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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of International Organization Affairs > Reports to Congress, U.S. Votes, Fact Sheets, Testimony > Other Remarks > 2002

Commitment to the People of Afghanistan

Richard S. Williamson, U.S. Alternate Representative to the United Nations
Statement During the Fifty-seventh Session of the UN General Assembly, in Plenary Session
New York, New York
December 6, 2002

Released by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations

Mr. President, the United States thanks the Secretary Generalís Special Representative to Afghanistan, Ambassador Lakdar Brahimi, for his leadership and good work. This General Assembly celebration of the first anniversary of the Bonn Agreement is a clear reflection of the international community's continued commitment to the people of Afghanistan.

The United States agrees that this is an occasion for the United Nations and its member states not only to celebrate the concrete achievements of the past year, but more importantly, to rededicate ourselves to the many tasks that remain to be done. Rebuilding a nation devastated by a quarter century of conflict, immense population movements, and natural disasters remains a daunting task -- and will remain so for many years to come. Over the past year the roadmap of the Bonn Agreement has provided an outline of goals, guideposts, and timelines, which have helped keep the process on track.

Operation Enduring Freedom, led by the United States, gave the Afghan people the chance to rid themselves of a terrorist parasite as well as a repressive government whose stock-in-trade was violating the most basic human rights. The Emergency Loya Jirga, the selection of the most broadly representative government Afghanistan has ever had, the beginning of reconstruction, the return of women to visible roles in Afghanistan, the opening of schools to boys and girls, and the launching of an enormous program of humanitarian relief represent real achievements. Over 2 million refugees have given a clear vote of confidence in the new Afghanistan by their return to their homes in Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, Afghanistan's recovery is incomplete and fragile. We must not let flounder what, together, we have accomplished so far. The immediate humanitarian crisis faced last fall has receded, but winter is upon us again and the international community must ensure that those most in need are cared for.

And there are those who seek to return Afghanistan to chaos: we saw vivid and disturbing evidence of their existence in the attempted assassination of President Karzai, continued attacks on coalition forces and international aid workers, and a series of bombings in Kabul that killed innocent civilians. Full success in combating terrorism is an essential precondition to Afghanistan's long-term stability, and the coalition forces of Operation Enduring Freedom continue to hunt down and destroy the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Mr. President, the United States believes that the United Nations and its member states share with Afghan people the common goal of seeing Afghanistan resume its proper place in the international community, enjoying a stable, broadly representative government, a government that respects human rights for all of its citizens without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, or gender, a nation at peace with itself and its neighbors, a nation that offers an economically sound and prosperous future for its people, an Afghanistan that never again becomes a haven for international terrorism. In order to turn that shared goal into reality, the international community must intensify its partnership with the Afghan government and find ways to increase its reach and effectiveness.

In that context, the international community must make the transition from humanitarian assistance to reconstruction. We should focus on projects that will help Afghans help themselves. We must fully explore the role and expertise of the private sector, and be prepared to shift assistance when the needs dictate. Only through reconstruction and broad education and effective development can Afghanistan break the hold of opium poppy production on its people. Illicit drugs must be eradicated.

The international community must dedicate itself to redoubling efforts and find a way to devote more resources to reconstruction, while continuing to meet ongoing humanitarian needs. The United States' financial contributions already have far exceeded those pledged at the Tokyo conference eleven months ago. Through the end of September 2002, the U.S. committed $568.6 million to assist Afghanistan. Many other donors have come through with generous contributions as well, although significant unmet Tokyo commitments remain.

However, the hard reality is that Afghanistan's requirements are proving much larger than were anticipated in Tokyo. Moreover, the severity of Afghanistan's humanitarian emergency absorbed a much higher percentage of the funds pledged in Tokyo than the donor community anticipated.

Mr. President, on September 12, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Japan joined the United States in announcing joint support for the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat highway, and we broke ground on the project on November 10, less than two months later. The United States pledged $80 million, the Japanese, $50 million, and the Government of Saudi Arabia, $30 million. Yet even such large sums will not cover the total cost. We look to others to join us in this worthwhile project to link traditional trade routes within Afghanistan and the region, as the Asian Development Bank and Japan are doing on the Spin-Boldak-Kandahar road and the European Community and others are doing on the Torkham-Kabul road.

Large-scale projects increase efficiency of trade and commerce, provide desperately needed jobs, provide a clear symbol of national unity, and knit together the region --strengthening Afghanistan as a land-bridge between Central Asia and the world's sea lanes. However, such large-scale projects must not come at the expense of other necessary assistance in education, agriculture, and health, particularly that which most directly supports the Transitional Authority and President Karzai. The Afghan people must begin to see tangible and visible signs of reconstruction throughout Afghanistan, and the international community must do its part to make that vision a reality.

We should be dedicated to an accelerated reconstruction process, the rebuilding of Afghanistan's security institutions, effective aid that meets Afghans humanitarian needs, and full funding of Afghanistan's recurring budget. Achievement of these goals will mean that the international community is living up to its commitment to the people of Afghanistan. Mr. President, while noting that the United States is not a party to the Ottawa Convention, the United States joins consensus in supporting the draft resolutions on Afghanistan.

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