A Rough Neighborhood: Afghanistan and Its Neighbors

Nov 15, 2002

Zalmay Khalilzad
Speech Given to the
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Conference Entitled: A Rough Neighborhood: Afghanistan and its Neighbors
November 15, 2002

I'm pleased today to be speaking here at the Woodrow Wilson Center and am thankful for the opportunity to speak on such an important topic -- Afghanistan and its neighbors. This is a critical point in time for Afghanistan and its neighbors.

One year after the liberation of Afghanistan, the images of people celebrating the Taliban's defeat are still fresh in our minds. It demonstrated that people everywhere seek freedom, peace and prosperity.

Afghanistan is on the right track to peace and prosperity. A lot has been achieved during the past year--but it still has a long way to go.

The consolidation of the new order in Afghanistan can benefit from supportive policies of its neighbors. Meddling in Afghanistan affairs, harboring Taliban extremists or al-Qiada, or using Afghanistan as platform for rivalry--will make the consolidation of the new order difficult. Regional cooperation in rebuilding Afghanistan can speed up Afghanistan's recovery.

Success in Afghanistan can in turn contribute to the well-being of the entire region. Afghanistan is poised to reclaim its past as a link between countries and cultures and to serve as a vital link for economic growth and mutual understanding for the region.

This opportunity must be seized. The United States is committed to do what it can for as long as needed to consolidate the new order in Afghanistan and to promote regional stability and cooperation.

Afghanistan has come a long way in the past year.



Political:
On the political front, the Afghans on essentially on track. Power was transferred on time to the interim authority formed as a result of the Bonn agreement less than a year ago. The Afghans reversed their recent history by holding a Loya Jirga--and on time-- and creating the most broadly representative government in the country's history. At that historic meeting a peaceful transfer of power took place from the interim authority to a Transitional Authority that currently holds power.

Several commissions have been established, including one that will help develop the next constitution, one on human rights, and a judicial commission that will help reform Afghanistan's devastated legal system. All of these were called for in the Bonn agreement.

Security:
Through a combination of US, coalition, and Afghan military power, along with the help of the vast majority of the Afghan people who opposed the Taliban and al-Qaida, Afghanistan is now a far more secure place than it was only months ago. We are concerned with security incidents around the country, such as fighting in the north and the spate of bombs in Kabul that occurred weeks ago--but we will not allow these challenges to deter us.

At the Tokyo Conference in January 2002, the international donor community together with the Afghan Interim Authority agreed that building Afghan security institutions was critical to reconstruction. Several nations have taken the lead on the various sectors of Afghan security and have made important progress:

· The Germans have renovated the Police Academy in Kabul that will help rebuild the Afghan police structure, they have trained 100 Afghans to train Officers and non-commissioned officers, and have helped develop the curricula for incoming students at the Academy.
· United States has the lead on helping the Afghans build their National Army and we have already trained four battalions of soldiers and continue to seek ways to expedite plans.
· The Italians are working on restructuring Afghanistan's languishing legal sector;
· The Japanese and the United Nations are developing a plan for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.
· The United Kingdom is leading the effort to end narcotics production and trafficking in Afghanistan.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), first led by Great Britain and now by Turkey, has played a significant role in improving security in the Afghan capital. The United States strongly supports ISAF and we are considering ways to create similar effects in other cities around Afghanistan.

Reconstruction/ humanitarian

Reconstruction is underway in Afghanistan, and Afghans are now seeing tangible signs of our efforts: boys and girls are attending school. We, and our coalition partners have built, rebuilt or repaired 600 schools. We have recruited and trained about 30,000 teachers and have distributed 10 million textbooks for students.

Almost two million refugees have voted with their feet in favor of the new Afghanistan by returning to their homeland. We have built shelters for some of those who do not have homes to return to and have helped build thousands of wells to give them fresh water supplies.

The United States has delivered food and medicine to those in need in Afghanistan. Over the past year, the UN World Food Program, with the help of the United States, has provided 575,000 metric tons of food to nearly 10 million people. The United States has also provided seed and fertilizer in time for the spring planting season. The United States along with other nations supported UNICEF's vaccination program which has vaccinated over 8 million children against measles.

The United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia, just broke ground on a major road project --the over 600 mile stretch of road from Kabul through Kandahar to Herat. Others are considering joining in to help reconnect the Afghan people and to connect them to their neighbors as well. Iran has already completed the road from Herat to its own border. Several countries, including the United States and Russia, rehabilitated the Salang Tunnel. The Asian Development Bank and Japan are going to do the road from Kandahar to Spin Boldak, Pakistan will connect its border with the Afghan city of Torkham and the European Union will continue the road from Torkham to Kabul. We urge these countries to move quickly and urge other countries who are considering projects to start now.

There is still a long way to go, however.

On the political tracks:
The commissions formed on the constitution, human rights, judiciary and civil service all need to be strengthened to achieve their goals. They face numerous challenges and need support to overcome obstacles. Those drafting the constitution face difficult choices, such as the role Sharia will play, defining the balance between the center and the regions, and choosing a political system for the country. We urge Afghans to codify the freedoms they have gained over the past year and to guarantee new freedoms for the Afghan people in their new constitution.

