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The Washington Times

Afghan envoy seeks military, financial aid
By Sharon Behn


Afghanistan's ambassador to Washington called yesterday for more military and economic help from the West, citing a spike in terrorist activity in the past six months and fears that it could spread.

Almost five years after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the repressive Taliban regime, only half of the money pledged by the international community to rebuild Afghanistan has been delivered and spent, Said T. Jawad said in an interview with The Washington Times.

"We will not be able to stabilize the country if we don't build up the domestic security forces and have development in the countryside," Mr. Jawad said. "Had we invested more in development, we would have had less security problems today."

Military spending is now about 10 times greater than spending on economic development, he added.

U.S. troops joined an indigenous rebel force to dislodge the ruling Taliban -- the al Qaeda terror network's patrons in Afghanistan -- beginning less than a month after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday thanked the United States for that assistance and called for a reinvigorated fight against terrorism.

"For many years, the Afghan people were held hostage in their own country and subjected to unspeakable atrocities by foreign terrorists and their Taliban friends," Mr. Karzai said, according to Agence France-Presse.

"The world must continue the fight against the menace of terrorism with greater resolve and dedication," he said.

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden remains on the run from the U.S. military. The Taliban has regrouped and rearmed and, in recent months, mounted increasingly stiff resistance to NATO and government forces, particularly in four southern provinces and one eastern province.

More than 420 insurgents have died in the past nine days during fierce battles with NATO and Afghan forces in southern Kandahar province, a Taliban stronghold.

Two suicide bombings for which the Taliban claimed responsibility in the last three days -- one in the capital Kabul and another in eastern Afghanistan -- have killed at least 17 persons, including Paktia provincial governor Hakim Taniwal and two U.S. soldiers.

In Washington, Mr. Jawad warned that the violence could worsen.

"If we don't build up the capacity of the security forces, there is a danger of the terrorist activities spreading to different provinces," the ambassador said.

NATO commander Gen. Ray Henault has called for an additional 2,000 troops to fight the Taliban. Currently, there are about 20,000 international troops in Afghanistan.

But one analyst involved in the counter-narcotics effort there said international troops already were in danger of wearing out their welcome.

"Now it is in a stage where it is not so clear that the international presence is welcome," said the analyst, who has worked in the country for 10 years but would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

The international community and Afghan government needs to do more to improve basic living conditions and the rule of law, he said.

"The danger if we don't is that we lose the country for sure, or at least certain segments of the south, to anti-government forces," said the analyst, who travels extensively around Afghanistan.

Mr. Jawad said existing troops need more resources -- including helicopters for better mobility -- and improved cooperation with the Afghan security forces and police.
He said the problem in the south was twofold.

"In the past five years, we never had a strong permanent presence of international or Afghan security forces in the south, and just across the border the terrorists are finding financial and ideological support," Mr. Jawad said, apparently referring to Pakistan.

The lack of an effective police presence also is beginning to be felt in the north, where common criminals are becoming increasingly daring, Mr. Jawad said.

The ambassador said there had been vast improvements in Afghanistan, particularly politically, but daily life for the average Afghan must improve more.

The anti-narcotics analyst agreed, saying, "I can go to farmers in villages where life has remained unchanged in 10 years. Maybe there is a road and a cell phone works, but the fundamentals of how to earn a living remain unchanged."

Poppy cultivation -- which is tied to areas where the government has the least control -- has soared in recent months.

According to the United Nations, Afghanistan freshly produced a record crop -- enough for 6,100 tons of opium, exceeding the total requirements of all the world's heroin users by one-third.

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