- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2003

Afghanistan’s needs

The foreign minister of Afghanistan this week tried to raise the profile of his country in Washington, fearful that the nation that once defined the war on terrorism is now overshadowed by Iraq.

Abdullah Abdullah met with administration officials and talked to foreign policy experts, pushing for more reconstruction aid, warning of terrorist threats in neighboring Pakistan and calling for more help against the illegal drug trade.

“Now is not the time to walk away from the reconstruction effort. We need your help, as the lead coalition partner, to accelerate the successes we have achieved and build on them,” Mr. Abdullah said at an Afghan recovery conference at Georgetown University.

Iraq received $18.6 billion in reconstruction aid, while Afghanistan got only $1.2 billion in the $87.5 billion bill President Bush signed last week. Most of the money pays for U.S. military expenses in Iraq.

At the Afghanistan-America Summit on Recovery and Reconstruction, U.S. officials tried to reassure Mr. Abdullah of Washington’s continuing commitment. About $700 million of the money will go for security improvements, such as police and military training and counternarcotics efforts with other funds earmarked for economic assistance, according to John B. Taylor, undersecretary of Treasury for international affairs.

Mr. Abdullah yesterday complained that elements of the ousted Taliban regime are regrouping in Pakistan. They include the Taliban’s defense minister, Mullah Mawlawi Obaidullah, he said.

“Most of those people are in Pakistan. They are in their houses, and they are there to create problems,” Mr. Abdullah told a gathering of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“If the leaders of Taliban, who are inciting instability in calling for jihad, are allowed to do it freely, certainly this will have an impact on the situation in Afghanistan. While if they are being stopped at the first step, it will have a positive impact.”

The United States in 2001 overthrew the Islamic extremist Taliban regime, which was sheltering Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.

Mr. Abdullah also warned that poppies, used to make opium and heroin, are being cultivated at an “alarming rate.” The United Nations estimates that poppy production covers areas in 28 of the country’s 32 provinces.

“This is an alarming security challenge that, if left unchecked, could destabilize the entire region,” he said.

As Mr. Abdullah was making Afghanistan’s case in Washington, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman was visiting Afghanistan, where she announced an additional $5 million in food aid.

“We recognize the importance of agriculture in the Afghan economy and the need to revitalize the sector as an engine of economic growth,” she said.

Japan awaits action

Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato says his government is waiting to see whether the United States will comply with a World Trade Organization ruling against its steel-import curbs.

“There is no telling whether the U.S. government is leaning toward their removal. The United States is now making careful consideration,” he told Japanese reporters at a Washington press conference this week.

Japan, the European Union and six other WTO members complained about the added tariffs imposed last year to protect the U.S. steel industry. The WTO Appellate Body, the highest authority for WTO trade disputes, ruled against the United States on Monday.

Japan and other WTO members could retaliate against a wide range of U.S. goods, if the Bush administration ignores the WTO decision.

Mr. Bush is under pressure to maintain the import curbs from steel-manufacturing states considered critical to his re-election.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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