Welcome to our e-newsletter Vol. 41 April 2007  

Afghanistan Joins South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation: In a historic ceremony on April 3, Afghanistan became the eighth member of SAARC. “Afghanistan's isolation must never be repeated,” said President Hamid Karzai at the ceremony. “Today will be remembered as a landmark event as Afghanistan assumes its place in the South Asian family. I wish to thank SAARC’s member states and the SAARC Secretariat for supporting Afghanistan’s accession.” MORE

Diane Sawyer Speaks with Afghans and President Karzai: On April 9 and 10, Diane Sawyer reported live from Afghanistan, interviewing President Karzai, speaking with women, children and soldiers, and even sharing a traditional Afghan breakfast with her colleagues in New York via satellite. President Karzai sat down with Ms. Sawyer for a frank discussion about the risk that the Taliban and al Qaeda continue to pose to Afghanistan and the world. MORE
Foreign Minister Spanta Discusses Bi-lateral Relations with Secretary Rice and Receives New U.S. Ambassador: Foreign Minister Dr. Rangeen Dadfar Spanta held a telephone conversation with the US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice early on April 15. In this conversation, both sides exchanged views on latest developments in Afghanistan. Dr. Spanta expressed Afghanistan’s appreciation for the US government's ongoing support of Afghanistan and expressed his wish to further expand relations between the countries. MORE
Finance Minister Ahady Visits U.S. for World Bank Meetings: Afghanistan’s Finance Minister Anwar ul-Haq Ahady concluded an official visit to the United States on April 23 following his participation in the annual Spring Meetings at the World Bank and IMF. Throughout these meetings a series of bilateral and multilateral discussions took place on finance and debt related matters between Afghanistan and the international community. MORE

New U.S. Ambassador Presents Credentials to President Karzai: On April 16 the new U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan William Wood began his first day by presenting his credentials to President Hamid Karzai. Ambassador William Wood was nominated by President George W. Bush last month for the job in Kabul. Ambassador Wood, a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, served most recently as United States Ambassador to Colombia. MORE

Planting the Afghan Sahebi Grape in Napa Valley: To strengthen bridges between Afghanistan and the United States, Ambassador Jawad took part in a grapevine planting ceremony on the grounds of COPIA on April 16. COPIA is a non-profit discovery center in Napa Valley, California. The vine planted by Ambassador Jawad was a direct descendent from the collection of Afghan root stalk that acclaimed viticulturist, the late UC Davis professor and grape geneticist, Harold Olmo brought back and studied from Afghanistan in 1948. MORE

Afghans to Take Back Madrassas in 2007: Education Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar announced in April that the Afghan government will begin setting up its own madrassas (religious schools) in order to counter the influence of extremist elements operating the countryside. The Ministry of Education considers it the government’s ethical responsibility to offer a tolerant and modern Islamic education for young Afghans, as many parents wanted religious schooling for their children. MORE

Dole Pledges Support for Afghanistan’s Agriculture Development: On April 23, President Hamid Karzai received Mr. David Murdock, owner and CEO of Dole Foods Company. Mr. Murdock expressed his intention to explore a major Dole presence in Afghanistan. Dole Food Company, Inc. is the world's largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and fresh-cut flowers. Mr. Murdock came to Afghanistan at the request of President Bush and visited Bagram and Mazar-e-Sharif. He also visited Afghanistan’s Agricultural Fair, the first of its kind held in many years. AgFair was attended by 86 companies, many of them local. MORE

Embassy Emphasizes Afghanistan's Economic Role at U.S. Dept of Commerce (BISNIS) Conference: Business Opportunities in Afghanistan and Central Asia,’ was the name of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Business Information Service for the Newly Independent States (BISNIS) annual Conference held on April 10. The conference presented participants with in-depth analysis of business opportunities in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Political Counselor Masood Aziz led the participants in a discussion of business and investment opportunities in Afghanistan, as well as the country’s key economic role as a trade hub and transit point.  MORE

President Karzai is Saddened by the Tragic Incident at Virginia Tech University: President Hamid Karzai was deeply saddened by the unfortunate death of 33 people at the Virginia Tech University, in Virginia, the United States of America. According to reports, a gunman killed 33 people and wounded another 29 at Virginia Tech University , before committing suicide. The President, on behalf of the people of Afghanistan, expressed his heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims and to the people of the United States of America. MORE

Foreign Minister Spanta Expresses Condolences to U.S. Secretary of State Rice: Foreign Minister Dr. Rangeen Dadfar Spanta expressed his deepest condolences on the occasion of the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech University in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “With profound sadness, I learned about the tragic killing of 33 and injury of 29 individuals” at Virginia Tech University, he wrote. MORE

Counselor Haidari Lectures on Afghanistan’s Drug Control Policy at Georgetown University: Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari gave a lecture on “Afghanistan’s Drug Control Policy: The Nexus between Drugs and Insecurity” at the Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service on April 17. Haidari described the backdrop against which Afghanistan has become a prime victim of a coalition of transnational drug traffickers, criminals, Taliban terrorists, and those who profit from undermining the rule of law in Afghanistan. MORE

AACC Congressional Forum Addresses Priorities for U.S. Funding to Afghanistan:  On Wednesday, April 18, the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) conducted the first forum by an outside organization held on Capitol Hill assessing priorities and mechanisms for improving effectiveness of U.S. funding for Afghanistan. The event at the Dirksen Building was held as Congress deliberates on an $11.8 billion Supplemental Appropriations bill for Afghanistan. MORE

