- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 10, 2004

Afghanistan’s future

Afghanistan was the victim of both the Cold War and the post-Cold War, as it suffered under Soviet domination and then under an extremist regime that took power after the West forgot about the nation, the Afghan ambassador said.

The world, however, cannot abandon Afghanistan again without inviting more instability, which could spread through the region and threaten global security, Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad wrote in a recent Internet article.

He recalled Afghans’ expectations that the West would help their country rebuild after 10 years of Soviet occupation ended in 1989, but the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later changed everything.

“Afghanistan suddenly edged off the international community’s radar screen, reflecting the shortsightedness but justified by both declining strategic interest in the country and frustration with the continuing proxy conflict,” he wrote on the Web site, www.inthenationalinterest.com.

“Hence, Afghanistan became a victim of both the Cold War and the post-Cold War era.”

Afghanistan festered under the repressive Taliban regime that provided a safe haven to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network. It took the September 11 attacks to prompt the United States to retaliate and overthrow the Taliban and destroy al Qaeda bases.

Mr. Jawad said President Hamid Karzai, who is here today for the funeral service for former President Ronald Reagan, will meet with President Bush next week to “further strengthen the historic relations between Afghanistan and America.”

“The Afghan people welcomed President Bush’s decisive action against the Taliban and are grateful for the U.S. commitment to the long-term reconstruction of Afghanistan,” the ambassador wrote.

He said Afghanistan needs foreign aid to meet many challenges, from terrorism to drug smuggling.

“We must … prevent extremists from high-jacking the democracy and the nation-building process for personal gain or factional agendas,” Mr. Jawad said. “Cultivation and trafficking of narcotics go hand-in-hand with terrorism and warlordism.”

He called for a continued partnership with the United States and other nations to support the strengthening of democracy in Afghanistan, which he called “the very best antidote to extremism and terrorism.”

U.S.-Thai trade

A former Thai ambassador to the United States will lead his country’s delegation when U.S.-Thai free-trade talks open this month in Hawaii.

Nitya Pibulsonggram, ambassador here from 1996 to 2000, said in Bangkok that Thailand plans to take a slow and deliberate approach in the talks and not set a deadline for a trade treaty.

“Only when it will ripen for both sides will we sign an agreement,” he said. “I think it will take some time for us.”

He predicted that Thailand’s financial services might be the hardest sector on which to remove trade restrictions.

“We will open up only in services sectors that are comfortable to both sides, and it should be gradual liberalization, not a ‘big-bang’ liberalization,” he said.

Mr. Pibulsonggram said Thai and U.S. officials already have agreed that they might not cover all sectors of both countries’ economies in a draft agreement.

“Some topics might be ended at the negotiation table,” he said.

The negotiators have agreed to break into 29 small groups to discuss such issues as agricultural exports, industrial goods, patents and copyrights, labor, the environment, electronics, government procurement and customs.

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

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