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The United States is committed to helping the Afghan people build their country into a prosperous and democratic nation that respects human rights. In the past two years, Afghanistan has made much progress.

Since Afghan leaders came together to plan the future of their country at a conference held in Bonn, Germany, in December 2001, more than two-and-a-half-million refugees have returned to their homes. Four-million students in Afghanistan –- boys and girls –- are now enrolled in Afghan schools. More than five-hundred health clinics and two-hundred-fifty educational facilities have been repaired. Roads, including the highway linking Kabul and Kandahar, are being rebuilt.

Soon, in accordance with the Bonn process, Afghanistan will adopt a constitution. And in 2004, Afghans plan to hold national elections.

In August, NATO took over direction of the International Security and Assistance Force in and around Kabul. NATO’s participation, says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, may grow:

“We have seen some indications that the forces there are starting to feel that some expansion in some way outside of Kabul might be useful, whether it’s putting in place additional provincial reconstruction teams, or other ways of using the force in a more effective way. These are possibilities."

Approximately six-thousand members of the new Afghan national army have completed training. For the first time, army units are being trained by Afghan solders. Some elements of the Afghan army have already joined coalition forces in hunting down Taleban and al-Qaida remnants.

But security remains a major problem. Mr. Powell says the coalition knows that “Afghanistan’s challenges are too great to overcome overnight”:

“The United States is determined to help for as long as it takes to overcome them, and we are asking other nations to join us in this effort.”

“The stakes for all of us are as high as the new-found hopes of the Afghan people,” said Secretary of State Powell. “Afghanistan must never again become a land of oppression and an exporter of violence, hatred, and instability.”