Welcome to our e-newsletter Vol. 54 May 2008  

President Hamid Karzai Meets with President George W. Bush:   President Hamid Karzai met with President George W. Bush on May 17, 2008 at the World Economic Forum for the Middle East meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where they discussed a variety of issues including security and reconstruction in Afghanistan. One of the main issues President Karzai raised was the upcoming Paris Donor’s Conference set for June 12, where Afghanistan will outline its progress in reconstruction and detail its pending needs, including additional commitments of aid from the international community. MORE

Foreign Minister Spanta Visits U.S.: Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta visited Washington from May 12-14, 2008, meeting with senior government officials and congressional leaders to highlight issues ranging from the continued need for reconstruction aid to the battle against Taliban extremists. Dr. Spanta also met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, after which the two signed a joint declaration reaffirming the mutual goals of the U.S. and Afghanistan. MORE
Critically Acclaimed Hidden Treasures Exhibit Opens to Public: Lines stretched across the mezzanine of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, May 25 as hundreds stood in line to see the exhibit “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum Kabul.” Those who waited were not disappointed. The 228-piece collection, with pieces dating back over 4,000 years, features stunning artifacts of gold, silver, ivory, lapis, jade, rubies and emeralds. But more than that, it tells a story of bravery and secrecy, of the attempts of dedicated Afghans to saving their heritage. MORE
Afghan Artifacts Repatriated by Customs Officials: On May 22, 2008, agents from Customs and Immigration Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security formally repatriated eight historic artifacts that had been illegally smuggled out of Afghanistan. The artifacts were presented to Abdul Karim Khurram, Afghanistan’s Minister of Culture and Information, and Omara Khan Masoudi, Director of the National Museum of Kabul, during a ceremony at the National Geographic Society in Washington. MORE

Embassy of Canada Hosts Third Anniversary Celebration for Ayenda Foundation: Hundreds of distinguished guests attended a dinner reception to celebrate the third anniversary of the Ayenda Foundation at the Embassy of Canada on May 29, 2008. The Ayenda Foundation supports projects that enhance the welfare, education, health, shelter, safety, artistic and athletic abilities of Afghan children – especially girls. Speakers included Afghanistan's Ambassador to the U.S., Said T. Jawad, Canada's Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Wilson, and a special video message from First Lady Laura Bush. The event recognized both the work of the Ayenda Foundation and Canada in helping create the conditions for a more peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. MORE

Washington Press Catches First Glimpse of Afghanistan's Hidden Treasures": Ambassador Said T. Jawad joined Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Karim Khurram and a group of several hundred distinguished guests, experts, and journalists to preview the exhibit “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington on May 20. After a traditional Afghan breakfast and a round of speeches and presentations, guests were given the opportunity to view the 228 pieces in the collection, some dating back over 4,000 years. MORE
Ambassador Jawad Speaks with the Christian Science Monitor: November's presidential election should not affect US support for battling the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, that country's ambassador to the US said. But at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters on Thursday, Ambassador Said T. Jawad said he was concerned about Pakistan's efforts to arrange what he called a "separate peace" with militants in volatile tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. MORE
Afghanistan Highlighted at OPIC Middle East Investment Conference in Jordan: The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) held its first international investment conference in the Middle East from May 5-7, 2008 at the Kempinski Ishtar Hotel in the Dead Sea, Jordan. Khaleda Atta, Afghanistan’s Commercial Attaché to the U.S., and Murtaza Bahrami, Trade & Investment Officer, attended the event to facilitate dialogue on Afghanistan and share information on investment opportunities amongst attendees. MORE
Political Counselor Haidari Discusses Cross-Border Terrorism at U.S. Comptroller General Forum: Political Counselor Ashraf Haidari discussed Afghanistan’s key security problem of cross-border terrorism at a forum on “Enhancing U.S. Partnerships in Countering Transnational Terrorism” convened by the Comptroller General of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on April 22, 2008. The main goal of the forum was to assist the U.S. Congress and federal agencies by advancing dialogue on how partnerships can mitigate the conditions that foster transnational terrorism and by identifying potential strategies and solutions to the challenges faced in engaging in such partnerships. MORE

Shakespeare in Kabul: As part of the celebration surrounding the U.S. premiere of "Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul" at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C, a series photographs by world-renowned photographer Kate Brooks depicting an Afghan adaptation of William Shakespeare's play Love's Labour's Lost will go on display at the Harman Center for the Arts. "Shakespeare in Kabul" will accompany the Washington Shakespeare Company’s performances of Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra throughout the Spring and Summer of 2008. MORE

Afghanistan Signs Deal with China for Aynak Copper Mine: The Afghan government and representatives of the Chinese state-owned Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCG) signed a 30-year agreement on Sunday, May 25 for the right to explore and mine the coveted Aynak copper deposit in eastern Afghanistan. The deposit, discovered in 1974, is estimated to contain 11.3 million tons of copper and will provide a much needed boon to the economy of Afghanistan and particularly Logar province. MORE

