09 Jun 2004

Robert D. Novak’s May 31 op-ed column, “Lost in Afghanistan,” was wrong on several counts.

First, we applaud U.S. soldiers as they conduct operations against remnants of the terrorist groups in Afghanistan to make my country and our world safer. The coalition forces led by the United States are helping to provide a secure environment in which democracy can solidify in Afghanistan. To refer to an unnamed “discouraged and now discharged Special Forces officer” to suggest that these soldiers lack confidence in their generals and in the integrity and leadership of President Hamid Karzai is not only insulting to the committed U.S. forces but is also unfounded.

Second, Afghanistan has made significant progress in building democratic institutions and strengthening the rule of law. President Karzai was elected by the representatives of the Afghan people in the loya jirga last June. On Jan. 4 he signed into law our new constitution — the most progressive charter in the region — adopted by the representatives of the Afghan people.

Third, Afghans and our international partners are proud of the values and standards of honesty, commitment, dignity and modesty set by Mr. Karzai. He is the most visionary and honest leader ever to emerge in our part of the world.

Never before have Afghans been as hopeful about their future as now. About 2.5 million Afghan refugees have returned home. Thousands of internally displaced persons have gone back to their villages and begun normal life.<M/p>

We experienced 30 percent economic growth last year, continuing at 20 percent this year.