Kabul Hosts Bicycle Race: Over 1,200 boys and girls participated in a 23 km bicycle race in Kabul on April 20. The 3rd annual race extended from Darulmanan Palace to Paghman. The competition was sponsored by Afghan Wireless and the Bayat Foundation. Participants from 34 provinces including Kabul, Nangarhar, Herat, Balkh and Kandahar began training for the race months in advance, before the day of the 'Say No to Drugs' Bike Race. MORE

Kabul Marriott Hotel Lease Agreement Signed:  The Government of Afghanistan and US-based General Systems International (GSI) executed on April 23 a 99-year lease agreement for the construction of a 209-room, five-star Marriott Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. GSI will build the hotel with $80 million in investments of which $60 million is being financed by OPIC. World renowned Marriott International will manage the hotel which is expected to generate several million dollars annually in foreign exchange revenue as well as 270 permanent jobs for Afghans. MORE

American Singer Clay Aiken Visits Afghan Schools: UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador and former star of American Idol Clay Aiken visited Afghanistan to create awareness about the promise of hope for the youth of this war-torn country. Aiken visited schools in Kabul and the central province of Bamyan with the country’s representative for UNICEF Catherine Mbengue and Aiken’s own former teacher Mary Props. “As a former teacher, I recognize that spark of hope and excitement all children possess when given the opportunity to learn,” said Aiken. MORE

Counselor Haidari Speaks at Georgetown University Security Studies Program:   The Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Security Studies Program hosted a panel discussion on “Just Back from Afghanistan: Experience and Insights of SSP and SFS Alumni and Students” on March 21. The alumni had recently served or worked in Afghanistan, and discussed their experiences in the country.  MORE

European Commission Offers Erasmus Scholarships for Afghan Students: The European Commission made an announcement to encourage Afghan graduates to apply for scholarships to earn their Master's degree in Europe within the Erasmus Mundus programme. Funded by the European Commission, Erasmus Mundus is a co-operation and mobility programme in the field of higher education. MORE

Renowned Afghan Poet Ustad Faani Passes Away: Famous Afghan poet Raziq Faani passed away on April 22 in San Diego, California. He was 63. Faani's poetic legacy depicts the suffering and the perseverance of the people of Afghanistan through three decades of war. Ustad Faani’s poetry transcended the printed page and was made into songs by contemporary singers. MORE

AfghanMark Brands Carpets Hand-Woven by Afghan Women: A major humanitarian, educational and business development breakthrough was made by the Afghan Women’s Business Federation (AWBF) with the creation of AfghanMark. This brand label will be carried on future exported carpets made by Afghan women who are employed by the women-owned or women-managed carpet-making businesses that are members of AWBF. MORE

India Names Street After Ahmad Shah Massoud : Following on the heels of Afghanistan’s accession to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Indian government named a road on April 5 in the national capital after the slain Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. This is the first such honor extended to a leader from Afghanistan. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee unveiled the plaque at a ceremony with President Hamid Karzai. MORE

Media Is Development Explores Media's Role in a Free Afghanistan: “Media is Development” was the slogan for the Afghanistan Media and Civil Society Forum held March 28-29 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. The Forum was organized by The Killid Group and the Inter-Press Service with the participation of Pajhwok Afghan News, the Centre for International Journalism and Sayara Media & Communication. MORE

Afghanistan Launches Major Fiber Optics Project: The Afghan Ministry of Communications has announced the start of a major 3,300 km fiber optics project costing $ 61 million. The communications project will connect Kabul with 16 provinces in the eastern, northern and southern provinces. The launch of this large-scale development project will provide jobs for approximately 10,000 Afghans. MORE

Radio Free Afghanistan Celebrates Five Years of Broadcasting: In the year 2007/1386 Radio Free Afghanistan, the Dari and Pashto language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, will celebrate five years on the air, broadcasting 12 hours daily to millions of regular listeners nationwide. Radio Free Afghanistan is a leading broadcaster in Afghanistan with an audience of nearly 60 percent of the adult population. MORE

Legislative Update: At this crucial moment in time, the Embassy of Afghanistan is actively engaging the U.S. Congress to provide the resources and commitment necessary to successfully rebuild Afghanistan. As part of these efforts, we will provide regular updates on meetings with key U.S. Representatives and Senators and legislation pertinent to Afghanistan and the region. MORE

Embassy in the News: This month, the San Francisco Chronicle published an editorial as a result of their conversation with Ambassador Jawad. The Chronicle also posted a podcast recording of the interview. KPIX TV and CBS 5 TV in California both interviewed Ambassador Jawad, and Finance Minister Ahady's speaking engagement at Brookings was filmed by CSPAN. The Amabassador and Embassy Officials were interviewed by a variety of media outlets, including Scripps Howard Newswire, the Daily Californian and Pajhwok News. To read or watch these interviews, please click Embassy in the News.

Investment News: This month, numerous publications covered business and investment opportunities in Afghanistan. New projects in the hotel industry, agriculture, and fiber optics were highlighted, as well as a celebration of Afghan craftwork at the World Bank's new retail store. To read these articles, please click Investment News

Embassy Events: To view photographs from and read about Embassy events, please click on Embassy Events


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