Afghanistan’s Finance Minister Anwar Ul-Haq Ahady says his country has made “tremendous progress,” thanks in large part to the United States. “I emphasize the U.S. because more than fifty percent of our aid comes from the United States,” he said.
Since 2001, the United States has provided over fifteen-and-a-half billion dollars in security and reconstruction assistance. Mr. Ahady says aid provided by the U.S. and other countries has helped transform Afghanistan from a “failed state” ruled by Taleban extremists into an emerging democracy.
Abandoning authoritarian controls and instituting market-based reforms has improved Afghanistan’s economy. Mr. Ahady says “the government used to provide telecommunications services, now. . . .it is private companies that offer services.” Afghanistan, he said, “has begun privatization of state-owned enterprises” and has “one of the most liberal trade regimes” in the region. The inflation rate was only four percent in 2006.
Afghanistan has almost six-million students in school and over one-hundred-eighty-thousand public school teachers, more than ever before. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Afghanistan’s transition has made the difference:
“If you look at Afghanistan, a place in which only eight percent of the population had access to health care five years ago and now eighty percent has access to health care, that’s a remarkable story. . . . Roads are being built, the economy is coming alive again.”
Ms. Rice says helping Afghanistan to rebuild and defeat Taleban insurgents is a challenge:
“Sometimes there’s disappointment that we haven’t been able to deliver more quickly on things like services. . . . It takes time.”
“The Afghan people need to know,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, that they “are going to have an American friend for a very, very long time.”