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Karzai Elected President of Afghan Transitional Authority

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2002 – Hamid Karzai has been overwhelmingly elected as president of the Afghan Transitional Authority.

The Loya Jirga, which is Pashtu for "grand council," elected Karzai with 80 percent of the votes. Karzai had been chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority.

"We congratulate Mr. Karzai," said U.S. State Department spokesman Phil Reeker. "We congratulate the Afghan people and all of them who have participated in the Loya Jirga for this important development." State Department officials said the meeting of the Loya Jirga is important in light of where the country was just a year ago.

In June 2001, such a scene would have been unthinkable, they said. The Taliban was in control of more than 80 percent of Afghanistan. Women had no rights, the infant mortality rate was among the highest in the world, people were starving and large numbers of Afghans were taking refuge in other countries. The al Qaeda terrorist group had training camps, logistics bases and havens all over the country.

Today, the Taliban is no longer in control of the country and in hiding. The al Qaeda cannot use Afghanistan for a training, logistics and planning base. U.S. and coalition troops and Afghan allies are hunting down and killing or capturing Taliban and al Qaeda operatives.

Intelligence gained by the allies in Afghanistan has been helpful in averting other terrorist acts around the world, said State Department officials.

Karzai has pledged to keep after terrorists in Afghanistan. The Loya Jirga, called by former King Mohammed Zahir Shah, selected Karzai and will help to build the new government. Karzai will serve for two years.

"We have had excellent working relations with Chairman Karzai and the Interim Authority, and we would expect to continue that close cooperation as the entire international community works with Afghanistan's own indigenous authorities to help reconstruct and rebuild the institutions that are so important for the future of the Afghan people," State's Reeker said.

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