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2/21/03 - AFGHANISTAN’S TRANSFORMATION - 2003-02-24


The September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States led to the deaths of more than three-thousand people from ninety countries. One consequence of that terrible event was the beginning of the war against terrorism and the liberation of the Afghan people.

The U.S. has made it clear that it is not interested in the conquest of Afghanistan. “From the outset of the war,” said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “our guiding principle has been that Afghanistan belongs to the Afghans. The United States does not aspire to own it, or run it.” To overthrow the Taleban, the U.S. led an international coalition and adopted a strategy of teaming with local Afghan forces. During the war, the coalition delivered by air more than two-million humanitarian food packages to help feed the Afghan people. Before the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near Washington, Afghans lived in fear under the rule of the Taleban extremists. Afghanistan was a training camp and safe haven for al-Qaida terrorists. Now, it has a transitional government with a popular mandate. Boys and girls are back in school. Roads are being rebuilt. Agricultural production is being re-started. Businesses are reopening. And two-million Afghan refugees have returned to their homes.

Today, said Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the U.S. is “helping the Afghan people rebuild from the rubble of war, and establish institutions of democracy.” The U.S. is now providing assistance to train an Afghan national army so that Afghanistan can defend itself. Germany and the Netherlands, two coalition partners, have taken charge of the twenty-two nation peacekeeping force that is maintaining security in Kabul. That force entered the Afghan capital in December 2001 and was led by the British, who later turned command over to the Turks.

“Whatever happens elsewhere in the world,” said Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, “we will not abandon Afghanistan. Afghanistan remains an important ally [not only] in the war against terrorism, but in the larger struggle for freedom and moderation in the Muslim world.”

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