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11/26/02 - U.S. COMMITTED TO AFGHANISTAN - 2002-11-29

The United States-led coalition is committed to staying as long as necessary in Afghanistan to help it become stable and secure. “Afghanistan,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special envoy, “is on the right track to peace and security.”

Mr. Khalilzad said that one year after its liberation from the Taleban, “Afghanistan is poised to reclaim its past as a link between countries and cultures and to serve as a vital link for economic growth.” In June, the Afghans held a Loya Jirga, or national council, to create what Mr. Khalilzad described as ”the most representative government in the country’s history.” Several commissions were established, including one that will develop the next Afghan constitution.

But there is still a long way to go. Those drafting the new constitution face difficult issues, such as the role Islamic law, or Sharia, will play in Afghan society.

Security is another important component to Afghan recovery. The U.S. and its allies are helping to train an Afghan national army. The new force will ultimately replace militias led by warlords who claim to represent Pashtuns, Baluchis, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and other ethnic groups. A national army encompassing all ethnic groups is needed to foster stability and to defend against threats posed by remnants of the Taleban and al-Qaida terrorists.

But there are other internal problems as well. On November 11th and November 12th, there were clashes between students and police at Kabul University. The students were protesting inadequate living conditions in their dormitories. At least two students were killed and fifteen wounded when shots were fired at the students without warning. Mr. Khalizad said that the violence suggests that “much work needs to be done in establishing professional institutions, that can maintain peace and stability.”

This year, sixty-one nations have pledged one-billion-eight-hundred-million dollars in reconstruction aid for Afghanistan. The U.S. is committed to working with the United Nations to help Afghans develop a modern government. As U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said, Afghanistan can show “the Muslim world that extremism can be beaten and that Muslims too are best served by accountable governance, education and economic opportunity.”