participating in the political process. We are experiencing successes in education, health care and development of a market economy. Major cities flourish with business and reconstruction. The Afghan private sector has now access to newly established international banking services. The Kabul-Kandahar highway has been reconstructed.

Families are being reunited as close to three million refugees have returned to their homes and villages. We have adopted new laws on investment, banking, political parties, civic organizations, and freedom of expression. Consequently, 14 independent and privately owned radio and TV stations are operating in different parts of the country, including stations run by women for women in provinces such as Kandahar and Kunduz. Moreover, there are more than 270 newspapers and periodicals published. Women are acquiring a strong voice in the media.

About 5.6 million children have returned to school. We need to build thousands of schools. Only 29 percent of classrooms in Afghanistan have roofs. Investments of $2.1 billion per year will provide us the basic infrastructure for transportation, communications, mining, power, irrigation, housing and urban development. An annual investment of $750 million in security, rule of law, judicial and administrative reform and private-sector development will guarantee an environment conducive to sustainable growth. Our judges now are paid less than $40 a month.

Our goals are very modest and realistic. We plan to double our gross domestic product (GDP) per capita to just $500 in the next seven years. This is an investment the international community can afford to make and cannot afford to bypass. These investments will not only further stabilize Afghanistan and the region, but also over the long haul will lessen the defense and security expenditures of our global partners. It now costs more than $13 billion yearly to maintain the anti-terror Coalition and International Security Assistance Forces in my country. With a portion of this sum invested in rebuilding Afghanistan's national institutions, we will be able to take full responsibility for many services now provided by our international partners.

The fight against terrorism is not just military, it is economic. Investing in Afghanistan's future is good economics. Return on limited international investment in Afghanistan has been tremendously good, as evidenced by an economic growth rate of 30% last year and continuing at 20% this year, according to the World Bank. Afghanistan is emerging as model. Our success will affect the aspiration of people in other arena of the global war against terrorism and tyranny. To continue this progress and ensure a sustainable economic recovery, we need an average growth of real and legal GDP of 9% annually over the next seven years. This can not be sustained, however, without sizeable investments by the international community.

Slow action could be more costly for all of us. Consider our common fight against illegal narcotics. The cost of fighting this deadly trade that destroys lives all over the globe and feeds terrorism and warlordism in Afghanistan has increased significantly.

While there has been significant progress in rebuilding state institutions and stimulating economic growth in Kabul and other major cities, lack of human capital and resources continue to undermine my government's ability to deliver services to remote areas. This has deprived some segment of our people from the peace dividends. After an agonizingly slow start, the process of demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) is gaining momentum. DDR must be implemented. We will not be able to build a civil society and establish rule of law in Afghanistan as long as guns rule.

Please allow me to conclude by telling you another story. Last September, a girl’s school in Logar, a province south of Kabul, was set on fire by terrorists. The Moghul Khail School, consisting of two large tents, was set ablaze at midnight. The next day, every little girl, every student showed up at the school. They sat next to the ashes of their burnt class rooms, under the blazing sun, and insisted on continuing with their lessons. This is the spirit of the Afghan people, ladies and gentlemen. Afghans are determined to rebuild their country.

Our people value the close cooperation and cherish the enduring partnership forged between our nations. We are very grateful for the pledges made in Berlin. It shows the confidence of the international community to our vision and plans. We knew that the hearts of the international community are open to Afghans, we appreciate when their check books open, too. After Berlin, it is time to front-load investments in building national institutions to answer the plea of that young Afghan along the road for improvement in his life and security.

Thank you.