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Ambassador: Afghanistan needs U.S. help to rebuild
By Kevin Deutsch
Palm Beach Post
11/17/2005

PALM BEACH — Afghans live in constant fear that America will leave their war-torn country before it is ready to stand on its own, the Afghan ambassador to the United States said Wednesday evening.

Said Tayeb Jawad said the lawlessness that plagued his country after the Soviet occupation, and the emergence of the Taliban there, is a reminder of why the U.S. and other countries must remain.

"The country has been destroyed to such a degree that there's no way the people by themselves can put it back together," Jawad told more than 100 people attending the event organized by the World Affairs Council of the Florida Palm Beaches.

"When people in Afghanistan see an American, the first thing they demand is 'Please, don't leave us,' " he said.

Four years after an American-led coalition toppled the fundamentalist Taliban regime, a democratic government has taken hold, women's rights have been restored, and most Afghans think their lives are better than ever before, Jawad said.

But problems abound: Afghanistan is still threatened by Taliban holdouts, its educational infrastructure is poor and there are few alternatives for farmers who harvest poppies to produce opium. Only 6 percent of Afghans have access to electricity, and less than a third of the country's schools have roofs, he said.

New roads and a dependable telecommunications system must be built, foreign investment must increase, and education must improve, he said.

Sean Johnson, 23, who spent a year in Afghanistan as a Army sergeant, stepped to the podium and told a story of how children in Afghanistan would approach soldiers and ask them for pens, rather than food.

"These people have nothing, but all they want to do is better themselves," said Johnson, a student at Florida Atlantic University, before he and Jawad embraced.

 

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