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5/16/03 - REBUILDING AFGHANISTAN - 2003-05-20

The Afghan National Museum. Hit by rockets, burned, and looted. Most of its important artifacts were destroyed in fighting during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s. Now Americans are working with the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and with donors from Britain, Greece, and Japan to help restore Afghanistan's cultural treasures. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage presented museum officials with a one-hundred-thousand-dollar check -- the first installment of what he called America's "investment in the recapturing of the glories of Afghanistan."

What was formerly a dirt road connecting Kabul and Kandahar will soon be a paved highway, thanks to aid provided by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Japan.

In Kabul, the U.S. and Germany are working with an Afghan humanitarian organization to restore the Babur Gardens. Here, almond trees, reflecting pools, and flowers once adorned the gravesite of Emperor Babur Shah, founder of the Moghul empire that ruled India five-hundred years ago. The Babur gardens were destroyed during Afghanistan's civil war. "We want to make life as it was before," said Ahmad Kabir, an Afghan engineer working on the project.

More than four-hundred-thousand citizens of Kabul have cleaner water and more of it thanks to a new water pumping station built with American assistance. A dormitory built with American aid now provides quarters for Afghan women who receive medical training before returning to their homes in rural areas. "In things large and small," said Deputy Secretary of State Armitage, "the United States and other nations are trying to be a part of the redevelopment" of Afghanistan.

Building roads, hospitals, and schools is important to the people of Afghanistan. But no less important is the establishment of democratic institutions, as Secretary of State Colin Powell made clear:

"Now Afghanistan is governed by the most representative leadership in its history and [is] on its way to full constitutional government. For the first time in over two decades, the men and women of Afghanistan can look to the future with hope."

The U.S. stood with the people of Afghanistan when they fought to free themselves from Soviet domination. A U.S.-led coalition freed them from the tyranny of the Taleban and al-Qaida. The U.S. will continue to stand with the people of Afghanistan as they meet the challenges of peace.