More Aid Needed to Help Afghan Government Transition
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2002 Security is not the most serious concern inside Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today. Rather, supporting the new civilian government is now the international community's most pressing priority.
"There's one region where there is difficulty, southeast of Kabul, but throughout the rest of the country, ... the situation is reasonably stable," Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters.
To help strengthen the transitional government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. and coalition special operations and civil affairs are working throughout the country and in conjunction with nongovernmental organizations to improve Afghanistan's infrastructure.
Such forces are digging wells and rebuilding roads, bridges, school and hospitals, Rumsfeld said.
Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., gave other details of military forces providing humanitarian and civil assistance in Afghanistan. Franks is responsible for all American and coalition forces in the region that includes Afghanistan and Iraq.
In the past four to five months, more than 60 civil projects have been completed. Among them:
- "A tremendous number" of wells have been dug.
- A series of roads and a bridge have been built or repaired to complete a route between Bagram and Kabul. "A major route that provides for access all the way up to the northern countries of Central Asia has been completed now," Franks said.
- More than 38 schools have been rebuilt and opened by the Afghans with support of coalition members.
- Medical facilities have been opened in every large city in Afghanistan, providing medical treatment to scores of people who haven't had access to a doctor in up to 20 years.
- 600-700 metric tons of building materials have gone to villages.
An additional 55 to 60 such projects are under way. Franks explained that on any given day, between 100 and 200 "troopers" are working with more than 300 nongovernmental organizations in 40 or more locations inside Afghanistan.
Three coalition countries - Korea, Spain and Jordan - are running hospitals inside Afghanistan. Franks noted more than 100,000 Afghans have been treated at the Jordanian military hospital in Mazar-e Sharif.
"That sort of reminds me of the fact that up until last year, 26 million people in Afghanistan had not had much medical (care)," he said. "And women for sure had had no medical (care)," Franks added, noting that under the Taliban women were not allowed to work as doctors and male doctors were not allowed to treat female patients.
Rumsfeld said countries that have pledged aid to Afghan need to speed up the donations. He noted more than $5 billion dollars in aid was pledged for this year through a series of donor conferences. Less than one-third has been delivered so far.
"The international community is not yet delivering the level of assistance to President Karzai and his team that is needed," Rumsfeld said. "The ministers don't have a structure under them so they can actually govern the entire country."
The secretary said America's goal for Afghanistan is for it to achieve self-governance and self-sufficiency and not be a haven for terrorists. And he said he's seen significant progress in that direction.
"Does that mean everything is just right in Afghanistan? To be sure, it is not," Franks said. "But what it does mean is that there is a government in Afghanistan that is trying to move forward to the future, and I think our coalition is pleased to be part of that move."