- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

First front

The Afghan ambassador says his country became the “first front” in the war on terrorism in 2001, when U.S.-led forces routed a brutal regime that sheltered the mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Ambassador Said T. Jawad proudly discussed the successes Afghans have achieved and candidly acknowledged the problems that remain after the 2001 liberation of his country in a speech this week to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attacks that killed about 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on a hijacked airliner that passengers forced down in a field in Pennsylvania.

“Afghans today enjoy more political, economic and social rights than at any time in the history of the country,” he told the World Affairs Council of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday.

Mr. Jawad added that Afghans are “truly grateful” for the overthrow of the Taliban, which provided a safe haven to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network and imposed a medieval brand of Islam that treated women as chattel and controlled the population through fear.

“We value the sacrifice of American soldiers, fighting alongside Afghans to defend freedom and to make Afghanistan, America and the world a safer place,” he said.

Mr. Jawad denounced resurgent Taliban forces that operate from remote areas in neighboring Pakistan and in some of Afghanistan’s “restive southern provinces,” where people are “afraid and disillusioned” because the central government is still too weak to provide security and public services there. But, he added, “there is no popular sympathy” for the Taliban.

“The enemies of peace see the positive changes in Afghanistan, the new businesses, the exchange of commerce, a populace that is free to express their minds and children who are going to school in record numbers,” he said.

“They realize that their days are numbered and their influence is steadily diminishing. The terrorists employ fear and intimidation in order to distance the people from the government and coalition forces. They kill teachers, doctors and those who are helping Afghanistan’s most vulnerable people.”

More than 10,000 Afghan and coalition troops are responding to the Taliban raids in Operation Mountain Thrust, which Mr. Jawad described as the “largest offensive” since Afghanistan’s liberation.

“However, large-scale, periodic military sweeps will not completely eliminate the terrorist infiltrations,” he warned. “Eventually, the soldiers pull back, and the terrorists crawl out of their hiding places to renew their campaign of fear and intimidation.”

Mr. Jawad said his government is committed to tackling the re-emergence of the opium trade by persuading farmers to abandon the cultivation of poppies and grow alternative crops. Terrorists also take advantage of the illegal drug trade to raise funds for their operations.

“Opium production is the result of 30 years of war and destruction,” Mr. Jawad said. “If a poor farmer’s choice is between life and death, he chooses life, even if his action is illegal. Give farmers an alternative, and they will take the legal and dignified option.

“Forceful poppy eradication … will alienate the poor farmers and strengthen narco-traffickers.”

Albania hires Ridge

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has hired Tom Ridge, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to help his country — one of the poorest in Europe — get into NATO, fight organized crime and attract investments.

Mr. Berisha announced the appointment this week in Tirana, the Albanian capital, with Mr. Ridge at his side. The prime minister did not reveal the financial details of Mr. Ridge’s contract.

Mr. Ridge said: “It is exciting to work with a government that is enthusiastically and passionately committed to effect the changes necessary to become a member of NATO and a strong global partner in the global economy.”

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

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