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12/18/02 - AFGHANISTAN RECOVERS - 2002-12-19

Reconstruction work in Afghanistan is focusing increasingly on long-term development programs that will rehabilitate the country’s agriculture, education, and health systems, and create jobs, even while humanitarian assistance continues to be critical to the lives of those most vulnerable.

But, said U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios, “The reality is that you don’t rebuild a country that was destroyed in twenty-four years of civil war in eight months. It can’t be done.”

Today, Afghanistan represents one of the most difficult humanitarian and development challenges ever faced. The U.S. remains the single largest contributor of assistance. Since the beginning of 2002, the U.S. has provided more than six-hundred-million dollars in aid to Afghanistan, either directly or through contributions to the United Nations and non-governmental agencies. The U.S. expects to provide approximately three-hundred-million dollars a year to Afghanistan for the next several years.

The U.S. is committed to helping Afghanistan increase agricultural production and privatize previously state-owned businesses. Other priorities include road-building, eliminating landmines, training teachers, and providing opportunities for Afghan entrepreneurs to reopen their businesses.

Mr. Natsios said that the new Afghan interim government, headed by President Hamid Karzai, is working to develop the capacity “to govern the country, provide public services, promote stability, and prepare for democratic elections.” A new currency is now in place and the U.S. is going to train Afghan Ministry of Finance personnel in accounting, auditing, and business administration. “The purpose of this training,” said Mr. Natsios, “is to make sure they can have a functioning system of revenue collection."

One of the most promising developments has been the dramatic increase in food production in Afghanistan. In 2002, wheat production increased by eight-hundred-thousand tons, a fifty-percent increase over the 2001 harvest.

“Life is going to take a few years to return to normal,” said U.S. A-I-D administrator Andrew Natsios, “but the economy is beginning to come back and if we can get irrigation systems back on line, the country will become more prosperous every day.”