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"A Night to Remember: Ambassador's Circle Dinner"

Ambassador Said T. Jawad

World Affairs Council of Jacksonville

Jacksonville, FL


The Honorable Congressman Crenshaw,
The Honorable members of the City Council,
Commanders of the Joint Forces, US Naval Forces and National Guard
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for your interest in Afghanistan. It is an honor for me and my wife to be here with you in Jacksonville. Last month, I visited CENTCOM in your beautiful state and have spoken at the WAC of Palm Beach, but the warm and hospitality is Jacksonville is truly unique.

I would like to thank the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville for providing me with this forum.

I am especially grateful to
WAC President, Admiral Howe, Ambassador McAfee,
General Maloney
Bob and Sandra Cook,
Dick and Mary Jones, and
Ron and Sue Mayers for their warmth and hospitality.

I would like to thank many new friends, especially Fabio and Aida Mechetti,
Delores and Wayne Weaver,
Jim and Mary Winston, and
Dr. Asad Mojadi.

Allow me to recognize the very crucial role that the WAC's are playing in bringing policy makers and diplomats together with caring and influential citizens across the United States. WAC of Jacksonville is certainly one of the best in the country. If you are not a member, I encourage you to join them.

I am truly honored to receive the Key to the City and am grateful to Mayor John Peyton and the City Council.

I especially want to thank the servicemen and women from the Armed services, Navy and Florida National Guard for their service in defending freedom in Afghanistan and here in the US, as well as the support that Congressman Crenshaw, who as a member of the crucial Subcommittees for Military Quality of Life, Homeland Security and Foreign Operations is serving not only the United States Armed services but also the people of Afghanistan.

In the past days, Shamim and I had the pleasure of attending the Jacksonville symphony, watching the Jacksonville Jaguars command the football field and especially experiencing the warmth and hospitality of all you. Thank you for your kindness.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I was asked to talk about the history of the last five years in Afghanistan, a short but crucial span of time in our history. I would like to start my remarks with a question for you.

Can you write the history of the future?

Let me start about the past history of US Afghan relations.

We have a long history of friendship. The first Afghan Ambassador came to US in 1919. President Eisenhower visited Afghanistan in 1957, and our King came to Washington in 1964, the year that you had Hurricane Dora, the last hurricane in Jacksonville.

You came to assist us during the Cold war, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. We then fell victim of a parallel invasion of extremism. These two parallel invasions, aside from one million killed, two million maimed and six million displaced, tore down the socio-economic fabric of our society. It destroyed Afghanistan’s moderate traditional leadership and infused extremism into our tolerant society. Afghans were forcefully exposed to alien and violent ideologies, proxy war and interference. Rule of gun substituted traditional values and the relative rule of law. Our friends and neighbors financed, trained, and maintained extremists in our neighborhood to shore up resistance against communism or pursue their narrow regional political interests.

After the Soviets withdrawal, we were left alone with our predatory neighbors. In our neighborhood, support for extremism continued, as part of fear or design. This is one reason why five years after 911 we still face serious challenges in Afghanistan.

The international re-engagement followed the unspeakably tragic events of 9/11. We joined hands with the international community to remove the Taliban from power and start rebuilding Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has been at the cross roads of civilizations. Today, there is strong consensus on the need to help Afghanistan. Afghanistan is once more playing its historic role in bridging cultures, countries and civilizations. Over 60 counties are helping rebuild Afghanistan. 36 countries have troops in Afghanistan. 41 countries are helping train and equip our national army, but the resources made available to us do not match our needs.

With the 5th anniversary of 9/11 behind us, we must remember that Afghanistan was the original front on the war on terror, and will remain a crucial mission for global security. Five years after 911 the bipartisan and international consensus on the need to help Afghanistan is still strong.

We are experiencing increased terrorist activities in South and suicide bombing in major cities. Recent increase violence and terrorist attacks have three causes:

The first is domestic, dealing with weak state institutions and a lack of resources to deliver services and defend the Afghan people. In Uruzgan, for instance, a district the size of West Virginia, we have 45 police officers, all poorly trained, ill equipped, unpaid for months, with old and outdated light weapons, and two clips of ammunition. They are very vulnerable. We are working on extended police training and better equipment for our police force and resources to strengthen district level administration.

Local police are the only forces that can prevent the Taliban from burning our schools at midnight and bombing our clinics and mosques. This problem is further enhanced by narcotics and the ensuing corruption.

Sometimes we hear the argument that there is sympathy and support for the Taliban in the South. This is not true. In 1990, when the Taliban came to power with the direct assistance of our neighbors, they never even tried to get public support. Their modus operandi was to terrorize the population into submission. Today, they employ fear and intimidation in order to distance the people from the government and Coalition forces. They kill teachers, doctors and those who are helping Afghanistan’s most vulnerable people.There is no popular sympathy for terrorists and those who wish to prolong Afghanistan’s suffering.

However, some people in the restive southern provinces are afraid and disillusioned. The peace dividend they were promised has yet to materialize. No visible signs of reconstruction are evident in some of our neediest provinces.

The second reason for increased attacks is regional. Terrorist are drawing inspiration, as well as copying tactics from Iraq. They receive funding from the Middle East. More importantly, institutional support for extremism continues, out of fear and design, by our neighbor.

