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Strengthening civil society, training and ensuring a sound security force and promoting economic development are key to a viable, independent Afghanistan, said U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke at a public forum in Washington.
Ambassador Holbrooke, along with an inter-agency team of specialists, is spearheading the civilian component of the counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan.
The team has its work cut out for it, since due to three decades of war, much of Afghanistan’s infrastructure, both government and civilian, was destroyed.
First, said Ambassador Holbrooke's senior adviser Barnett Rubin, two conditions must be met if Afghanistan is to become a fully functioning state: the Afghan government must be able to control and govern its territory, and second, an environment must be created in which Afghanistan's neighbors, as well as the great powers, have a stake in the country's stability.
That is why the U.S. is focusing on creating a local security environment conducive to rebuilding community and government relations; subnational governance; and has created agricultural strategies and a number of development programs to help impoverished towns and villages. On the national level, the U.S. has also launched wide-ranging diplomatic efforts to help Afghanistan develop good relations with its neighbors, especially Pakistan.
Otto Gonzales of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that a new agriculture assistance strategy that aims to increase jobs and incomes in agriculture is a central part of the team's strategy:
"Afghanistan is a country where 8 out of 10 people are involved in agriculture, farming or herding or both. And it was a sector that was devastated by a quarter century of war, both physically and institutionally. We can't succeed in Afghanistan if the Afghan people are not successful in agriculture."
Each of the 9 U.S. agencies represented within Mr. Holbrookes's team will take on a different challenge facing Afghanistan today. Some will work on creating jobs through economic development, improving governance and the rule of law. Others will help fight Taliban propaganda by developing community radio stations and improving communications. Still others will help expand mobile banking and improve the formal banking system.
"We're not here to tell you we're winning or we're losing," said Ambassador Holbrooke. "We're here to tell you we're in this fight in a different way, with a determination to succeed, under the direct personal supervision of the President and the Secretary of State."