In the next year, the Afghans will hold another Loya Jirga--this time to ratify the new constitution and in June 2004, they will hold their country's first free and fair elections. A number of steps have to be taken before then:

· a process for establishing who can vote must be completed;
· civil society institutions must be developed; and
· the conditions for the development of independent media must be established.

Security:
Progress on the security front is key and success in this area will contribute to security in Afghanistan and as security increases, reconstruction and other projects can expand. The expansion of reconstruction, in turn will have a positive effect on security. Afghanistan still faces remnant Taliban and al-Qaida, multiple militias and inadequate legal, police, border guards and military capabilities.

The recent student riots in Kabul exemplify the need to address the most basic issues for everyday Afghans. The riots also indicated that much work needs to be done in establishing professional institutions, that can maintain peace and stability.

On the national army, we applaud the Afghans for their recent decisions that will help us achieve progress faster on this front. The Afghan Defense Commission met during my last visit to Kabul and made decisions that will be key to the success of the country's national army. They decided that the army will be under civilian control and the country's president will serve as commander-in-chief. They decided on a 70,000 man strong force that will be made up of volunteers. To achieve this in two years. If implemented rather than multiple militias, it should have a single army.

Role of Neighbors

Afghanistan's neighbors can play a key role in helping the consolidation of the new order.

Afghanistan's neighbors should cooperate with both their Afghan counterparts and with the coalition in routing out remnant Taliban and al-Qaida from border areas.

Afghanistan's neighbors can also assist by channeling their support through the Afghan central government or have the blessing of the central government for program in various regions of the country.

They should use their influence with regional leaders to urge cooperation with the center. The era of warlords is over in Afghanistan. Nothing should be done which impairs the central government's ability to provide peace and stability. The neighbors should not shelter al-Qaida or Taliban figures, meddle in Afghanistan's internal affairs or use Afghanistan as platform for rivalry.

The US will do its part. The United States and our coalition partners are committed to staying as long as is necessary in Afghanistan and until the new order is consolidated. Afghanistan's neighbors should also do their part as well. Afghanistan's neighbors have much to gain from the Afghanistan's success. Not only does success in Afghanistan mean an end to the instability that once flowed freely from Afghan borders, success in Afghanistan guarantees an increased potential for prosperity in the region.

The long-term stability and security of the country and its immediate neighbors ultimately rests on economic renewal. A key element in that economic renewal will entail bringing Afghanistan and its neighbors countries effectively into the global trading system. We must help Afghanistan and its neighbors rebuild the trade links that historically joined these societies.

Afghanistan and its neighbors share limited domestic markets, distant export markets, depend on a limited number of export commodities, and the lack of an institutional and legal basis for market based economies. Solutions to these problems that contain a regional perspective need to be found and implemented.

To enhance Afghanistan's trade, the country's physical infrastructure must be rebuilt--especially the country's devastated roads. Substantial investment in infrastructure is needed: the World Bank estimates that it will cost between $600 - $900 million for rehabilitation of Afghanistan's road network and electricity interconnections of its major cities with neighboring countries.

As I already mentioned, the United States, along with Japan and Saudi Arabia have committed to reconstruct the road from Kabul, through Kandahar, to Herat to international standards. Work has already begun and we will make every effort to complete the entire highway within thirty-six months. The combined $180 million we have pledged toward this project will be enough to complete the bulk of this roadway, but we urge others to join in on this historic project. We urge others to pick up the pace on other road projects that they are considering.

We look forward to the day that Afghanistan regains its place as a land bridge connecting East and West in a highway of mutual understanding, commerce, and peace. As President Karzai noted at the groundbreaking ceremony, "these roads are the veins of Afghanistan, and its blood flows along them." Once the roads are rebuilt, he predicted, they will become the "backbone" of a prosperous nation.


Conclusion
Afghanistan has made the right choice. Afghans have chosen peace and stability over terror and oppression.

Afghanistan's neighbors have an opportunity to make the right choice as well. Past practices of seeking influence by supporting factions and arming warlords produced refugees, narcotics trafficking, and poverty--Afghanistan's neighbors should remember that it was these refugees, this narcotics trafficking and this poverty that haunted them for two decades, at a great cost to their own people. Now, instead of competing for influence in Afghanistan through support of warlords, Afghanistan's neighbors to see who can do more business, trade, and other economic activity. Support for Afghanistan's economy instead of factional leaders and militant groups will promote prosperity rather than conflict for the region.

More broadly, Afghanistan can stand as a testament to the Muslim world that extremism and terror can be beaten and that Muslims too are best served by accountable governance, education and economic opportunity. That is why we helped bring 61 countries together to pledge $1.8 billion in reconstruction aid for Afghanistan this year. That is why we are working hard with the UN to help Afghanistan develop and institutionalize an accountable, representative, modern government. And, that is way we are commitment to helping Afghanistan stand up an national army.

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