Welcome to our e-newsletter Vol. 49 December 2007  

Ancient Afghan Treasures to Tour United States in 2008:   A traveling exhibition of extraordinary archaeological treasures from the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul, will begin a 17-month tour of the United States in spring 2008, it was announced today by the National Geographic Society and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul” will explore the rich cultural heritage of ancient Afghanistan from the Bronze Age (2500 B.C.) through the rise of trade along the Silk Road in the first century A.D. MORE

President Hamid Karzai Visits Pakistan, Strongly Condemns Assassination of Benazir Bhutto: On December 26, President Hamid Karzai traveled to Pakistan on the invitation of President Pervez Musharraf. It was their first meeting since August’s peace jirga in Afghanistan. In private meetings and a state dinner, the leaders discussed security cooperation, intelligence sharing, trade and other bilateral issues. President Karzai and President Musharraf pledged better cooperation in fighting terrorism.  MORE
World Leaders Pledge to Stand with Afghanistan:   The French, Australian and Italian heads of state traveled to Afghanistan in late December to meet with President Hamid Karzai, assess the current state of affairs in Afghanistan, and discuss the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest early next year. On December 22, French president Nicolas Sarkozy made history as the first French head of state to travel to Afghanistan. MORE
U.S. Secretary of Defense Travels to Afghanistan: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Afghanistan on December 3 on an official visit to evaluate international efforts against the Taliban. The Secretary met with President Hamid Karzai, Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army Gen. Bismillah Khan, as well as the commanders of the US-led coalition and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). MORE

Afghan Rugs to be Showcased Vegas Style!: The next major Afghan Rug Exhibit will occur at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas from January 28-February 1. The event is being sponsored by USAID and organized jointly by the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan (EPAA) and the U.S. Department of Commerce.“Afghan Inspirations: Rug Renaissance, Coveted Traditions” will bring a delegation of authentic rug producers from Afghanistan to exhibit the beauty of the fine art of Afghan rug weaving MORE

New Books on Afghanistan: A number of recent books on Afghanistan have been published recent months, exploring politics, history, religion and culture. New publications include the novel, “The Quest for the All-Seeing Eye,” a book of academic essays, “Building State and Security in Afghanistan,” a memoir, “Journey Among Nations,” a guidebook, “Lonely Planet: Afghanistan,” and a new magazine on Afghan life and culture. MORE
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown Unveils New Afghan Strategy After Kabul Visit: The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown traveled to Kabul on an official State visit on December 11. This was Mr. Brown's first visit as Prime Minister, although he had previously traveled to Afghanistan as the UK’s Chancellor. The Prime Minister met with President Karzai to discuss security and reconstruction, focusing on the military campaign in Musa Qala. Afghan and NATO forces successfully dislodged terrorists from Musa Qala during Prime Minister Brown’s visit.  MORE

Foreign Minister Spanta Travels to Turkmenistan: Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta traveled to Turkmenistan to celebrate the opening of the UN Regional Center of Preventative Diplomacy in Asgabat. The Center is tasked with assisting the Governments of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in building capacities to peacefully prevent conflict, in facilitating dialogue, and in catalyzing international support behind projects and initiatives. MORE
Afghan Attorney General Travels to Washington, Launches Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: On December 13 Afghanistan’s Attorney General Abdul Jabar Sabit in partnership with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice launched a public-private partnership to promote an independent and fair judicial system in Afghanistan. In accordance with this partnership, U.S. law firms and law schools agreed to fund projects that train members of the legal profession and offer aid to the poor. MORE

President Karzai and U.S. Governors Discuss Achievements, Cooperation: President Hamid Karzai met with a visiting delegation of U.S. governors on December 13 to discuss the current state of affairs in Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s strategic partnership with the U.S. Bill Ritter, governor of Colorado, Donald Carcieri, governor of Rhode Island and Michael Rounds, governor of South Dakota, described their intentions of building relations between the governors in the two countries. MORE

Abdul Qadeer Fitrat Named new head of Central Bank of Afghanistan: With wide and popular support from the Afghanistan Parliament upon nomination by President Hamid Karzai, Mr. Abdul Qadeer Fitrat has recently been named the new Governor of the Da Afghanistan Bank, the Central Bank of Afghanistan. Mr. Fitrat joins the Central Bank with a wide experience in the banking and financial services sector. MORE

New Poll Shows Hopes and Concerns of Afghans: Afghans are hopeful about the future, according to an opinion poll conducted in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. The poll, commissioned by the BBC, ABC News, and ARD (Germany), showed that more than half of Afghans surveyed believe things in Afghanistan today are moving in the right direction. Security and economic concerns topped the list of perceived challenges still facing the country. MORE

