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Myers Touts Afghanistan's Economic, Governmental Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Dec. 18, 2003 – Afghanistan is advancing on the security front, but now there is visible proof of advances on the economic and governmental fronts, said Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers during a press conference here today.

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Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answers a question during a press conference on the flight line at Bagram air base, Afghanistan Dec. 18. Myers is standing in front of an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II. Photo by Jim Garamone.

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The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Afghanistan and brought a USO Holiday Show for U.S. service members deployed in the theater. The trip also gave the chairman the chance to get briefings from commanders.

Speaking at the American headquarters here, Myers said there is a lot of good news coming out of Afghanistan. The completion of the portion of Afghanistan's ring road is an example of economic progress.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai opened the road connecting the capital of Kabul with Kandahar Dec. 16. The road is vital to the country's prosperity. Afghans using the road can now travel between the two cities in eight hours or less rather than the two or more days it took in the past.

"At one time, the ring road was an excellent road," said a Combined Joint Task Force 180 official. "It wasn't a four- lane interstate, but it was paved in many places and even where it was gravel it was graded and maintained."

But 20 years of war with the then-Soviet Union followed by a civil war among rival warlords left its mark, making the road often impassible, and slow even when it was usable. The United States volunteered to fund the portion of the road from Kandahar to Kabul and let contracts with local companies to build it.

In Kabul, the Loya Jirga is meeting to decide on Afghanistan's new constitution. A proposed draft provides basic human rights and protects women and minorities. The fact that it is happening at all is proof of the progress made in the country since the fall of the Taliban and the rout of al Qaeda.

"If you think of all the things that have occurred, we have a pretty stable country," Myers said. "The few incidents we have are actually isolated terrorist incidents. There is no big force of Taliban that's conducting raids. It's 'one- sies' and 'two-sies.'"

Myers said al Qaeda has not been effective in Afghanistan for some time. "That doesn't mean that tomorrow we're not going to have a car-bomb attack, but the security situation is dramatically improved," he said.

Coupled with the economic situation and the process to develop a constitution, "it is a great day and a great month for Afghanistan," he said. "As we get further down the road, the people can look forward to a future of much more hope for the people, their families, their children."

Myers noted that this will not be a short-lived interest. The international community is totally dedicated to this effort. Nongovernmental organizations and other international organizations are staying committed to Afghanistan for the long haul.

The USO show features actor Robin Williams, NASCAR driver Mike Wallace and Olympic gold medalist and wrestler Kurt Angle. They have traveled throughout the U.S. Central Command region.


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Click photo for screen-resolution imageJoint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers answers questions during a press conference at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Other U.S. general officers pictured are Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, left, Combined Forces Command Central Asia commander, and Army Brig. Gen. Lloyd Austin, Combined Joint Task Force 180 commander. Photo by Jim Garamone.  
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