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7/13/03 - AFGHANISTAN’S FUTURE - 2003-07-17

A new Afghan constitution is scheduled to be debated and go into effect this fall. National elections are to be held in June 2004. These will be important steps in the creation of a democratic government in Afghanistan. But building democracy after twenty-five years of civil war will not be easy.

The government of President Hamid Karzai faces continuing challenges in establishing its authority throughout the country. And remnants of the al-Qaida terrorists who used Afghanistan as their sanctuary remain. As President George W. Bush said, “We will hunt them by day and by night”:

“At this moment, Americans and allied forces continue the work of fighting terrorists and establishing order in Afghanistan. When we removed the Taleban from power, surviving al-Qaida members fled from most of the country. However, many terrorists sought sanctuary along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and some are still hiding there. These al-Qaida and Taleban holdouts have attacked allied bases with rockets, conducted ambushes, and fired upon border posts. In close cooperation with the Afghan and Pakistani governments, America is engaged in operations to find and destroy these terrorists.”

Next month, NATO takes over the international security force in Kabul, the Afghan capital. NATO’s involvement demonstrates its continuing long-term commitment to stability and security in Afghanistan.

With assistance from France and others, the U.S. is helping to train and equip a new Afghan national army. In June, the tenth battalion of what will be a seventy-thousand-member army began training. The new recruits are being trained by fellow-Afghan non-commissioned officers. “Afghanistan still has many challenges,” said President Bush, “but that country is making progress, and its people are a world away from the nightmare they endured under the Taleban.”