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1/2/03 - AFGHAN SECURITY - 2003-01-02

A year ago, Afghanistan was ruled by the radical Taleban regime and was home to al-Qaida terrorists. It was a failed and dangerous state.

Today, with help from the U.S.-led coalition, Afghanistan is beginning to recover from years of misrule and civil war. During the past year, more than two-million refugees have returned to their homes in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has helped with the opening or reopening of six-hundred schools. More than nine-million textbooks have been distributed to Afghan children. The agricultural sector is also starting to rebuild. More than six-thousand water and irrigation projects are underway and seven-thousand metric tons of seeds have been given to Afghan farmers. And over the last decade, more than thirty-nine million dollars of U.S. mine-clearance aid has relieved human suffering and returned large areas of land to productive use.

But as Afghan President Hamid Karzai said, security is the first priority. You can’t have reconstruction without it. Currently, according to U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Collins, twenty-six of the thirty-three provinces in Afghanistan “have moderate to good security,” and “the bad guys...have been dealt a devastating blow.” But there are still major problems in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan and in some urban areas.

The U.S. is committed to hunting down and either capturing or killing the remaining Taleban and al-Qaida. As Mr. Collins put it, “There is no Taleban/al-Qaida reconstruction program. [For them], there's only a destruction program.”

The U.S. is helping to build a multi-ethnic Afghan national army. Germany is helping to develop an Afghan police force. And Britain, Japan, and other countries, along with the United Nations, are leading counter-narcotics training efforts.

In another positive step, on December 22nd, Afghanistan and six neighboring countries signed the Kabul Declaration on Good Neighborly Relations, a pledge to respect Afghanistan’s independence and territorial integrity.

As State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, “The United States and its international partners remain committed to helping Afghans create a country that is prosperous, democratic, at peace within itself and with its neighbors, possessing a free market, and respectful of human rights."