Terrorism and extremism in our region originates from some of the madrassas across the border from Afghanistan, where the teaching of peace has been substituted by the preaching of hatred. Extremism is still used as an instrument of foreign policy.
Military action in Afghanistan alone is not going to free of us terrorism. The international community must be unified and clear: No nations will be allowed to support extremism as an instrument of policy.

As long as these ideological, financial and physical safe havens remain open and operating in our region, Afghan civilians will continue to be terrorized. Only by going to the sources of terrorism—the sources of terrorist motivation, financing and training—will we win the peace in Afghanistan.

The third reason for this violence is international. Terrorists have used the transition to increased NATO activity as an opportunity to test NATO’s military might and political commitment. They have the military might, but they need political support.

To address this issue, President Karzai recommends a “Clear, Hold and Build Strategy” to fight terrorism more effectively. First, the countryside will be cleared of terrorists through large scale, periodic military operations. Next, a compact and highly mobile international military force will work with our national army and local government authorities to hold the area and respond to daily terrorist attacks. We will further enhance the capacity of the Afghan National Police to move in and to be permanently present in villages that have been threatened by terrorist incursions. In the long term, increased resources will allow Afghan police to be present twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to hold and defend the population. Last, where we are present, we must build. To keep the trust and support of ordinary citizens, we must work together to implement reconstruction in the countryside and improve the daily lives of civilians. Without adequate development and job opportunities, people will be taken hostage by the terrorists and narco-traffickers. This improvement of daily life for our most vulnerable citizens is what we mean by fighting terrorism as a phenomenon.

There has been an underinvestment in building Afghanistan. The RAND Corporation has estimated that international aid to Afghanistan amounts to $57 per person, compared against $679 per person for the Bosnian reconstruction and $206 per person in Iraq. RAND also found that Afghanistan has one soldier for every thousand people vs. nineteen soldiers per thousand in Bosnia and seven soldiers per thousand in Iraq.

To address this imbalance, United States and the International community is gearing up to provide us with additional funds that we need to get the job done.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today my wife had the honor of visiting the Wolfson Children’s Hospital, where some remarkable and praiseworthy work is being done to help some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Dr. Eric Ceithaml is treating Afghan children for congenital heart defects. The generosity shown by the hospital, physicians, and Baptist Health are just a few examples of the uncountable ways that Americans have reached out across continents to help the Afghan people.

Such contributions are examples of the good news that does not get much coverage in the media. We are grateful to Doctor Ceithaml, Ms. Julie Handley, and Mr. Freeman for their support and generosity.

In 2001 only 8 percent of Afghans had access to at least basic health care; at least 80 percent do today. Some 9 million Afghan children have been vaccinated. These are some of the inspiring – yet seldom told – stories about Afghanistan’s progress.

Five years after 9/11, the people of Afghanistan have made steady progress.
We are building our country while fighting for our life.

Today, Afghanistan has the most progressive Constitution in our region, which enabled the Afghan people to elect their president and parliament in free and fair elections.

86% of eligible voters participated in the presidential and parliamentary elections. 28% of members of our newly elected and very dynamic parliament are women. Roads and airports are being rebuilt.
3.6 million Afghan refugees have demonstrated their vote of confidence in the political process and our Government by returning home. Six million children are going to school, 36% are girls. We have built 500 new schools, trained 50000 teachers, printed 48 million textbooks with your assistance. Still 80% of Afghanistan’s schools are in ruins. Eighty percent. This is a devastating loss. It took us a half of century to build them. Even today, only 29% of the schools that remain are under a roof. Most children sit under the shade of trees or tents to study.

There are 32 independent radio stations and 17 privately owned TV stations with over 300 newspapers and periodicals are published all over the country. Many Afghans are reaping the benefits of sustained double digit economic growth. Per capita income has increased to $380 from $198.

In the past five years, we have established all key institutions for building a civil society and providing for democratic governance, with mechanisms for political reintegration, women’s empowerment, and the disarmament of militias. But these institutions are not strong enough to deliver services to all Afghans.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Together, in partnership, we have accomplished so much in such a short span of time.
The sight of beautiful Afghan girls with their black and white uniforms attending school under a tree in a small village and the thousands of signs advertising computer and English classes in major cities are symbols of drastic social changes taking root in Afghanistan today.

Afghans are truly grateful for the assistance provided by you. We value the sacrifice of American solders fighting alongside Afghans to defend freedom and to make Afghanistan, America and the world a safer place.

Our accomplishments are numerous our challenges are serious. But we are determined to write the history of the future of our country. We have learned from our painful history that the way to build the future is through partnership with the international community. We have some dedicated partners.

Let me finish by telling you the story of one such partner. When President Karzai visited Washington in September, his first stop was to Walter Reed Hospital, to convey our gratitude to those courageous soldiers who have been injured while defending freedom in Afghanistan. The President was especially touched by his conversation with a woman from New Jersey, a mother of six sons aged 5 to 21. She was injured in Sharan, in a province called Paktika while building a road. Imagine a mother of six, in her late forties defending freedom, defending Afghanistan defending US, defending you and me.

While we sometimes are overwhelmed by the tragedy of terrorism; we should not overlook the heroism of individuals. We are grateful to every one of these individuals. They are helping us write the history of a bright future for Afghanistan.

Thank you.



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