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Afghanistan needs more than military aid, D-FW group told


FORT WORTH -- The Afghan ambassador to the United States, visiting North Texas almost five years after 9/11, said the world has "underinvested" in his nation's reconstruction and called for more than a military solution to the resurging Taliban movement.

Ambassador Said T. Jawad, invited to the Metroplex by the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth, said Tuesday that his nation has made "important progress" since the fall of 2001, when U.S. forces and the Northern Alliance unseated the Taliban and installed a democratic government with the most "liberal constitution" in that region.

But he said the country is still threatened by a litany of problems: desperate poverty, a decrepit infrastructure, police corruption and ineffectiveness, a lack of financial resources in the government and a "safe haven" for terrorists in neighboring Pakistan.

And the solution, he said, is not just deploying more NATO and U.S. soldiers and launching more offensive operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

"We should be fighting terrorism as a phenomenon in Afghanistan, not terrorists as individuals," Jawad said. "Fighting the phenomenon of terrorism includes the fighting of narcotics and providing for a better life for the Afghan people. It also includes enhancing the capacity of the Afghan government to provide services."

Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, the raw material for heroin.
The militants help finance their operations through opium sales.

Jawad was careful to point out to the luncheon crowd at the Fort Worth Club that Afghanistan is not Iraq, drawing distinctions between the countries' histories and cultures. He said the sense of national unity is "much stronger in Afghanistan than Iraq" and that the Afghan people approve of the U.S. and NATO's presence.

"There is no sympathy for the Taliban and no popular support for terrorism," he said.
But unless the Afghan government can produce for its citizens, rather than having the U.S., United Nations or nongovernmental organizations do so, Afghans will begin to doubt that their democracy is for real, he said.

Compared with the amount of money spent on reconstruction in Iraq and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan lags far behind in international spending, Jawad said.

Additionally, he said, only 5 percent of the billions of dollars in aid for Afghanistan has been sent to the Afghan treasury, leaving the federal government with a poorly paid and even more poorly equipped civil service and police force.

That means many of the most capable Afghans work for foreigners, he said, and it makes the Taliban or opium poppy farming more attractive to people he described as disillusioned with the lack of progress in many provinces.

"People are enthusiastically participating in the political process, but when people participate, like any other place in the world, they expect also delivery of services and a government that is responsive to their demands," he said.

Jawad, who has lived in the United States for close to 20 years, also said the military's offensives against the Taliban won't be successful in the long term unless the troops "hold the ground" after a victory and help the Afghan government establish a presence in outlying communities.

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