Welcome to our e-newsletter Vol. 63 March 2009  

Intl. Community Gathers for Hague Conference on Afghanistan: Seventy-three countries and 20 international organizations gathered in The Hague, Netherlands on March 31 for the "International Conference on Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context." The conference, which was organized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and hosted by the Netherlands, was aimed at discussing how to leverage international will and resources to address remaining challenges in Afghanistan. MORE

New Strategy for Afghanistan Welcomed: Afghanistan's Ambassador to the U.S. Said T. Jawad today expressed his gratitude to the administration of President Barack Obama for crafting the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, which was released in Washington on March 27."We are very grateful to President Barack Obama and his administration for the efforts that have gone into producing this new strategy for victory in Afghanistan," said Ambassador Jawad. MORE

Former President Mohammad Daoud Mourned: The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan announced a day of mourning for former President and Prime Minister Mohammad Daoud on March 17. Flags were flown at half-mast and Afghan diplomatic missions around the world hosted condolence ceremonies for the man credited with turning Afghanistan into a republic. MORE

Ambassador Jawad Speaks at Harvard University: Ambassador Said T. Jawad delivered a policy speech at Harvard University on March 11 where he outlined a new strategy for overcoming security and development challenges in Afghanistan. The speech, which was delivered at the university's John F. Kennedy School of Government, addressed security, regional relations, development, negotiations with the Taliban, narcotics and corruption. MORE

New Learning Center Inaugurated in Bamiyan Province: On March 25 the Ayenda Foundation inaugurated the Ayenda Learning Center, a new school in the historic and picturesque province of Bamiyan. The inauguration ceremony was attended by Bamiyam's Governor, Ms. Habiba Sarabi, Afghanistan's Ambassador to the U.S. Said T. Jawad, Ayenda Foundation Founder Shamim Jawad, representatives from the State Department and USAID and a number of Afghan and international guests. MORE

Afghan Activist Presented 'Women of Courage' Award: In a ceremony at the State Department on March 11 First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Ms. Wazhma Frogh, an Afghan activist against sexual and domestic violence, and seven other women with the Award for International Women of Courage. The award recognizes women who struggle for human rights in their countries. MORE

Legislative Update: Congress was active on a number of issues related to Afghanistan in March 2009. Legislation authorizing Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Afghanistan was introduced in the House, Sen, Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) called for benchmarks in security and development, a hearing was held on reconsruction in Afghanistan and legislation was introduced to strengthen the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR). MORE

Political Counselor Haidari Speaks at Intelligence College: Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari spoke at the U.S. National Defense Intelligence College on March 19. "The government and people of Afghanistan are grateful to the military and civil men and women of so many different nations for helping stabilize and rebuild our country. Without their sacrifices over the past eight years, Afghanistan could not have been liberated from extremism and terrorism," said Haidari in his speech. MORE

Millions of Afghans Register to Vote in Presidential Election: The Independent Election Commission in Afghanistan (IECA) has announced that more than 4.5 million Afghans have registered to vote during the registration period, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports. IECA head Azizullah Ludin told RFE/RL that this figure does not include the 12 million Afghans who were already registered. MORE

Afghan Cricketers Defy the Odds: The Afghanistan cricket team's remarkable quest for a place in the World Cup has entered its final leg. Afghanistan began their pursuit of a coveted 2011 World Cup place as a member of the lowest-ranked group of cricket-playing nations. If they do win a place in the tournament it would be an unrivalled cricketing achievement. MORE

Afghanistan Holds Mineral Treasures: Afghanistan sits on one of the largest mineral deposits in the region, the country's mines minister said, urging foreign firms to invest in oil, gas and iron ore sectors. "In the field of minerals, Afghanistan is the richest country in the region, much more, hundreds of times more. Except for diamond, you have all the other minerals that you find in nature, in AGraveyard Mythsfghanistan," Adel told Reuters in an interview. MORE

Graveyard Myths: On March 28, terrorism expert Peter Bergen published an op-ed in the New York Times about Afghanistan. In it, he wrote: "What Afghans want is for international forces to do what they should have been doing all along — provide them the security they need to get on with making a living. That means building up the Afghan Army and police, which are only about one-fourth the size of the security services in Iraq. This will not come cheap, but the cost of putting an Afghan soldier in the field is only one-seventieth that of sending an American." MORE

In Other News: Afghanistan Opens Giant Iron Ore Deposit to Tender (Reuters) ... Afghanistan Triumphs Again as Bermuda Falls Short (The News) ... Afghanistan Announces First Hydrocarbon Bidding Round (Dow Jones) ... Young Afghan Rights Activist Selected as 'Person of the Year' (RFE) ... Afghans 'Embracing Democracy,' Says Report (AKI) ... Afghan Singer's New Refrain is a Call for Freedom (AFP) ... One Afghan's Own Private Exit Strategy (NYT) ... Lights on for Some Kabul Residents (AFP). MORE

Embassy in the News: This month, Ambassador Said T. Jawad's policy speech on the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan in Harvard University received coverage in the Washington Post and Boston Glode, and he was interviewed by Bloomberg on the new strategy. Political Counselor Ashraf Haidari published an op-ed in the Middle East Times and had a speech featured in the Washington Times. To read these and other articles and op-eds, please click Embassy in the News.


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