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Afghanistan's Role in International Security Said T. Jawad Delaware World Trade Center


05/23/2006

Ladies and Gentleman,

Good afternoon. I would like to thank the World Affairs Council of Delaware for inviting me to address this forum. I am delighted to be here. Today, I will speak about Afghanistan’s role in international security, with the primary focus on the fight against global terrorism, counter-narcotics and NATO expansion to the South.

Historically, Afghanistan has been the center-stage when great regional and global changes have taken place. From the conquests of Alexander the Great, to the emergence of the Afghan empires, from the Cold War to the global war against terror, Afghanistan’s destiny has been connected with regional and global politics. Afghanistan is a land bridge connecting Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

During the Cold War, Afghans and Americans joined together in the fight against communism. After the Soviet withdrawal, the strategic interests of the United States shifted. As our partners in the battle against communism disengaged, the Afghan people were left alone to cope with the flood of weapons and extremism that were left behind. Weapons activated by extremism have a perilous power. With extremely limited resources and devastated infrastructure, Afghans were besieged by another invasion, that of the extremist Taliban regime. . During the reign of the Taliban, Afghans became the prime victims of terror. The Taliban invited Al-Qaeda to base its campaign of terror in Afghanistan and introduced a culture of intolerance that was alien to Afghanistan. In recent years, the destinies of the United States and Afghanistan have become bound together once again as we have stood against the great threat of this young century: global terrorism. September 11th taught us that there is no such thing as a “local” security concern. All security concerns are global.

Today, Afghanistan is once more playing its historic role in bridging cultures, countries and civilizations. Over 60 counties are helping rebuild Afghanistan. 36 countries have troops in Afghanistan. 41 countries are helping train and equip our national army.

Afghans have embraced democracy and pluralism. 86% of eligible voters participated in our presidential elections. When 8.4 million Muslims, Afghan men and women, proudly and patiently lined up to vote for their president and parliament, they not only demonstrated their competence, and commitment to democracy in Afghanistan, but also sent a strong message to terrorists and extremists all over the world.

The Afghan people, with the support of the international community, have established all key institutions of civil society and democratic governance, including a constitutional design, parliament, human rights commission, electoral system, national army and police force, political parties, as well as mechanisms for political reintegration, women’s empowerment, and disarmament of militias. The Government of President Karzai is working to further develop these institutions to serve the Afghan people.

3.6 million Afghan refugees have demonstrated their vote of confidence in the Government by returning home. Afghans from all over the world, including America and Europe, are returning home.

The Nation of Afghanistan is strong, with a rich history and culture. However, the State of Afghanistan is new and young. We need to strengthen our state institutions that were systematically destroyed through 30 years of invasion, terror, and war. Last month, our new parliament approved the list of the cabinet submitted by President Karzai. They rejected 5 out of 27 nominees. The approval and rejection of the ministers were completely based on merit and past performance of the ministers. Once again members of the parliament proved that they are not divided along ethnic or factional lines. The new parliament is an important and capable institution that completes our state’s constitutional design. Such signs of progress and good governance are becoming the norm throughout Afghanistan.

Afghans today enjoy more political, economic, and social rights than at any time in the history of the country. Free press is flourishing and Afghans choose from a wide array of indigenous print media, radio and television stations.

Much of that progress can be attributed to Afghanistan’s booming economy. We have experienced double digit economic growth in the past four years, and made considerable progress in connecting the country by building roads and telecommunication systems.

The January 31st donor conference in London reasserted the international consensus that has been the foundation of the Afghan people’s partnership with the family of nations. We presented Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy to the 60 participating countries and launched the Afghanistan Compact, the blue print for our future reconstruction. The compact sets out an ambitious agenda with quantitative and time-bound benchmarks for rebuilding Afghanistan. The international community pledged $10.5 billion to help rebuild Afghanistan. Providing that the international community continues to stand with us, Afghanistan in 2010 will be a stable and relatively prosperous state.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have come a long way, but we are not out of the woods. Despite significant progress Afghanistan has made, we are aware of the fact that we are facing serious challenges. Afghanistan is 6th poorest country in the world. Only 6% of the country has access to electricity and 23% to save drinkable water.

