- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

Afghan progress

The ambassador from Afghanistan has maintained a high profile for the country liberated by the United States in 2001, even as most public attention since then has been focused on Iraq.

Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad, who hosted the annual Afghan independence celebration last night, arrived in Washington in December 2003, nine months after the U.S.-led coalition toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Jawad’s task was to make sure Washington did not forget about his country, which is still struggling against remnants of the vicious Taliban regime and some members of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.

“I set out to accomplish four major goals,” he said in an annual report posted on the Afghan Embassy Web site (www.embassyofafghanistan.org).

“First to strengthen the Afghan-U.S. partnerships and accelerate U.S. assistance to Afghanistan; second to encourage private investment in Afghanistan and facilitate bilateral trade with the U.S.; third to further involve Afghan-Americans in the reconstruction process; and fourth to provide excellent service to all embassy customers.”

Mr. Jawad is proud of his work to encourage the expansion of the Afghan Congressional Caucus and his outreach to the Afghan-American community.

“Congress is, in general, positively disposed toward Afghanistan and considers the country’s future to be a major U.S. interest,” he said.

Mr. Jawad noted that last year’s high point was the visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who met with President Bush and addressed a joint session of Congress.

Complaint to Belarus

The State Department this week demanded an explanation from the Embassy of Belarus over the detention of an American diplomat who met with members of opponents of the country’s authoritarian government.

Belarussian police broke up a meeting Tuesday between Lyle McMillan, the U.S. Embassy’s political officer, and pro-democracy advocates.

Police detained Mr. McMillan for about 40 minutes “without offering any clear explanation, except for an alleged need to check his identification,” the State Department said yesterday.

“We have made our concerns about this incident known to Belarussian officials both in Minsk [the Belarussian capital] and in Washington. … We continue to press the government of Belarus to respect civil society and to uphold its international commitments to human rights.”

In Belarus, Galina Skorokhod, one of the dissidents who was scheduled to meet with Mr. McMillan, told the Associated Press: “It’s obvious that the police’s main goal was to break up our meeting, which they did.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called the government of President Alexander Lukashenko “the last dictatorship in the center of Europe.”

Rumsfeld on Chavez

The last thing Sen. Arlen Specter needed was televangelist Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee was already trying to dampen U.S. criticism of the radical leader, after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld complained about Venezuela joining with Cuba in attempting to destabilize democracy in South America.

Mr. Specter asked Mr. Rumsfeld last week to lower the “rhetoric” because the criticism was hurting his efforts to deal with Venezuela’s threat to discontinue cooperation with the United States in the fight against drug smuggling.

“I believe there is a window of opportunity at this time to resolve the disagreement on drug interdiction policies,” said Mr. Specter, who met with Mr. Chavez earlier this month in Venezuela.

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

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