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Zakheim Speaks of U.S. Support for Afghan Reconstruction Plan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27, 2002 – Building security is at the heart of rebuilding a terrorist-free Afghanistan, said Dov Zakheim, DoD's comptroller and point man for the effort.

"Unless we can rebuild Afghanistan we really will not be able to get out of there," Zakheim said during an interview with internal press organizations today. "We will really never be able to enhance the security situation. The two run hand-in-hand."

The United States is contributing $900 million in fiscal 2002 and 2003. "That is clearly not enough; we must be matched or exceeded by other nations," Zakheim said. "This will be billions of dollars over time."

Zakheim stated that the United States will provide support, but is not the driving force behind the effort. He said the Afghans themselves are pushing the program. "There is a determined president (Hamid Karzai) here who knows what he wants and he has a vision of Afghanistan as a trading hub for a newly opened Central and South Asia," Zakheim said. "We're not building that nation; they are building that nation."

Zakheim and other U.S. and coalition officials are raising funds to enhance the security and economic situation in Afghanistan. He and U.S. State Department official Bill Taylor recently returned from a tour though the Persian Gulf, where they got a commitment to contribute from allies in the region.

The money goes to projects to rebuild the infrastructure in the country. Twenty-six years of war has virtually destroyed the facilities needed to provide services. He said the country needs roads, dams, hospitals and the like. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said that "capital is a coward." In other words, businesses will not place capital in areas where instability may mean they lose everything.

"We've got to create the infrastructure that will make business want to come in," Zakheim said. The Afghans want to build a good, healthy, free-enterprise, free-market system.

To ultimately be successful, the Afghan government must attract business and pass the laws necessary for businesses to flourish. But more than that, Zakheim noted, to make businesses want to come in, "they have to know it is a safe and secure environment."

The comptroller is also looking for funds and resources to expand the International Security Assistance Force. Now only in Kabul, the Afghan government would like to see the force extend to other cities in the country.

Money also needs to go to fund the Afghan national army. U.S. and French military specialists are working with the Afghan government to train battalions of the new force. As that force becomes more competent, the need for U.S. service members in Afghanistan will decline, Zakheim said.

But no one should look for overnight results. "If you're serious you have to look at this as a multi-year effort," he said. "And we are serious, and the Afghans are serious."

He said there are already results. Overall, the country is becoming more stable. "Mazar-e Sharif, in the headlines not long ago as a war zone, has kids playing in the streets, shops open and cars driving along," he said. "It could be a town anywhere in Central Asia. We've got to convey to the world that not only is Afghanistan becoming more stable today, it will become more stable tomorrow."

Zakheim said the region and world would suffer if the Afghans' rebuilding program fails. "You would get terrorists coming back, terrorists moving out of Afghanistan as they did before, because it would be a safe haven again," he said.

He said the country would once again export instability. "We have to leave Afghanistan a place that is secure and terrorist-free," he said. "And not only terrorist-free but that is totally an antibody to terrorists -- that means they cannot thrive there anymore. Without reconstruction that will be very hard to do."

Zakheim said he will continue to work with U.S. agencies and allied countries to raise funds. He is working with Persian Gulf states to put together a reconstruction package ahead of an international meeting of donor countries in Kabul in February.

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