In June, presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled in Afghanistan. The U.S. is committed to a stable and responsible Afghan government that will never again harbor terrorists. And, says President George W. Bush, the U.S. is not acting alone:
“The United Nations has been a friend of the Afghan people, distributing food and medicine, helping refugees return home, advising on a new constitution, and helping to prepare the way for nationwide elections. NATO has taken over the U-N-mandated security force in Kabul.... Our efforts to rebuild that country go on.”
But serious problems remain. So far, only six-hundred seventy-thousand voters have been registered out of more than ten-million eligible Afghans. The United Nations is operating fifty-nine registration sites and two-hundred thirty-one registration teams. Once the weather improves, the U-N will begin to register voters in rural villages.
The Afghan economy is another important issue. Continued assistance is essential. “We are trapped in a vicious circle,” says Yusuf Pashtun, Governor of Kandahar. “If there is no money for reconstruction,” he says, “there can be no reconstruction.” The United States is providing billions of dollars of aid to Afghanistan, and other international donors have also made substantial contributions. Donors are planning to meet next month to pledge additional funds.
Several key reconstruction projects have already been completed. These include the reopening of the highway linking Kabul and Kandahar and the Salang tunnel tying Kabul to the north. The International Monetary Fund reports that Afghanistan’s legal economy grew by thirty percent in 2003. The I-M-F projects twenty percent growth this year. New banking laws and other measures are designed to make it easier to invest in Afghanistan.
Remnants of the Taleban regime and al-Qaida terrorists still present a serious threat to Afghans. This threat is being met by coalition forces and units of the new Afghan national army. And in coordination with the German government, a new Afghan police force is being trained and equipped.
The terrorists and their allies fear and fight this progress above all, because they know that people who are free will choose hope over resentment, and peace over violence.