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Rumsfeld Impressed With Progress in Afghanistan Capital

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2003 – The situation on the ground in Afghanistan has clearly moved from "major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said during a visit today to the Afghan capital.

Rumsfeld said he is "impressed with the marked change" in Kabul since his last visit in April 2002.

The differences might not be so readily apparent by someone who sees the city every day, he said, "but for me to come back after many months now and see the progress, to feel the energy in the street, to see the kiosks and people active and cars moving around and young children coming and going, It's a measure of progress.

"It's a measure of the success that's taking place here and, needless to say, it warms the hearts of those of us who have wished this country well and look forward to the continued progress of the Afghan people," he added.

During a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Rumsfeld said a sure sign of progress in Afghanistan is that the people are "voting with their feet" and returning to the country. "They are saying that the circumstance here is something they want to be a part of," the secretary said. "And that's a good thing."

Rumsfeld lauded the efforts of three provincial reconstruction teams that have been set up to coordinate regional humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. The teams contribute to security and "to the lives of the people in those provinces by way of hospitals or schools or medicines or roads."

They've reportedly been well-received, and, Rumsfeld said, he hopes to see more established in other areas.

There are, however, still pockets of resistance throughout the country. The American and Afghan governments continue to work together, the secretary noted, to "see that any areas where there is resistance to this government and to the coalition forces will be dealt with promptly and efficiently."

Karzai disputed a reporter's suggestion that he should be in firmer control in areas of Afghanistan far removed from Kabul.

"Afghanistan has gone through 30 years of anarchy, war and instability," he said. "The consequence of that is a considerable weakening of the institutions that govern any state."

He noted that the civil administrators who helped govern Afghanistan 30 years earlier were elderly now, and no younger government officials had gotten any experience or training in the interim.

"Have we achieved something from last December till today? Yes," he said. "Is it enough? No."

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