A year and a half after the overthrow of the extremist Taleban regime, Afghanistan’s transitional government is making progress. National elections are to be held in June 2004. Commerce is continuing to expand. The World Bank estimates that the Afghan economy grew by ten percent in 2002. Hundreds of U.S. entrepreneurs attended a recent U.S. Department of Commerce investors conference for Afghanistan, a promising sign for rebuilding a nation. And the new Afghan national army has deployed some of its first trained units.
In cooperation with the German government, the U.S. is providing equipment and training for the Afghan police. The U.S.-led coalition has rebuilt over seventy hospitals, clinics, and women’s health centers. And highways linking the Afghan cities of Kabul, Kandahar, and Herat are being rebuilt.
The reconstruction of Afghanistan requires respect for human rights and the rule of law. Afghans are drafting a new constitution that will set a new standard for civil and political rights in that country. But Afghanistan continues to have serious problems. There have been terrorist attacks, including one on June 7th that killed four German members of the International Security Assistance Force.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says that the coalition will not let the Taleban or al-Qaida retake Afghanistan:
“You have a situation in that country where you have porous borders on the north, the east, the south, and the west. You have people in Iran who have influence in the country on the western border. You have people in Pakistan along the Pak-Afghan border that are able to move back and forth across that border like it’s not there at all. . . . Our folks on the Afghan side have been doing a good job working on the problem.”
This year, the U.S. will spend almost one-billion dollars on Afghan reconstruction and humanitarian relief. It is essential that the international community continue its contributions to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The U.S., along with friends and allies, will work to ensure the emergence of a free and stable Afghanistan.