U.S. State Department Launches new Economic Initiative for Afghanistan & Pakistan: As part of its continuing efforts to further economic development in critical need border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the State Department recently launched a new initiative to encourage U.S. private sector investment, known as “Economic Empowerment in Strategic Regions” or EESR. MORE

University of British Columbia Helps Restore Afghanistan's Forests: In recent months, University of British Columbia Associate Professor Gary Bull has led an effort to help protect and restore Afghanistan’s remaining forest in the north east province of Nuristan. In partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and USAID, a team led by Prof. Bull has conducted forest management training for Afghan field crews. The Afghan teams will conduct 350 surveys among Nuristan villagers, gathering data on forest uses, household behavior, income and education levels. MORE

Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for December 2007: This month, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing to assess the security situation in Afghanistan. The House of Representatives and Senate passed the FY 2008 Defense Authorization Bill authorizing $2.7 billion to help train and equip Afghan security forces and creating an Office of the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). A delegation of eight Republican Senators traveled to Afghanistan to assess the current security and political situation. MORE

ANA Medics Graduate: The first class of medics from the Afghan National Army’s 201st Corps, 3rd Brigade, 5th Kandak (battalion) graduated from a combat medic class during a ceremony held in Nangarhar Province Dec. 8. Basic training focused on how to clear an airway, trauma assessment, and wound dressing. Additional intermediate and advanced course will follow. MORE

Etisalat Company provides 80 Percent Drop in Calling Rates: Starting in January 2008, Etisalat will become the first wireless operator in Afghanistan to offer one Afghani per minute rates for national calls on an Etisalat SIM card, an 80% price decrease. In a public statement, Minister of Communications Amirzai Sangin expressed his approval of Etisalat’s new cost structure. This drop will provide an amazing opportunity for more Afghans to stay connected through modern telecommunications systems. MORE

Afghan Women Demonstrate for Peace: Women across Afghanistan held meetings throughout December to publicly demonstrate their support for peace. Approximately 1,000 women turned out for the Women's National Peace Prayer meetings in six provinces, including Kandahar and Helmand. "This is very unusual," said Rangina Hamidi one of the organizers, who was recently honored by CNN for her work in Afghanistan and hopes to hold such events in all 34 provinces. MORE

United Arab Emirates Builds University in Afghanistan:  On December 14, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Red Crescent announced the completion of the construction of the Sheikh Zayed University in Afghanistan’s Khost province. The university was built at a cost of $4.8 million donated by the late UAE leader Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The university will provide higher education in medicine, engineering, agriculture, technology, Islamic studies, arts, literature and education for 3000 students. MORE

The Ottawa Convention and Afghanistan: Ten Years Later: In December 1997, 122 countries signed the Ottawa Convention, the landmark agreement banning the production, sale, and use of antipersonnel landmines. Ten years later, the treaty is being called “a success in progress,” with more than three-quarters of the world’s countries adhering to the treaty by educating at-risk populations about the dangers of landmines, providing assistance to landmine victims and protecting their rights, and destroying stockpiles of millions of antipersonnel mines.  MORE

The Washington Monthly Reports on the National Solidarity Program: The road from Kabul to Azra, a mountainous district in Afghanistan's central Logar Province, is, in places, not a road at all. At some points it's a rocky riverbed, at others an open desert. For one terrifying stretch, it's a twisty gorge known as the Dubandi Pass, famous for carjackings by Taliban bandits. The steep terrain and treacherous roads have always made this part of the world remote, even by Afghan standards. MORE

International Assistance, Cold Storage to Boost Sales of Afghan Pomegranates: Kandahar pomegranate farmers and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have joined forces to launch a fruit export market. The aim of the program is to replace the illegal opium trade in the region by establishing alternative sustainable economic growth in the form of the famous traditional Afghan pomegranate crop. MORE

Celebrities Participate in Afghan Kite Auction for Charity:  25 authentic Afghan kites with tails autographed by A-list celebrities were auctioned on eBay from December 5-15 to benefit the Afghanistan Relief Organization. The auction launched a social action campaign to promote the long awaited December 14 release of the film version of Khaled Hosseini’s highly acclaimed novel The Kite Runner. Among the celebrities that have teamed up with Paramount Classics and Participant Productions for the special eBay charity auction are Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Cher, Natalie Portman, Steve Nash, Halle Berry, Will Ferrell, Eva Mendes, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jodie Foster, former President George H.W. Bush, and Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini. MORE

Embassy in the News: This month, Embassy officials were quoted in Pahjwok News and the Salt Lake Tribune. Ambassador Jawad was quoted in Washington Post and New York Times coverage of the "Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan" exhibition announcement. 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. The Embassy website highlighted Abdul Qadeer Fitrat’s appointment as head of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, a new economic initiative for Afghanistan & Pakistan, the upcoming Afghan rugs show in Las Vegas, and new developments in the telecommunications industry. 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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