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Ambassador Jawad Appears with First Lady on 'Meet the Press'

Ambassador Said T. Jawad joined First Lady Laura Bush on a Thanksgiving edition of NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, November 30 to discuss Mrs. Bush's advocacy for the women of Afghanistan and the existing opportunities and challenges the country faces in creating a peaceful and prosperous society. During their discussion, the First Lady and Ambassador Jawad described some of the achievements that had been made in Afghanistan and assessed the needs of the country in the areas of security and development. (The full video of the interview can be seen here.)

The First Lady, who has traveled to Afghanistan three times and first raised the issue of the treatment of women by the Taliban in a November 2001 presidential radio address, took the opportunity to discuss her work in Afghanistan and the impact it has had. "Women became involved in politics, they're members of the parliament. They've taken a much more active role in that country," she said of the progress women have made in the last seven years. In response to a recent attack in which acid was thrown at a group of school girls, the First Lady noted that despite some setbacks, positive changes have remained. "When I was in Bamiyan [Province] this year I met with a governor, female governor, I met with female police officers. Are there -- are women afraid to step out and have some of these roles? Sure, to some extent they are. But these sort of happenings are more isolated than they sound when we read about them in the newspaper, because they are so horrific when we read about it," she said.

Ambassador Jawad stressed that the Taliban offer no alternative to the Afghan government and that further investment in education and development is needed. "The way Taliban operates is by forcing people into submission. They don't provide an alternative to what the United States or the Afghan government is doing as far as providing educational opportunities. And the way they operate is by terrorizing people. And there is no future for such a vision," he stated. "They do not provide a vision for the future of the country; therefore, more investment in building and education in Afghanistan is very important. The future of Afghanistan, of the new generation of Afghan people, of Afghan women, will depend on further investing in education to train a new generation of Afghan leaders and also to provide for true gender equality."

The First Lady also highlighted the need to continue building Afghanistan's civil society. "When you look at the whole situation, Afghanistan is a country that was totally decimated," she said. "Many, many people lost all the years that they would've been in school. They were never educated. The population is generally not skilled or educated. There are jobs, there are jobs that people could do if they had the skills for them, but they're--but people are not educated. So what we have to do, what the Ambassador just said, is do whatever we can to educate people as quickly as we can." Many of the First Lady's civil society-building efforts have been channeled through the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, which has raised $124 million from public and private sources for projects in health, education, training and children.

Both the First Lady and Ambassador Jawad explained that a key element of resolving existing security challenges included addressing terrorism in a regional context. "We have to really make sure that the ideological, financial and logistical support that's available to the terrorist groups still in the region will dry up. In many instances, they are capitalizing on poverty and ignorance. And if you give the people a hope, there's nothing else that will drive them to these criminal groups," noted Ambassador Jawad.

Ambassador Jawad also spoke of reconciliation efforts with members of the Taliban, though he explicitly ruled out a power-sharing agreement with them. "The purpose of the talks is to bring over some of the more moderate elements of the Taliban to join the political process, because we cannot have another circle of revenge and violence in Afghanistan," he said. "We will not share power with them. We will not compromise on the values of the Afghan constitution," he made clear.

The First Lady urged the American people to stay engaged in Afghanistan, saying, "Our tendency in the United States is to become isolationists, become protectionists, but our world is just this small now. We're so aware of what the problems are in every corner of the world. And so I hope people in the United States will look outside of our life here in the United States and do what they can both financially, to be able to support the people of Afghanistan, and then every other way."

Related News: Transcript of 'Meet the Press' Interview (NBC)

                           No Power-Sharing With Taliban: Jawad (Pajhwok)


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