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4/4/04 - HELPING AFGHANISTAN - 2004-04-02

This is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government:

The United States, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, and many other countries are committed to spending eighty-billion dollars over the next three years to help Afghanistan rebuild. The pledges were made at the recent International Conference on Afghanistan held in Berlin, Germany.

Today, despite lingering threats by Taleban and al-Qaida remnants, the Afghan people are preparing to choose a new government democratically as they register for elections in September. Some three-million Afghan refugees have returned to their homes, voting with their feet for the future of their nation.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the Afghans “would not be coming home unless they had confidence in the leadership of the country, unless they had confidence that the international community would be there for them.”

Afghanistan still faces serious challenges. Hamid Karzai, the Afghan interim president, says that the illegal drug trade is “undermining the very existence of the Afghan state”:

“I have seen with my own eyes, a few years ago when I was moving inside Afghanistan against the Taleban, a man who was destroying his pomegranate orchard in order to replace it with a drug field. That by itself should explain the desperation of the Afghan people.”

Mr. Karzai says that international aid will be used to fight drug trafficking and to help the agricultural and business sectors create jobs. He says that with assistance, Afghanistan’s economic growth will be between two and three percent annually over the next three years:

“With that sort of growth, Afghanistan in about seven years to ten years shall be able to stand on its own feet, shall be able to feed itself off its own revenues, to protect itself.”

Three years ago the people of Afghanistan were oppressed and isolated from the world by the terrorist Taleban regime. “Today,” says President George W. Bush, “that nation has a democratic government and many allies.”