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12/18/03 - AFGHAN DEVELOPMENTS - 2003-12-19

Afghanistan’s progress was marked with the reopening of the four-hundred-eighty-two kilometer highway connecting Kabul with the southern city of Kandahar. The refurbished road will cut the travel time from about fifteen hours to six hours and will benefit the thirty-five percent of Afghanistan’s people who live within fifty kilometers of the road.

But there is another event demonstrating progress in Afghanistan. Five-hundred delegates, representing a cross section of Afghan society, are meeting in Kabul. They are members of the loya jirga, or national council, and they are debating a new constitution. The gathering is a milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to a constitutional, representative government that respects tradition and protects the welfare of Afghan men and women.

As U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher points out, “Afghanistan has made remarkable strides in the last two years, since the transitional government was established”:

“The credit goes to the strong leadership of President [Hamid] Karzai and his team, the resilience of the Afghan people, and the assistance of the United States and the international community.”

Challenges remain in Afghanistan. These include eliminating the remnants of the Taleban regime and al-Qaida terrorists who used Afghanistan as their training ground and sanctuary. They will be found and brought to justice.

While much remains to be done, says State Department spokesman Boucher, “There is much to build on.” For that reason, the U.S. has approved an additional one-billion-seven-hundred million dollars in assistance to the Afghan people. This will bring the total U.S. contribution to reconstruction and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan to well over three-billion dollars.

The U.S. and its NATO allies remain steadfast in their commitment to helping Afghans secure their country and govern themselves.