Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Aiding Afghanistan

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan is urging Congress to approve $5 billion in additional aid to a country that was shattered by wars and terrorism but now is making major progress toward peace and democracy.

Passing the supplemental spending bill “would signal a long-term commitment to Afghanistan,” Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the American Enterprise Institute yesterday.

Mr. Khalilzad urged lawmakers to understand Afghans’ fear that the United States will abandon the nation, as it did after the end of Soviet occupation in 1989.

The country soon fell into chaos, with battling warlords carving up the nation, until the brutal Taliban regime gained power in 1996 and began sheltering Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.

Since the United States overthrew the Taliban in 2001 in retaliation for bin Laden’s September 11 terrorist attacks, Afghanistan has made steady progress that culminated last year in a free and fair presidential election, the ambassador said.

“Our message is clear. We are proud of Afghanistan’s success. We understand their fear of abandonment. … We will not make that mistake again,” he said.

Mr. Khalilzad called for a U.S.-Afghan “strategic partnership” that will recognize the South Asian nation as a “land bridge” to the Muslim nations of the former Soviet Union. He said the success of democracy in Afghanistan can serve as a model for those nations still stuck with authoritarian governments.

Mr. Khalilzad said the “appeal of these universal ideas” of democracy, human rights and a free market “is our most powerful weapon in the battle against extremism.”

“A U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership will facilitate critical access to an area where we are welcomed by its people,” he said, noting that the demand for English-language education is “unquenchable.”

He noted that the warlords are losing their military power, and many fugitive Taliban members “who do not have blood on their hands” are taking advantage of an amnesty program.

“The government has broken the back of warlordism,” he said, adding that the election was “a major defeat for the Taliban,” which had threatened to disrupt it.

Mr. Khalilzad predicted that Afghanistan “will soon turn the corner on the drug problem.” One of the top criticisms of the Afghan government has been its failure to prevent a resurgence in poppy growing after the overthrow of the Taliban.

“We have seen Afghanistan largely as a challenge, but we cannot claim victory so easily. … We need to remain engaged,” he said.

Brazil’s campaign

A Brazilian diplomat says he is confident of U.S. support of his campaign to lead the World Trade Organization, although the Bush administration has yet to endorse a candidate.

Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa, Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO, met on Monday with Peter Allgeier, the acting U.S. trade representative.

“I don’t think that anyone can be elected to … head the WTO without the will of the United States,” Mr. Correa told Reuters news agency. “Obviously, if I did not think I could get the support, I would not be campaigning.”

He is running for the position against Uruguay’s Carlos Perez del Castillo, a former member of the WTO General Council; Jaya Krishna Cuttaree, foreign minister of Mauritius; and Pascal Lamy, a former trade commissioner of the European Union. They hope to replace Supachai Panitchpakdi, whose term ends in August.

Jordan’s king to visit

Jordan’s King Abdullah will meet with President Bush at the White House on Tuesday to discuss democratic reforms in the Middle East and other issues.

They also will review efforts to promote economic development, fight terrorism and foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday.

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

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