- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 12, 2004

Khalilzad campaigns

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan is touring the countryside as part of a get-out-the-vote drive for next month’s presidential election.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is not endorsing any candidate, just encouraging democracy in a nation that was in the grip of brutal Islamic extremists only three years ago.

“This is your opportunity. It must be seized,” he told a group of Afghan village elders, according to a dispatch from Reuters news agency.

“You must vote for the candidate you believe has demonstrated his or her commitment to Afghanistan.”

Mr. Khalilzad met with the elders in the village of Tarin Kot, about 20 miles north of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city and the former spiritual home of the Taliban, the extremist group that sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.

The ambassador visited the village to break ground on a road being built by U.S. Army engineers to link it with Kandahar.

He warmly greeted the elders and expressed optimism for the future.

“These are good times ahead for us, exciting times,” he said.

A Saudi Pearl Harbor

Saudi Arabia has been a strong partner in the war on terrorism since suicide bombers attacked its capital in May 2003, but Saudi officials still need to stop the “ideological support” of terrorism in schools and mosques, said a former U.S. ambassador to the desert kingdom.

Former Ambassador Robert Jordan said the bombings were “kind of like a Pearl Harbor” for the Saudis. The bombings of May 12 last year made the Saudis realize they were not immune from terrorism, he told the Saudi-U.S. Relations Information Service, a private group associated with the National Council on U.S.-Arab relations.

“After May 12, the Saudis realized that al Qaeda wasn’t some abstraction but was a real threat to them and their existence and survival, just as we realized the Japanese attacks made World War II much more personal to us.”

The Saudis have increased cooperation with the United States and are becoming vital partners in the war on terrorism, he said.

Saudi Arabia and the United States opened a joint counterterrorism center in the Saudi capital Riyadh, and the Saudis have assigned more personnel to combat terrorism.

“We’ve seen a lot of shootouts that have occurred in the last 18 months, where the Saudis really have gone after these terrorists,” he said.

Mr. Jordan, a political appointee who served from October 2001 to October 2003, said the Saudis still need to end the “ideological support for terrorism.”

“What is taught in their schools and what is preached in their mosques does affect our national security,” he said.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, who is leading a trade mission. He also will unveil a plaque to mark the 60th anniversary of the American liberation of Luxembourg and reopen the Luxembourgian Embassy, which has been extensively renovated. Tomorrow, he will present House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, with one of Luxembourg’s most prestigious decorations: the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of the Oak.

Gijs De Vries, the European Union’s coordinator for counterterrorism, participates in a forum on trans-Atlantic relations at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Wednesday

George Witschel, Germany’s ambassador for combating international terrorism. He meets State Department and Department of Homeland Security officials and participates in a conference at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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

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