Afghanistan's president notes progress, problems

  • Published
  • By John D. Banusiewicz
  • American Forces Press Service
Although progress has been profound and his country continues to move forward, terrorists have stepped up their efforts to derail that progress, Afghanistan's president told the United Nations General Assembly in New York Sept. 20. 

"We have seen terrorism rebounding as terrorists have infiltrated our borders to step up their murderous campaign against our people," President Hamid Karzai said.

Terrorists, he told the assembly, see a successful and prosperous Afghanistan as a knockout blow for their aims there.

"That is why our schools and clinics get burned down and our ... teachers and our doctors get killed," he said. "That is why, today, 200,000 of our students who went to school a year ago are no longer able to do so.

"Terrorists are prepared to cross any boundaries and commit horrific acts of violence to try to derail Afghanistan from its path to success. They want the international community to fail in its collective endeavor to help Afghanistan rebuild," President Karzai said.

"That is why they decapitate elderly women, blow up mosques full of worshipers, and kill school-going children in indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas," he said. "And that is why they are killing international soldiers and civilians who have come to Afghanistan to help the Afghan people, like the four Canadian soldiers who were killed four days ago while distributing notebooks and candies to children in a village in Kandahar, or the Turkish engineer who was building roads in Helmand."

The Afghan president told the multinational gathering of the progress his country has seen since he last addressed the body two years ago and noted that millions of Afghans voted in the country's presidential and parliamentary elections.

"We have continued to build schools and clinics and create opportunities for employment to our people," President Karzai said. "Our trade with the region and beyond is growing very rapidly; industrial activity is gradually taking root. As a result, Afghanistan's income per capita has doubled since 2002."

In London earlier this year, he said, the international community endorsed Afghanistan's five-year plan for development, and he noted support for the Afghanistan Compact, which provides the framework for continued international cooperation in Afghanistan.

"Under the compact, we Afghans are committed to continue to work toward a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, with good governance and human rights protection for all under the rule of law," President Karzai said. "In return, the international community pledged continued and long-term political, military and financial assistance."

Afghanistan is a victim of terrorism, not a source of it, the president said.

"Military action in Afghanistan alone, therefore, will not deliver our shared goal of eliminating terrorism," he said. "We must look beyond Afghanistan to the sources of terrorism. We must destroy terrorist sanctuaries beyond Afghanistan, dismantle the elaborate networks in the region that recruit, indoctrinate, train, finance, arm and deploy terrorists. We must ensure that political currents and entities in the region are not allowed to use extremism as an instrument of policy."

Fighting terrorism effectively is also tied to fighting the country's illicit narcotics trade, President Karzai acknowledged.

"The menace of narcotics feeds terrorism and threatens the foundation of legitimate economic development in Afghanistan and, of course, in the region," he said.

He blamed the narcotics problem on a combination of factors, including the lack of a security environment conducive to counternarcotics efforts, the absence of a comprehensive program to provide farmers with legitimate livelihoods, and clandestine credit flows to poppy farmers.

President Karzai thanked the international community for its "steadfast and generous support to Afghanistan over the past five years."

"I convey the gratitude of the Afghan people for the sacrifices that the men and women in uniform from around 40 countries around the world have made in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan," he said. "We will honor those sacrifices by remaining true to our vision of building a secure, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan that will contribute to the progress of our region and security of the world at large."