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Remarks Upon Afghanistan's Receiving the USTDA Country of the Year Award Ambassador Said T. Jawad


02/15/2006

Chairman Kolbe,
Representative Ros-Lehtinen,
Deputy Director Lee Zak,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank the U.S. Trade & Development Agency for organizing this event, and Director Askey and other USTDA officials for their dedication and support for Afghanistan.

I am particularly grateful to Chairman Kolbe and Representative Ros-Lehtinen for their continued friendship and valuable support to Afghanistan. Chairman Kolbe has recently met with President Karzai at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Representative Ros-Lehtinen returned from a trip to Afghanistan where she visited Kabul and Jalalabad to meet with our President, members of our new parliament and community leaders.

We appreciate your commitment to Afghanistan. Your support, advice and insight have always been very instrumental to both President Karzai and me.

We are also grateful to our friends at the National Security Council, the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce, USAID, OPIC and the Office of the USTR as well as my fellow Afghans particularly members of the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce, who are here today, for their support and enthusiasm. While the Afghan government, in partnership with the United States, is working hard to create the enabling infrastructure, private sector has been the main engine for economic growth.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honored to accept the award and very proud that the announcement for Afghanistan’s selection as the USTDA’s Country of the Year was made at the London Conference, about two weeks ago.

The London Conference reasserted the unity of purpose and the international consensus that has been the hallmark and the foundation of the Afghan people partnership with the international community.

In London, we launched the Afghanistan Compact, which sets out an ambitious agenda with quantitative and time-bound benchmarks for rebuilding Afghanistan. The Compact is a realistic reflection of what we need to do in order to consolidate the peace and state-building process in Afghanistan. We need to enable our new national and democratic institutions, all of which are successfully created under the Bonn Agreement, to deliver services to the Afghan people, to improve security, to fight the menace of narcotics, to create job and opportunities, to enforce laws, and to protect our citizens, both men and women, from crimes, corruption and human rights violations. The Compact recognizes that a sense of urgency is needed to face these challenges.

Improving security is the heart of the joint efforts of our Government and the international community. It must be to be done through military and non-military means. Considering a rising level of terrorist infiltrations, attacks in the Southeast and Southwest, and further incidents of suicide bombers generated outside Afghanistan, the continuing strong presence and robust role of the U.S. military is needed and welcomed by the Afghan people. We hope that NATO is capable and determined to meet the expectations of the Afghan people to fight the war against terror effectively and decisively.

We have also presented our comprehensive National Development Strategy for the next five years in London, and asked our partners and the donors to channel more international assistance through the government’s budget and recognize our national development priorities.

We are extremely grateful for the new pledges, amounting to about $10.5 billion dollars with $4 billion coming from the United States. These pledges demonstrate a continuing donor confidence in Afghanistan. The full impact of these pledges will only be felt if they are disbursed in a timely and efficient manner. We are demanding improved efficiency of use of funds from our partners.

We have also launched our new National Drug Control Strategy. Narcotics are not only the greatest challenge to the long-term security, development and effective governance in Afghanistan, but also represent a significant risk to global security and health.

The opium trade rewards terrorists and those who plunged our country into decades of lawlessness, chaos and left us at the hands of terrorists. We need alternative development and a sustained real economic growth rate of 9% per year in order to provide our people with a tangible sense of improvement in their daily lives and fight narcotics effectively.

In sum, in London, the Afghan Government committed itself to further reforms and meeting specific benchmarks and goals over the next five years and unveiled its strategies for doing so. In return, the international community committed to long-term financial and military support. These pledges must be realized, and the security must be improved if the promise of the London Conference is to be fulfilled.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As part of the standing U.S. commitment toward Afghanistan, USTDA has played an important role in assisting Afghanistan with economic development. Over the last four years, the USTDA has committed over $9 million toward Afghanistan and has completed a number of valuable programs in Afghanistan; including feasibility studies, technical assistance programs and a multitude of trainings for both the private and public sectors. Areas of crucial cooperation have included telecommunications, power, and transportation, all of which are vital to Afghanistan’s reintegration in the regional economy, and building our capacity to serve as the transit route and trading hub. Also, such projects are in accordance to our national development strategy and our goals of contributing to regional cooperation, stability and prosperity, and helping Afghanistan to resume its role as a land bridge between Central Asia, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

The top three constraints for the private sector growth in Afghanistan are lack of physical infrastructure, in particular unreliable power supplies, land & property rights, and limited access to credit. We are thankful to USTDA for their assistance toward our Industrial Parks which can address some of these needs, and seek your assistance to help us remove other constraints.

The emergence of a stable, democratic, and thriving Afghanistan, eager to partner with the United States, is a great opportunity for the region and an important asset for global security. In today’s divided and troubled world, the goodwill and commitment of the Afghan people to partner with the United States is an important asset for regional and global security. We are grateful to USTDA for recognizing this asset and paying close and careful attention to our country.

Thank you.