Welcome to our e-newsletter Vol. 57 August 2008  


Afghanistan Observes Independence Day: President Hamid Karzai joined Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak to observe Afghanistan's Independence Day on August 18 by reviewing an Honor Guard as the country celebrated its 89th year as an independent nation. On August 19, 1919 Afghanistan formally gained its independence from the United Kingdom, ending decades of direct British control of Afghan affairs. MORE


Afghanistan Celebrates Olympic Victory: Rohullah Nikpai won Afghanistan's first ever Olympic medal on August 20, gaining a Bronze Medal in the 58 kg. taekwondo competition. Nikpai traveled to China for the Olympic Games alongside three other athletes and President Hamid Karzai, who joined 100 other world leaders for the spectacular opening ceremonies on August 8. This year is the twelfth time Afghanistan has participated in the games, and the best single performance since 1964. MORE & MORE

President Karzai Travels to Sri Lanka and India: On August 2-3 President Hamid Karzai attended the Fifteenth Annual Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He joined other leaders from the region to discuss key issues of terrorism, energy, environment, poverty alleviation, education and others. After participating in the summit, President Karzai traveled to India on from August 3-5 at the invitation of Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of the Republic of India. MORE


Life and Work of Abdul Rahim Ghafoorzai Recognized: On August 21 President Hamid Karzai expressed his condolences to the family of Abdul Rahim Ghafoorzai on the eleventh anniversary of his death. Ghafoorzai, who served in a number of important government positions, was killed in a plane crash shortly after assuming being chosen as Prime Minister in 1997. In a statement, President Karzai recognized Ghafoorzai's role in working for peace and national unity and called him a "vigorous person who spent his life serving Afghans." MORE
Senator Reid Makes First Visit to Afghanistan: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and a bipartisan delegation made visited Afghanistan in early August as part of a tour of Central Asia. Senator Reid was accompanied by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Sen Bill Nelson (R-Fl.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). The delegation met with President Hamid Karzai and discussed issues ranging from America’s military commitment to the expansion of rule of law. "I left Afghanistan recognizing that we have a real partner. I felt comfortable with President Karzai," said Reid. MORE
Foreign Minister Spanta Participates in Bonn Conference: Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin Spanta traveled to Bonn, Germany on September 3 to participate in a conference on Afghanistan sponsored by the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination. The event will bring together senior policymakers, academics, governmental representatives, and representatives of key states, institutions and non-governmental organizations active in Afghanistan and the region. The conference will focus on Afghanistan’s ongoing state-, security- and economy-building efforts from domestic and regional perspectives. MORE

'In Afghanistan' Photo Exhibit Comes to Washington:

The Royal Netherlands Embassy and the Embassy of Afghanistan will present a stirring collection of images that document everyday life in Afghanistan. The photo exhibit by Dutch photographer Hans Stakelbeek, entitled "In Afghanistan," will be displayed for the first time in the United States from September 10 through October 4, 2008 at the Touchstone Gallery in Washington, D.C. MORE

Afghan Women Complete Business Course: On August 4, 13 Afghan women graduated from a four-week business course at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. The course, Peace Through Businesses, brings female business owners from Afghanistan to the university for classes and seminars on entrepreneurial concepts and basic business skills. It is hosted in partnership with the Institute for the Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW), the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council and the U.S. State Department. Ambassador Said T. Jawad delivered a speech at the graduation ceremony. MORE

'Political Counselor Haidari Speaks to Troops, Diplomats:

Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari spoke to Georgia's Army National Guard 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and to senior diplomats at the the U.S. Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia in two separate events in late July and August. At both events he touched on security, governance and development in Afghanistan, as well as focusing on pressing challenges faced by the country. MORE

Opium Cultivation and Production in Afghanistan Declines: According to a report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in August 2008, opium cultivation and production in Afghanistan decreased from 2007 to 2008. Cultivation of opium poppies decreased by 19 percent, and the number of poppy-free provinces increased from 13 to 18. Additionally, production of opium fell by six percent. MORE
Afghan National Army Takes Control of Security in Kabul: In a sign of continued growth, the Afghan National Army (ANA) took control of security in Kabul on August 28. The handover marks the first transfer of responsibilities from international forces to the ANA, which is being built into a strong, well-respected security force. While in March 2003 it only had 1,750 troops, this year it reached 76,000 troops, close to the 80,000 target set for 2009. Under a new plan unveiled by the Afghan government and backed by $20 billion from the U.S., the ANA will increase to 120,000 troops over the next five years. MORE
Humvees Headed to Afghanistan: Before it became a popular consumer car, the Humvee (known commercially as the Hummer) was a recognized and respected military vehicle. Produced by AM General, measuring 15 feet in length and weighing in at over 5,200 pounds, the Humvee's powerful engine and high ground clearance has seen it used by 46 countries around the world, both for military and civilian purposes. Now Afghanistan is set to receive an increased number of the vehicles for its growing national army and police force. MORE
'Hidden Treasures' Exhibit Closes in Washington: After 215,000 visitors during its four-month stay in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the exhibit "Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures of the National Museum, Kabul" closed on Sunday, September 7. It moves next to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, where it will open on October 24. It will travel to Houston and New York in 2009. MORE

Legislative Update for August 2008: In August 2008, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) traveled to Afghanistan as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation. Before the trip, Ambassador Said T. Jawad provided the senators and their staffs with a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan. Also in August, Legislative Counsel Hawa Ghaus discussed security and reconstruction issues in Afghanistan with senior staffers from the Subcommittee on National Security of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. MORE

In Other News: Afghan Football is Back on Its Feet (IANS), Archeologists Find Vast Ancient City in Afghanistan (AP), Afghan Empire's Last Symbols Under Threat (Reuters), U.S. Troops Train Afghans to Take Their Place (NPR), Pop Star Helps Kabul Destitute (BBC), Afghan Ceramists Sweeten the Pot in Balochistan (UNHCR), Olympic Games Inspire Afghans (Xinhua), Afghans Turning Taboo Into Humor (Chicago Tribune), 'Angel' Helping Afghanistan Fight Taliban Bombings (Daily Times), Afghan Women Blazing Path in Contemporary Art (Women's eNews). MORE

Embassy in the News: This month, Ambassador Said T. Jawad was interviewed by the Washington Independent and the Diplomatic Courier, where he spoke of the existing successes and pressing challenges for Afghanistan. Political Counselor Ashraf Haidari was quoted in an article in the Dallas Star-Telegram on agricultural aid to Afghanistan. To read or watch these interviews and op-eds, please click Embassy in the News.

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