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Berkeley: Afghanistan's Ambassador Says His Country is Progressing Despite Terror

KPIX TV Berkeley, California


Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S. said in Berkeley today that acts of terrorism in his country have increased dramatically in the last six months but there's still been a lot of progress since the U.S. intervened there more than four years ago.

Speaking to about 50 people in a lecture hall at the University of California, Berkeley, Said Tayeb Jawad said, "Afghanis enjoy more political, economic and social rights than at any other time of our history."

Jawad also said that in a recent poll conducted by the BBC, 88 percent of Afghan citizens who responded said the intervention by the U.S. beginning in the fall of 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attacks has been a good thing for their country.

Jawad went into exile after the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1980. He studied law in Germany, then came to the Bay Area in 1986 to get his M.B.A. from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

He worked for several prominent law firms in the Bay Area and told his audience today that he used to live in the Oakland hills and frequently visited UC-Berkeley's library.

Jawad returned to Afghanistan in March of 2002 to help in the rebuilding effort of his country and in late 2003 President Hamid Zarzai appointed him as the country's ambassador to the U.S.

Jawad said suicide attacks in Afghanistan increased 600 percent last year, from 21 in 2005 to 118 in 2006.

He said there were 4,000 attacks due to terrorist attacks last year, but that paled compared to deaths caused by poor health care.

For example, Jawad said 18,000 women died during childbirth.

Jawad said that in order to fight terror, Afghanistan, with help from the international community, must improve living standards for everyone and have "a national reconciliation" in which all groups participate in the government.

An example is that only 6 percent of the country has access to electricity, which impacts business and education, Jawad said.

He said foreign governments, including the U.S., have pledged a total of $30 billion in aid since 2001, but only $12.5 billion has been delivered so far, with just $3.2 billion going to the country's government.

Jawad said Afghanistan's police officers, who are paid only $70 a month, and its soldiers, who are paid $100 a month, must be paid substantially more so they aren't tempted to join the Taliban, which pays its soldiers $250 a month.

Jawad alleged that the Taliban "has a history of oppression" and burns schools and kills teachers, but he said the organization gets support by "capitalizing on the frustrations of the Afghani people."

He said the Taliban's recent resurgence shows that the government of Afghanistan and its supporters are "paying the price of doing too little the last five years."

Jawad's talk was sponsored by UC-Berkeley's International and Area Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies and Center for Middle Eastern Studies as well as by the Roots of Peace, which is based in San Rafael, and the Rotary Peace and Conflict Center.

UC-Berkeley student Kyleigh Kuhn, the daughter of Roots of Peace founder Heidi Kuhn, presented Jawad with several hundred dollars of coins donated by UC-Berkeley students in the last few weeks to support the group's mission of turning minefields in Afghanistan into thriving agricultural lands.

Kuhn said that since 2001 the group has donated 15 million pennies to Afghanistan, which translated into $150,000.

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