The twin onslaughts of narcotics and terrorism pose the most serious challenge to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and international security. It is no coincidence that the five provinces most affected by the drug trade are also the most affected by cross border terrorist infiltration. Drug traffickers and terrorists are working hand in hand to destabilize Afghanistan. The proceeds of narcotics feeds into terrorism and the terrorists provide protection to narco-traffickers. We know for a fact the Taliban are collecting a 10% tax, paid in opium, from growers and traffickers in Helmand and Uruzgan.

Narcotics are a key threat to Afghanistan’s stability. The Government has established, with the support of the international community, an Afghan Counter-Narcotics Police force as well as a Central Narcotics Tribunal, a special court to prosecute narco-traffickers.

Let me make one point very clear: There is no silver bullet solution that will solve the problem of narcotics. Forceful poppy eradication, without adequate alternative livelihood assistance, can alienate poor farmers and strengthen narco-traffickers. Quick fix solutions will push many rural communities further into poverty, making them dependent on non-state actors and terrorists who offer an alternative solution to their money problems. Because narcotics has global reach and global consequences, our counter-narcotics Strategy is based on regional and international cooperation. Our plan supplements eradiation with alternative livelihood assistance, sustained rural and agriculture development, public information campaigns and the strengthening of law enforcement capacity, criminal justice system and interdiction.

Opium production in Afghanistan is the result of 30 years of war and destruction. One reason that people have turned to cultivating poppy over the past 30 years has been for lack of hope for tomorrow, or for the future. It takes only three months to harvest a poppy crop. In an environment of social, economic and political insecurity, people have leveled vineyards that took 30 years to cultivate and turned them into poppy fields. If a poor farmer’s choice is between life and death, he will choose life, even if his action is illegal. However, once farmers are given a legitimate alternative, they will take the legal and dignified option.

As we improve security and the Government’s ability to deliver services, we create viable economic choices for Afghans who are seeking a way out of the drug trade. By bringing roads, electricity, and micro-credit we are offering a long-term solution to this invasive menace.

So far, the alternative livelihood assistance provided to Afghan farmers has been limited, uncoordinated, ad hoc and funded outside our government’s budgetary framework. Many farmers have not yet received the benefits and funds they have been promised. This has undermined the credibility and moral authority of the Afghan government. The Government of Afghanistan is serious about eradication and interdiction. Last year, we seized and destroyed 143 metric tons of opium and 35.5 metric tons of heroin in 2005. We have also shut down 247 heroin labs and arrested or detained 32 traffickers.

This year, we have launched a comprehensive eradication campaign led by the Governors in 22 provinces throughout Afghanistan. The coordinated efforts of the Afghan Counter Narcotics Police, the Afghan Eradication Force, and the Afghan National Army and Police Force with support from the Coalition forces and the US Drug Enforcement Administration have been remarkable. The eradication is underway, and so far eradication exceeds 23,000 hectares.

Improved security is crucial in certain parts of Afghanistan, and we are securing the countryside through military and non-military means. The Taliban are defeated, but they have not yet been eliminated. They continue to threaten the security and welfare of the people in the southern regions of our country.

We are experiencing increased terrorist activities in five provinces: Zabol, Hemand, Uruzgan, Kandahr and Kunar, all bordering Pakistan. I visited Uruzgan last week. The security situation has deteriorated. The reason for the security challenges are three fold: Increased assistance to the Taliban, lack of resources for the Government and the transition to NATO forces in the South.

The Taliban are acquiring advanced weapons, sophisticated explosive devices, better communications gear and more pickup trucks and motorcycles from abroad. Taliban are crossing the border in much larger groups of 15 to 20 heavily armed militants, while terrorist training camps continue to operate with impunity outside our borders.