Pennsylvania World Trade Center Showcases Afghanistan at Annual Event: On April 29, 2008 the World Trade Center of Central Pennsylvania hosted a forum entitled “Reaching Your Global Customers” where companies from across Pennsylvania were invited to meet representatives of twenty embassies from across the globe in an effort to connect local businesses to international markets. Afghanistan was represented by Murtaza Bahrami, Trade & Investment Officer of the Embassy of Afghanistan, who informed companies of the latest news on the business climate in the country. MORE

Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for  May 2008: This month, President Bush appointed retired Marine Corps Major Gen. Arnold Fields as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). On May 27, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, visited Afghanistan and Pakistan. On May 22, the Senate approved the FY08 Emergency War Supplemental in a 70-26 vote. The supplemental includes $165 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for FY08 and FY09. Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin D. Spanta met with several congressional leaders during an official visit to Washington this month. MORE

Time Magazine names Khaled Hosseini One of the Top 100 Most Influential People: Not many people write successful first novels. Still fewer are able to change the world with their writing. Khaled Hosseini, 43, has done both. His 2003 novel, The Kite Runner, introduced readers around the world to the people of Afghanistan. Four years later, he published A Thousand Splendid Suns—and helped his audience see the faces of the women under the burqas. MORE

“Afghan Aid that Works” Op-Ed by Minister of Rural Rehabiliation and Development Mohammad Ehsan Zia: In Afghan areas where the international aid groups fear to tread, the National Solidarity Program (NSP) is one of the country's most successful development initiatives. The community-led approach to reconstruction and to rural infrastructure has made achievements in empowering local people, strengthening democracy, and increasing faith in the Afghan government. Yet it risks being underfunded. Whether we believe that security comes before development or vice versa, one cannot survive without the other. In any postconflict environment, trust must be established between state and society. MORE

Political Counselor Haidari Addresses Brigade Forces at Ft. Polk, Louisiana: Political Counselor Ashraf Haidari visited the United States Army Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, where he addressed the First Maneuver Enhancement Brigade on “Security, Governance, and Development in Afghanistan." He extended the gratitude of the Afghan people and government to the brigade for deploying to Afghanistan to help secure peace there. “You are going to my country not just to protect your national interests but to help a people that have suffered the most since the end of the World War II. Afghans want nothing but peace and look forward to welcoming you and supporting your efforts,” Haidari told the deploying forces. MORE

Afghanistan Online: Blogging from Bamiyan to Badakhshan: In April, the Afghan Association of Blog Writers held its first blogging workshop in Kabul. Blogging has created an avenue in which ordinary citizens can share their lives and political views with others around the world. In Afghanistan, blogging has become a creative outlet for the anxieties and insecurities that come with life in the midst of the country undergoing dramatic change and reconstruction. With the recent expansion in the availability of internet and reliability of electricity, the number of Afghan bloggers has increased significantly. MORE

Taste of Afghanistan Celebrates Diversity of Flavors and Cultures: On May 8, 2008 the Embassy of Afghanistan celebrated the many flavors and cultures that have come to represent Afghan food in the “Taste of Afghanistan,” an event in which local restaurants explored the diversity of Afghan cuisine. This innovative event promoted Afghanistan's rich culture and history by highlighting the tastes, spices and diversity of Afghan cuisine. MORE

National Geographic Launches Afghan Children’s Fund: The National Geographic Society announced on May 20, 2008 that it was launching the Afghan Children’s Fund, which will provide grants for projects aimed at improving the lives of children in Afghanistan. The fund marks the evolution of the Afghan Girls Fund, which raised over $1 million since 2002 for projects including education programs and facilities for young Afghan girls. According to National Geographic, "By widening the scope of support, National Geographic and donors will have an even greater impact on the future of education in Afghanistan." MORE

Cricket Victory Stirs Afghan National Pride: Afghanistan’s cricket team took another step toward earning their nation a berth in the 2011 International Cricket Council World Cricket League World Cup with victory on the English island of Jersey against the home team. With their victory, the Afghan team qualified for the Division 4 tournament in October. "With this victory, the Afghan cricket team showed that despite the decades of war, and economic problems, Afghans can still be victorious," declared Afghan President Hamid Karzai. MORE

Afghanistan to Gain Twelve Airports in Five Years: On May 31, the Kabul Times reported that Afghanistan’s Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Hamidullah Qaderi has unveiled a new plan to build 12 new airports in Afghanistan in the next five years. The ambitious plan comes after an increase in profits from the Kabul aviation and transportation service. The service made $49 million last year and is expected to see a 20 percent increase in profits this year. MORE

Embassy in the News: This month, Ambassador Said T. Jawad spoke to the Christian Science Monitor about the U.S. presidential race and the impact on Afghanistan. Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Mohammad Ehsan Zia authored an op-ed on the National Solidarity Program. Ambassador Jawad was interviewed by the Journal of International Peace Operations. To read or watch these interviews, please click Embassy in the News.


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