- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) — Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that America's financial assistance to its allies helps further the administration's goal of winning the global war on terrorism.

The Bush administration is seeking $18.8 billion to fund programs for the Department of State, USAID and other foreign affairs agencies during 2004. Out of this $4.7 billion are for helping the countries that have joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

The proposed anti-terrorism budget seeks $657 million for Afghanistan, $460 million for Jordan, $395 million for Pakistan, $255 million for Turkey, $136 million for Indonesia, and $87 million for the Philippines.

"Our number one priority is to fight and win the global war on terrorism. The budget furthers this goal by providing economic military and democracy assistance to key foreign partners and allies," Powell told a House Appropriations subcommittee.

Powell said Afghanistan would be one of America's top priorities because Washington believes that to win the war on terror it is also necessary to help rebuild the countries destroyed by the terrorists.

The United States is providing financial and logistic support to Afghanistan to help establish a national military and a national police force.

Both institutions were destroyed during the 20-year civil war and the country is now run by dozens of warlords with their own militias, who often do not follow the orders of the Kabul's central government.

The U.S. assistance, Powell said, will be used to "help establish security through a national military and national police force" and to "establish a broad-based and accountable governance through democratic institutions and an active civil society."

The United States is also funding projects to rebuild Afghanistan's road network, destroyed during the war.

"These funds will ensure a peace dividend for the Afghan people through economic reconstruction, and provide humanitarian assistance to sustain returning refugees and displaced persons," said Powell.

"People often talk about how things are going in Afghanistan — Is it going well, is it not going well, or what? But when you look at what we've accomplished in less than a year and a half, it's quite remarkable," he said. "We've put in place a new government that is representative of its people. We've put in place a system where people are selecting their own leaders."

The women of Afghanistan, he said, who were forced out of the national life by the former Taliban rulers were returning to "the business place, the workplace, the educational system."

The economy, he said, was slowly getting restarted and "this tremendous success" was achieved with the assistance of the nations around the world.

Powell said one of the key indicators of "whether or not the glass is half full or the glass is half empty," is the return of 2 million Afghan refugees from neighboring Pakistan and Iran during the last year and a half.

"They returned because they see hope, they see a future; they see what the United States, with its coalition partners, have done with the new Afghan authority to build a promising future for the people of Afghanistan," he said.

"And no critic can take away from the simple fact that 2 million people have voted with their feet to return to this country that they had fled from over the last 15 or 20 years," he added.

The United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to remove the Taliban regime that was harboring the al Qaida terrorist network.

Al Qaida, now decimated and scattered across Afghanistan and Pakistan, is believed to have masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks.

After removing the Taliban, the United States helped install Hamid Karzai, who visited Washington last week to seek U.S. support to rebuild a national army, as president of the country in December 2001.

Despite partial recovery, independent observers say that the situation in Afghanistan was not yet normal. There was no security outside Kabul, which is protected by a U.N.-mandated international security force.

Karzai also depends on American bodyguards for his personal safety.

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