Welcome to our e-newsletter Vol. 66 June 2009  

Gen. McChrystal Takes Command, Meets with Pres. Karzai: General Stanley McChrystal officially took charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in a ceremony at the ISAF headquarters in Kabul on June 15. He also met with President Hamid Karzai, who stated that one of the main short-term priorities should be minimizing civilian casualties in Afghanistan. "General McChrystal is a seasoned soldier known for his innovative thinking and action in unconventional battlegrounds," said Ambassador Said T. Jawad. MORE

President Obama Welcomes Afghan Presidential Election Season: In a statement released on June 17, President Barack Obama welcomed the start of the Afghan presidential election season. The election, scheduled for August 20, will be the second in the country's history. Some 40 candidates have announced their candidacies for the country's highest elected office. MORE

Ambassador Jawad Speaks at IISS Briefing: Ambassador Said T. Jawad spoke in a closed policy briefing at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in Washington on June 23. Senior government officials, think tank researchers and private sector executives attended the meeting with Ambassador Jawad, who discussed a number of key challenges facing Afghanistan in the run up to the August 2009 presidential and provincial council elections. MORE

'Hidden Treasures' Exhibit Opens Final U.S. Show in New York: The critically acclaimed exhibit "Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures of the National Museum, Kabul" opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on June 23 for what will be the final show in an 18-month tour of the U.S. The New York Times revisited the exhibit, writing that it "alternates between sparkling vitality and quiet grandeur." MORE & MORE

Ambassador Jawad Speaks to The New Republic: On June 22 Ambassador Said T. Jawad spoke to the editorial board and staff of The New Republic, a progressive magazine of politics and the arts founded in 1914. During remarks and discussion, Ambassador Jawad spoke of the Obama administration's new strategy for Afghanistan, regional relations and the coming presidential elections. He also participated in a two-part interview with TNRtv, where he spoke of narcotics, women's rights, negotiating with the Taliban and the importance of minimizing civilian casualties. MORE & MORE

Archeologists Seek to Uncover Third Buddha: The world was shocked when in 2001 the Taliban destroyed the two giant Buddhas of Bamiyan Province. The two Buddhas, measuring 180 and 121 feet in height, respectively, had been carved into cliffs towering over Bamiyan Valley in 500 A.D. and had come to represent the Afghanistan that had historically played a role as a key part of the Silk Road and a crossing point for numerous cultures and civilizations. Since their senseless destruction, the space that they once occupied has remained eerily empty. MORE

Ambassador Jawad Addresses Humanitarian Engagement: Ambassador Said T. Jawad spoke at the opening session of the 2009 Afghan Symposium in Washington on June 30, using the opportunity to discuss humanitarian and philanthropic engagement with Afghanistan. The symposium included panel discussions with experts and practitioners in development and philanthropy. MORE

Political Counselor Speaks on Building a New State in Afghanistan: Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari recently spoke on an academic panel discussion to assess "Policy Options for State-Building in Afghanistan" at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Other panelists included the university's faculty Political Scientist Dr. Francis Fukuyama, Professor Walter Andersen, and Professor Rani Mullen. They discussed regional politics and its impact on the state-building process in Afghanistan. MORE

Ambassador Jawad Talks On New Strategy and Regional Relations: Ambassador Said T. Jawad analyzed the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and discussed regional relations at a conference in Freeport, The Bahamas on June 10-12. The conference, "The Af-Pak Theater: Militant Islam, Stability and Security," was organized by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. MORE

Anything Is Possible - Rahila Muhibi's Story: Anything is possible. This may be a cliché, but for Rahila Muhibi, it is her life story and inspiration. From a remote village in northeastern Afghanistan, she rose against all pressures to become the first in her tribe to get a college degree and the first-ever Afghan to graduate from Methodist University in North Carolina. Along the way, she has accomplished so much more. MORE

'Afghan Star' Documentary to Open in U.S.: The critically acclaimed documentary "Afghan Star" will soon open in theaters in various U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C. on July 17, Philadelphia on July 24 and Boston on July 31. "Afghan Star," directed by British filmmaker Havana Marking, tells the story of a talent show modeled after "American Idol." MORE

Oasis From the Ruins: Afghanistan Opens First Natl. Park: "Most days it is easy to think God may have forgotten about Afghanistan, but there can be a day when you feel like you are in heaven," writes CNN about Afghanistan's first national park, Band-e-Amir. "At first glance, the Band-e-Amir lakes hurt the eyes in the most amazing fashion. After flying through earth tones and dry land, you are struck by a blazing blue body of water." MORE

Winning the Good War: Peter Bergen writes in The Washington Monthly: "The growing skepticism about Obama’s chances for success in Afghanistan is largely based on deep misreadings of both the country’s history and the views of its people...Afghanistan will not be Obama’s Vietnam, nor will it be his Iraq. Rather, the renewed and better resourced American effort in Afghanistan will, in time, produce a relatively stable and prosperous Central Asian state." MORE

Afghanistan Releases List of Protected Species: In April, Afghanistan established its first national park, and now it has released its first list of protected species. In an effort to safeguard the country's natural heritage, Afghanistan's National Environment Protection Agency has published a list of 20 mammals, seven birds, four plants, and a single amphibian and insect that will now receive legal protection that they were denied during three decades of conflict. MORE

Kung-Fu Kicks Off in Afghanistan: Sport has made a comeback in Afghanistan, where groups of football-crazy children or teenagers playing in almost every village. Many of them are boys, but not all. In a narrow alley of mud-brick houses there is a sports club with a difference. Around 20 girls aged between 10 and 14 are going through their moves. Clad in red uniforms including headscarves they are learning Kung Fu. MORE

Relics of Old Afghanistan Reveal Jewish Past: Behind a parade of old mud brick shops, through narrow winding alleys, a tiny door opens onto a sundrenched courtyard, where school children giggle and play alongside the ghosts of Afghanistan's Jewish past. The Yu Aw is one of four synagogues in the old quarter of Herat city in west Afghanistan, which after decades of abandonment and neglect, has been restored to provide desperately-needed space for an infant school. MORE
In Other News: Afghan Climbers in Maiden Peak Summit (AFP)...Afghan Farmers Ditch Opium for Saffron (Asia Times)...Singers Rivet a War-Weary Nation in 'Afghan Star' (Reuters)...'Hidden Treasures' Exhibit Seeks To Reveal Another Afghanistan (RFE) ...Oasis From the Ruins - Afghanistan Opens First National Park (CNN)...Afghanistan Aims to Put Itself Back on the Tourist Map (LA Times)...Electricity Transforms Kabul Living (BBC)...Afghan Government to Use Only Domestic-Made Products (RFE). MORE

Embassy in the News: This month, Ambassador Said T. Jawad's spoke at the opening of the 'Hidden Treasures' exhibit in New York, discussed Afghanistan's lobbying presence in Washington with Mother Jones magazine, spoke to Politico about the upcoming presidential election and published two letters in the New York Times and Washington Times. To read these and other articles and op-eds, please click Embassy in the News.


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