U.S. Ambassador: Afghan Success Requires 'Sustained Commitment'
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 6, 2004 Life in Afghanistan, "the first theater in the war against terror," is looking up, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad noted here April 5.
U.S., coalition and Afghan forces, Khalilzad said in remarks given at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, have marginalized Taliban and al Qaeda remnants since the terrorists were driven from power.
However, the diplomat emphasized, ultimate success in establishing a freestanding, moderate and democratic government for all Afghans "will require a sustained commitment" in both time - at least five years or more -- and resources.
Economic progress in Afghanistan "is under way," Khalilzad said, noting that international donors at the recently concluded Berlin conference pledged $4.5 billion for the next year.
Some of that money will fund road, power and other infrastructure improvements, Khalilzad pointed out, as part of efforts to re-establish Afghanistan as the center of regional trade.
Regarding security issues, he reiterated that Taliban and al Qaeda operatives are now capable of conducting only weak, uncoordinated strikes against the new Afghan authority.
However, Afghan President Hamid Karzai remains concerned about Afghan political figures who "continue to behave as warlords." These people, Khalilzad said, "will not have a future in the new Afghanistan."
To strengthen the central government and take steps against "warlordism," Karzai recently appointed new governors and police chiefs in more than half of Afghanistan's provinces, Khalilzad said. He pointed out that regional leaders across Afghanistan - primarily in the north -- have turned in a cornucopia of heavy weapons and demobilized their militias.
All non-Afghan-government military organizations are to stand down by June 2005, the ambassador said. "This agreement must be implemented," he added. "We will work with the Afghan leaders and the international community to influence militia leaders to encourage implementation."
Although more work remains to be done in Afghanistan, Khalilzad said he is optimistic. "Governance in Afghanistan is better today than it was last year, and it will be better next year than it is today," he said. "We are on the right track."