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Political Counselor Haidari Visits Utah

On behalf of Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad, Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari visited the State of Utah on December 7-9, 2008. His visit came at the invitation of Utah Valley University International Affairs Vice President Dr. R.E Rusty Butler and Afghan student Najibullah Niazi and was aimed at creating a relationship between Utah and Afghanistan.

At a reception hosted by the university, Haidari met with senior state officials including Mayor of Provo City Lewis K. Billings, Mayor of Orem City Jerry Washburn, Chair of Utah County Commission Gary Anderson, and Utah County Commissioners Steve White and Larry Ellertson. The university's senior academic officials also attended the reception, and Haidari briefed them on the overall situation in Afghanistan.

Haidari extended the profound gratitude of Ambassador Jawad and the people of Afghanistan to the state officials for the strong support the American people have provided to help stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan. "Without the sacrifices of your sons and daughters in uniform or civilians, we could not have come this far. And we are particularly grateful to the brave Utah National Guard forces, who have served your state and country with great distinction and honor to help secure Afghanistan and to make the world a safer place for all," Haidari told the state officials.

Haidari noted that beyond military assistance, individual American states could play a major role in helping rebuild and develop Afghanistan. Higher education, he noted, was key to Afghanistan's reconstruction and long-term development. Haidari encouraged Utah's institutions of higher learning—including Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University—to provide four-year scholarships for promising Afghans to study in Utah, and then return home to drive Afghanistan's rebuilding process. "I can fully assure you that educating one Afghan today will give Afghanistan a leader tomorrow; it is an investment in the future of Afghanistan that has no match in terms of positive impact and change," Haidari pointed out.

He also encouraged sister-city and state-to-province relationships between Afghanistan and Utah. "Your beautiful state resembles Afghanistan in many ways, from its mountainous geography and four-season climate to the moral values Utahans and Afghans share," said Haidari. The state officials took a keen interest in Afghanistan, and inquired about long-distance education to be facilitated via internet, among other possible areas of cooperation.

During the visit, Haidari gave a lecture titled "Afghanistan: Security, Governance, and Reconstruction: Challenges & Opportunities" at the Utah Valley University. Two dozen Utah National Guard soldiers, expected to deploy to Afghanistan, attended the talk and engaged in a frank discussion with Haidari on the security situation in Afghanistan. Haidari conveyed Ambassador Jawad's special regards and thanks to the soldiers, saying: "It is because of your sacrifices, those of our allies and the Afghan people that together we have come this far; today, Afghans have a democratic government, personal and national freedom, and we look forward to a secure future for Afghan and American children that we can build together."

In addition, Haidari visited Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, where he gave an ambassadorial lecture on Afghanistan at the university's David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies. At a luncheon reception, he met with senior academic officials of the University—including International Vice President Dr. Erlend Peterson, Executive Director of Middle Eastern Texts Initiative Dr. Daniel Peterson, and Executive Director of the Kennedy Center Jeffrey Ringerm, Executive Director of Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship Gerald Bradford—and briefed them on the situation in Afghanistan and discussed ways the University could help rebuild Afghanistan.

He praised the university's tradition of cutting-edge research and teaching and conveyed Ambassador Jawad’s special request to the BYU officials—asking for assistance with higher education in Afghanistan. "The message from the ambassador is to consider admitting qualified Afghan students to study on scholarship at your University so they may help rebuild our country and contribute to world peace," Haidari told the officials.

Haidari also appreciated BYU's Middle Eastern Text Initiative, currently conducting the Islamic Translation Series, which is designed not only to further scholarship in the study of Islamic philosophy, theology, and mysticism, but, by encouraging the translation of Islamic texts into the technical language of contemporary Western scholarship, to assist in the integration of Islamic studies into Western academia and to promote global perspectives in the disciplines to which it is devoted.

Through interviews with state media, Haidari reached out to Utahans not only to thank them for their continued support but also to inform them of the achievements made by the United States and Afghanistan over the past seven years and the need to consolidate the two countries’ shared accomplishments to secure Afghanistan and ensure international peace and stability.

Related News: Afghan diplomat stresses ties with the U.S. (Daily Herald)
                      Our View: Can Obama Solve Afghanistan? (Daily Herald)

                      Afghan Official Says the Country is Improving (KCPW Radio)
                      Pictures from Event at Utah Valley University (Flickr)

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