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U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Honored for Service

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2004 – U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was presented with a Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award at the Pentagon today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld shakes Zalmay Khalilzad's hand after presenting him with the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award medal Dec. 14. Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and a native of the country, was presented with the award for his efforts in moving Afghanistan from post-Taliban rule through successful democratic elections and the inauguration of President Hamid Karzai. Photo by Helene Stikkel

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The award, presented by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, before a group of dignitaries that included Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, recognized Khalilzad's service as special presidential envoy to Afghanistan and ambassador from November 2003 through November 2004.

Rumsfeld said Khalilzad was instrumental in getting Afghanistan from the fall of Kabul three years ago to the Dec. 7 inauguration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"That has been an absolutely amazing three years," Rumsfeld said. "You have been an enormous part of that. And all of us know it and are very grateful to you."

The award citation praised the ambassador's accomplishments in moving Afghanistan toward an atmosphere conducive to successful elections. "Dr. Khalilzad led a historic and comprehensive national reconstruction effort in Afghanistan at the direction of the president of the United States and implemented the acceleration of reconstruction in Afghanistan," it read in part.

"Dr. Khalilzad contributed toward the stability and political acceptance necessary to the success of the recent Afghan elections, which were enthusiastically embraced throughout the country," the citation continued. "The first in 5,000 years of Afghan history, these elections represent an historic milestone in Afghanistan's progress toward becoming a stable and democratic Islamic republic."

"This is a true honor and I very much appreciate it, Mr. Secretary," Khalilzad said.

He thanked Rumsfeld for the leadership he and President Bush provided in putting a strategy together to liberate the Afghan people. In the process of developing that strategy, Khalilzad said, they did something right.

"The people of Afghanistan had suffered for so long. We were lucky we went at the right time," he said to Rumsfeld. "They were exhausted. They wanted to have a normal country and lead normal lives. You and (the) president and our troops deserve a lot of credit for giving them that opportunity, and they deserve a lot of credit for seizing it. And at this time I'd like to think of those who lost their lives in that struggle to free Afghanistan."

Khalilzad was sworn in at the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan on Nov. 24, 2003. When he completes his ambassadorial assignment, he will return to his role as special presidential envoy to Afghanistan.

An native of Afghanistan, Khalilzad was educated at Lebanon's American University of Beirut and earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan

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