To combat this insurgency we, as the government of Afghanistan, are not provided with adequate resources to significantly expand our security presence and deliver services and protection in some large districts. In Uruzgan province, for instance, in some districts that cover hundreds of square miles, we have 10 to 15 poorly equipped police officers. Many have not been paid for months, and have only outdated light weapons, two clips of ammunition and perhaps an old Soviet jeep to combat the well-supplied Taliban fighters. Their vulnerability—not the alleged resurgence of the Taliban—is the reason for the increase in police casualties. Much of the promised assistance has not been forthcoming, and in the interim, brave Afghans are dying as they attempt to defend their people. We have demanded better equipment for our police force and resources to strengthen district level administration. Local police are the only forces that can prevent the Taliban from burning our schools at midnight and bombing our clinics and mosques.

The province of Uruzgan has experienced no major reconstruction activity. While there is no sympathy for terrorists and those who wish to prolong Afghanistan’s suffering, some people in deprived provinces are afraid and disillusioned. The peace dividend that they were promised has yet to materialize. The terrorists employ fear and intimidation tactically in order to distance the people from the government and the coalition forces. However, attempts to kill innocent doctors, teachers and engineers, attack worshipers at mosques, and intimidate aid organizations have met with increased solidarity among Afghanistan’s people. Desperate acts of brutality only serve to remind the Afghan people of the tyranny they have endured.

This summer, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force will assume more responsibilities in the South and Southeast. Their troop numbers will expand from 9,000 to approximately 21,000 by November, although the United States will remain the largest single troop contributor and the leader in anti- terror operations. British soldiers have been deployed in Helmand since March, Canadians have been deployed in Kandahar since February, and Dutch troops will soon be in Uruzgan. More attacks and cross-border infiltrations are to be expected, as terrorists attempt to take advantage of this transition and test the courage and capability of the new troops. The terrorist are hoping that by attacking some of the NATO members whose troops are deployed in the South, they may be able to deter them. NATO countries must be fully committed to fight terrorism if they are coming to Afghanistan. We believe that this is a very crucial mission that NATO cannot afford to fail. Afghans are discouraged by some recent statements that imply that these forces will not be engaging terrorists.

We welcome NATO’s expansion in the south and southeast of Afghanistan, and the removal of national caveats from their mandate in Afghanistan. When NATO rises to the task in Afghanistan, they will prove that their forces are indeed transforming themselves into a more dynamic expeditionary force. A NATO force that aggressively engages the enemy will sending a bold message to enemies of peace in Afghanistan, the region and the world. Global security will be enhanced as the international community demonstrates that they stand in solidarity and will defend themselves against any terrorist aggression.

Afghans are determined to rebuild their country. They have put their trust in the benefits of democracy by partnering with the United States and the international community. Those of you who have visited Afghanistan know how dramatically our country has changed in such a short time. Afghans welcome the presence of US and ISAF troops as well as the engagement of the entire international community. We are truly grateful for your assistance. Afghans value the sacrifice of your solders fighting alongside Afghans to defend freedom and to make Afghanistan, America and the world a safer place.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In Afghanistan, we have learned the hard way that the best way to invest peace and security is to invest in education. The first day of spring is also the first day of school for children in Afghanistan. Just over a month ago, six million children returned to schools all over the country. 34% of those children were girls. As dark winter yields to the fifth bright spring since the fall of the Taliban, we are witnessing a bright new season for Afghanistan.

Two years ago, terrorists set fire to a school in Logar province. The Moghul Khail School, consisting of two large tents, was set ablaze at midnight. In some places that would be the end of the story, but not in Afghanistan. The arsonists did not triumph, because the next day, every little girl, every student of Mughul Khail showed up at the school. They sat next to the ashes of their burned out class rooms, under the blazing sun, and insisted on continuing with their lessons. This is the spirit of the Afghan people, when it comes to education. The people of Afghanistan know that a better future is within reach, and they aim to grab hold.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The United States and the international community are strengthening global security by assisting Afghanistan in the war on terror. Afghanistan is once again playing its historic role in bridging cultures, countries and civilizations. Where extremists have tried to build walls, our strategy for the future is to build bridges. And history has demonstrated that a world with less barriers and more inter-connection is a more secure world.

Thank you.