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12/6/03 - AFGHAN RECONSTRUCTION - 2003-12-08


The U.S. is committed to helping the Afghan people take responsibility for their own security and their own future. As Zalmay Khalilzad, the new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, says, “A moderate and democratic Afghanistan will demonstrate to the region and to the Muslim world how much can be achieved by a nation working in partnership with the international community to build a free society.”

Much has been accomplished. The new Afghan national army is five-thousand strong and is a full partner with the U.S.-led coalition in operations against remaining al-Qaida terrorists and remnants of the Taleban regime. One thousand Afghan police officers have been trained, and more are in training.

Before the end of this year, the highway linking Kabul to Kandahar is expected to be resurfaced. Next year, the highway linking Kandahar to Herat is to be restored.

In the two years since liberation, Afghanistan has experienced double-digit economic growth. And this month, a Loya Jirga, or Afghan national council, will meet to consider a draft constitution. As President George W. Bush says, “We’ve seen in Afghanistan that the road to freedom can be hard”:

“American and coalition forces continue to track and defeat al-Qaida terrorists and remnants of the Taleban. Our efforts to rebuild that country go on.”

But there are still challenges to be faced in Afghanistan. Taleban remnants and al-Qaida terrorists remain. Opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking have returned to the levels of a few years ago. Common criminals menace citizens, and large parts of the country still need to be returned to the full control of the central government. “Despite the challenges,” says U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad, “with our help, the Afghan people can succeed."

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