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Election Tops Year's Accomplishments in Afghanistan

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2004 – Afghanistan's successful voter registration and presidential election topped 2004's accomplishments in the country's progress from brutal dictatorship toward democracy, a U.S. military spokesman said today in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Army Maj. Mark McCann, spokesman for Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, covered the year's accomplishments at a news conference.

"Probably the most significant event was the first democratic presidential election, and subsequent presidential inauguration, in the history of Afghanistan," he said. "This was significant in many ways, because it mobilized and united the Afghan people against the violence of the past, and gave them hope for a more peaceful, prosperous future."

More than 10 million Afghans registered to vote -- more than 40 percent of them women -- and more than 8 million voted despite repeated Taliban threats of violence and intimidation, McCann noted. "They voted to end the rule of the gun and replace it with the rule of law," he said.

The Afghan government's increased capacity to run its defense sector and an increased presence of trained Afghan security forces throughout the country were big factors in the rule of law spreading through the country in 2004, the major said.

Afghanistan's army now has a visible presence throughout the four regions of the country, with the opening of its regional command centers in Herat, Mazar- e-Sharif, Gardez, and Kandahar, McCann said. Contracts were awarded in July and August to build compounds for all four commands, scheduled to be complete by June. "The cost of each compound is approximately $60 million, and 75 percent of the 2,800 workers involved in the construction are local Afghans," he said. "When complete, each camp will house the regional command Headquarters and one of the regional command's brigades."

And with 24 of a scheduled 35 National Army Volunteer Centers now open, the ANA continues to attract and grow quality soldiers, McCann said. More than 18,000 "well trained, well led, disciplined soldiers" are serving in 28 kandaks, or brigades, in the Afghan National Army, he noted. "This accelerated pace will continue as the ANA surges toward its goal of a trained and ready force of 70,000 soldiers by 2007," he said.

The past year also saw a significant number of civil affairs projects designed to provide basic services and improve the quality of life for people throughout the country, McCann noted. The opening of eight new provincial reconstruction teams throughout the country brought the total number to 19 -- 14 of them run by the coalition and five by NATO's International Security Assistance Force, he said.

"These PRTs not only expand the capability of the government into the remotest regions of the country," the major said, "but they also go a long way to providing basic services that improve the quality of life of all Afghan people living in these areas."

In 2004, more than 9,000 people have received treatment from coalition medical personnel, including many civilians who received medical evacuation to military medical facilities for treatment, McCann said. Coalition veterinary personnel treated and immunized more than 13,200 animals and livestock, he added.

More than 700 schools educating more than 4.5 million Afghan children were built, rebuilt, repaired or refurbished or were supplied with equipment and academic materials, the major said. "The process of these and so many other reconstruction projects continues at an active pace in all provinces, supported by the work of the PRTs and other international agencies and (nongovernment organizations)," he said.

McCann gave much of the credit for Afghanistan's progress to the Afghans themselves. "None of this success would have occurred without continued support of the people and government of Afghanistan, the international community, and the will of free people everywhere who are determined to see Afghanistan succeed," he said. "As we look to the New Year, we are encouraged by the continued progress here in Afghanistan, and we wish people everywhere hope for a peaceful, prosperous 2005."

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