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Embassy Press Release


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 10, 2006

MEDIA INQUIRIES:
Joshua Gross, Director of Media Relations
(202) 483 6410 ext. 8002
gross@embassyofafghanistan.org

AFGHANISTAN FIVE YEARS LATER; ACHIEVEMENTS AND CHALLENGES

WASHINGTON, DC – Five years ago this week, the agony of the Afghan people came to an end when the US-led Coalition forces began their campaign to liberate Afghanistan from the tyranny of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda terrorists they harbored. In the three decades prior to the tragic events of 9/11, the people of Afghanistan suffered from the consequences of two interconnected tragedies, the occupation by the former Soviet Union and the influx of extremism in the aftermath of the Russian withdrawal. When the country suddenly lost her strategic importance in the aftermath of the Cold War, international disengagement left Afghanistan vulnerable, effectively allowing the country to become a base of operations for transnational terrorists, extremists, and drug traffickers. In this fashion, Afghanistan was both a victim of the Cold War and a victim of the end of the Cold War. On October 7, 2001, the US-led Coalition forces reengaged Afghanistan, and the Afghan people have benefited greatly in the intervening five years.

Commenting on the fifth anniversary of Afghanistan’s liberation from the tyranny and oppression of the Taliban, Ambassador Said T. Jawad stated:


“Five years after the Coalition reengaged Afghanistan, we and our international partners have achieved many goals towards peace-building in Afghanistan. Today, Afghanistan has the most progressive Constitution in our region, which enabled the Afghan people to elect their president and parliament in free and fair elections. When they were given the opportunity, Afghans participated in building a pluralistic and democratic society, even defying terrorist threats to cast their ballots in the presidential and parliamentary elections in October 2004 and September 2005.


"However, Afghanistan and the international community together continue to face many challenges. Terrorism and drug trafficking pose the most serious challenges to the international peace-building effort in Afghanistan. Neither can be fought and eliminated without sincere regional cooperation and the robust support of our friends in the international community. There is now broad consensus that unless the sources of ideological indoctrination, financing, training, and equipping terrorists are permanently shut down, stability would be hard to maintain in Afghanistan and the world. We are working with the Government of Pakistan to host Jirgas (Councils) on both sides of the border to empower civil society and the tribal and secular leaders to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and extremism in the region. At the same time, our security forces are fighting along with the NATO-ISAF troops to secure south and east of Afghanistan. We call on our international partners to double their efforts to help us build the capacity of our security, military and governance institutions to compensate for the slow progress of the past five years. I strongly believe that a combination of political, economic, and military efforts along with sincere regional cooperation should help consolidate our democratic gains towards sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan, in our region, and in the world.”

Afghanistan’s Rebuilding Achievements Since October 2001

Political Development

• Afghanistan held successful Presidential elections in October 2004 (with 86% voter turnout) and successful Parliamentary elections in September 2005
• Afghanistan adopted the most enlightened democratic constitution in the region in Jan. 2004
• 62,000 combatants have been disarmed and reintegrated; over 95,000 pieces of heavy weaponry have been collected
• The Afghanistan National Army has trained approximately 30,000 soldiers
• The Afghanistan National Police Force has trained approximately 40,000 police officers, including 3,600 highway police and 12,000 border police
• New counter-narcotics laws have been approved and a special drug court established in Kabul. Hundreds of judges, investigators, and prosecutors have received specialized training, and major traffickers have been extradited to the USA
• Eradication efforts in Afghanistan are improving. From January-April 2006, the government eradicated 18,072 Hectares of poppy fields.
• In 2005, Afghanistan security forces seized approximately 150 metric tons of opium and 35 metric tons of heroin, shut down 247 clandestine drug labs and arrested or detained 50 traffickers
• In 2005, poppy growth in Nangahar province declined by 90 percent

Social Development

• 5.6 million boys and girls now have access to education
• 34% of Afghan children now attending school are girls
• Over 3,200 schools have been built or refurbished
• Enrollment in universities has leaped tenfold from 4,000 in 2002 to 40,000 in 2005
• 3.6 million Afghan refugees have returned home
• More than 8 private TV stations, 78 radio stations and 300 publications have been launched in the past four years
• Basic health care has extended from 7% to approximately 80% of the population

Economic Development

• Last year, two way trade with the United States reached US$330 million, 33% more than 2004. More than 70 American companies have registered in Afghanistan since 2003, representing $75 million in potential investment
• GDP growth has remained robust: 30% in 2002, 23% in 2003, 16% in 2004, and 13.8% in 2005
• Total domestic revenue has increased from 118 million in 2002 to over 550 million in 2006
• Afghanistan has become party to several forums on regional integration including the Central Asian Cooperation Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
• Afghanistan was granted observer status by the World Trade Organization in December 2004 and has formally applied for accession with the assistance of UNCTAD
• Afghanistan signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the U.S. in 2004 and was selected as the 2005 US Trade and Development Agency “Country of the Year”
• Trade with Pakistan has increased from approximately 25 million dollars a year in the Taliban era to over 1.2 billion dollars
• More than 15 foreign and domestic banks have opened their doors in Afghanistan
• The World Bank ranked the ease of starting a new business in Afghanistan 16th in the world and ranks Afghanistan as the 2006 top performer on business entry
• Afghanistan’s national income per capita has reached approximately $356
• Micro-credit loans have been extended to over 100,000 Afghans, 76% of which are women
• At the end of 2001, Afghanistan had approximately 25,000 fixed telephone lines for over 25 million people. Nearly five years and $400 million dollars of private investment later, approximately 1.3 million people have access to telecommunications services

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