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In Delaware, Ambassador Says Fight Not Over
Hiran Ratnayake
The Delaware News Journal
05/24/2006

By HIRAN RATNAYAKE

In the 3,000-year history of Afghanistan, its people have never enjoyed the freedoms they are experiencing right now, said the Afghan ambassador to the United States.

The people of Afghanistan were eager to rid themselves of the Taliban, whose members would regularly flog elderly women for wearing colorful socks, Said Tayeb Jawad told an audience of about two dozen Tuesday afternoon at the University & Whist Club in Wilmington.

But since Operation Enduring Freedom started, Afghanistan has not been given adequate outside resources to fight the Taliban, Jawad said.

"The Taliban are acquiring advanced weapons, sophisticated explosive devices, better communications gear, and more pickup trucks and motorcycles from abroad," he said. "While there is no sympathy for terrorists and those who wish to prolong Afghanistan's suffering, some people in deprived provinces are afraid and disillusioned."

Afghanistan, the sixth-poorest country in the world, according to the World Bank, needs help from the international community to derail its drug trade, the proceeds of which fund terrorism.

Because of wars and droughts during the past three decades, the country's farmers have leveled their vineyards and orchards in favor of opium poppy crops, which take only three months to reach harvest.

"They do this because for them, there is no tomorrow," Jawad said. "If a poor farmer's choice is between life and death, he will choose life, even if his action is illegal. However, once farmers are given a legitimate alternative, they will take the legal and dignified option."

Jawad also addressed the negative publicity that surrounded Afghanistan in March, when an Afghan convert to Christianity faced a death sentence in Kabul. The man was found innocent by reason of insanity and granted asylum in Italy.

Jawad said the situation was incredibly difficult because the people of the country might turn to the Taliban if they found that the leaders were not strong supporters of Islam.

"We don't want the terrorists to be a cause of the religion," he said.

Jawad's talk was sponsored by the World Trade Center Delaware, a nonprofit group that helps small companies expand their markets overseas.

Four members of Afghanistan-Delaware Communities Together Inc., a nonprofit based in Hockessin that helps further the education of Afghan children, mostly girls, were on hand to listen to Jawad.

"I think the speech was very good and exactly what people want to hear," said Abdul Nisar, co-founder of the nonprofit. "He talked about the progress in Afghanistan and he talked about the challenges and gave a good evaluation about them."

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