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4/30/04 - AFGHAN PROGRESS - 2004-04-30

Arman F-M, Afghanistan’s first privately licensed commercial radio station, is celebrating its first anniversary. The Kabul station has a format of music, talk shows, news, and sports. It recently launched a program called “Young People and Their Problems.”

Arman F-M is just one sign of Afghanistan’s emergence after decades of Soviet occupation, civil war, and misrule by the Islamic extremist Taleban regime. Afghans are also preparing to vote in national elections scheduled for September. As of late April, nearly one-million-nine-hundred-thousand Afghans are registered to vote. They include over half a million Afghan women.

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s current president, says, “It is going to take some time for Afghanistan to get a solid political party structure, widely presented and embedded in the Afghan political culture.”

Progress will not be easy. Mr. Karzai says, “Terrorism -- al-Qaida and their associates and those outside of Afghanistan who don’t want Afghanistan to grow the way it has grown -- will definitely try to sabotage the peace process by attacking the election process.”

But with the Taleban regime gone and al-Qaida terrorists no longer headquartered in Afghanistan, the country, says President George W. Bush, is “making good progress”:

“I’m proud of [President] Karzai. He stepped up and led. The Afghan army is functioning. There’s still work to be done there. There’s work to be done in most countries where tyranny reigned. It’s hard to go from a tyrannical state to a free state. It’s hard to go into a society where if you stepped out of line, you were brutalized, into a society where people take risks for peace and freedom. And that's what you’re seeing in Afghanistan.”

Soon Afghans will have an opportunity to elect a new national government. A country once dominated by extremists is working to stay on the path to democracy.