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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs > Releases > Public Statements on South and Central Asian Policy > 2004

Accelerate Reconstruction in Afghanistan

State Department Coordinator for Afghanistan, William B. Taylor, Jr.
Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Washington, DC
January 27, 2004

As Prepared

Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to update the Committee on our program to accelerate reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Our objective in Afghanistan is clear: to help the Afghan people build a responsible, self-sustaining market democracy that will never again harbor terrorists. Our national security requires that we stay the course until we and the Afghan people have achieved this goal.

When I addressed the committee last October I offered my frank assessment of the hurdles we face as we work toward that objective but also of the progress we are making. At that time the glass was by no means full, but it was far from empty.

I am pleased to report today that while many hurdles remain, the glass is measurably fuller today than it was four months ago. Congressional support has been crucial. The supplemental funding approved by Congress last fall is helping to underwrite a far-reaching program to accelerate the reconstruction of Afghanistan – and that effort is already bearing fruit. The FY04 appropriation that you passed last week will also help. I seek your full support for the FY05 request that the President will send up shortly.

Mr. Chairman, we can usefully think of our effort in Afghanistan in two overlapping phases: stabilization and institutionalization. In each of the three tracks of reconstruction—political, economic and security—we need to stabilize the sector and then build lasting institutions. These institutions take time to build but are crucial if the Afghan people are to build a self-sustaining market democracy.

Political reconstruction

The Bonn Agreement of December 2001 and the Emergency Loya Jirga in June 2002 began to stabilize governance in the immediate aftermath of the victory over the Taliban. Hamid Karzai was selected to head the transitional government and a cabinet was drawn from the many factions of Afghan society. The Constitutional Loya Jirga that finished up on January 4 represents a huge step forward to institutionalize political progress toward an Afghan democracy—part of our objective.

The new constitution took shape through a representative process. It was drafted by a nine-member committee of Afghans last winter, reviewed by a 35-member Afghan commission starting last March, revised following nationwide public consultations that began in June, and ultimately ratified by 502 Afghan delegates to the Constitutional Loya Jirga – an event that was beamed live on TV and radio to Afghan households. About 20 percent of the delegates were women, and the debates included hard bargaining on clauses relating to parliamentary powers and the rights of minorities, including official languages.

At the end of the day, the Constitutional Loya Jirga approved the first nationally mandated constitution in 40 years – a constitution that Afghans can be proud of and that can provide a solid framework on which to build the functioning elements of a stable democracy.

The next big step toward institutionalizing democracy is the election scheduled for this summer. Registration is underway, with the UN reporting that some 500,000 voters – out of an estimated 10.5 million – have been registered to date. The UN is already behind in registration—a million and a half voters should have been registered by now. The Afghan government, the UN, the international community and the U.S. government are now straining to pick up the pace of registration so that the election can take place in June.

Economic reconstruction

To stabilize the economy, the international community has provided large amounts of foreign aid to jump start economic growth and begin to rebuild economic infrastructure. The Afghan economy grew at 30 percent last year and is growing at 20 percent this year—from an exceedingly low base. Since we last spoke in October, USAID completed a layer of pavement on the Kabul-to-Kandahar road, allowing vehicles to travel between the two cities in less than six hours. Survey and design work is already underway for the Kandahar-Herat stretch of the road and the topographic surveys of that section are 80 percent complete.

Also in December Afghanistan completed repair work on the Salang Tunnel, a critical mountain pass linking Kabul to its northern provinces.

It would be hard to overstate the significance of new roads in drawing the country together politically and economically and in offering Afghans a visible sign of progress and hope. Certainly the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat ring road has been a major priority for President Karzai, so much so that he escorted a contingent of delegates from the Constitutional Loya Jirga to the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Kabul-Kandahar leg.

Over the last three months the impact of U.S.-funded irrigation projects has almost tripled, going from coverage of about 55,000 hectares to almost 150,000 hectares.

These projects have begun to stabilize the Afghan economy, but sustained economic growth requires massive, private-sector investment, investment that will not come until the economic foundations of a market economy are put in place. Investment law, a commercial code, banking laws, commercial standards, dispute settlement mechanisms—these establish the economic and regulatory framework necessary for real growth. Some are in place, but sustained effort to create the investment climate capable of attracting foreign and domestic investors will be necessary for years to come.

Security

In the security sector, stabilization requires the continued pursuit of terrorists who oppose and threaten the Karzai government, the steady removal of local strongmen who harass the Afghan people, the disarming of local militias and the firm crackdown on narcotics cultivation and trafficking. We have made progress—disarmament is picking up momentum—but stabilization in the security sector has a long way to go.

We have seen progress towards militia disarmament in recent months. In November, Japan and the UN completed the first DDR pilot program in Kunduz, disarming over 1000 combatants and collecting a corresponding number of individual and crew-served weapons. In the reintegration phase approximately two-thirds of the demobilized combatants requested agricultural assistance, job placement, or vocational training.

The Gardez DDR pilot program was completed in December, resulting in nearly 600 combatants registering and turning in their weapons. DDR has also begun in Mazar-e-Sharif, and is scheduled to begin in Kandahar next month.

We have also seen real progress in Kabul. On January 15, ISAF coordinated the transfer of over 100 heavy weapons belonging to the Northern Alliance out of Kabul, including multiple rocket launchers, anti-tank guns and artillery. Over 800 of the verified 2000 combatants identified for the pilot program have been disarmed and demobilized in Kabul.

Even as we continue to stabilize the security environment, however, we must be working to build Afghan security institutions.

We have trained an additional 1,300 Afghan National Army recruits since October putting ANA strength at 5,780 with over 2,100 more soldiers in training. We reached a major milestone just this month: the capacity to train three battalions simultaneously. That capacity is essential to our goal under the acceleration program of reaching a troop strength of 10,000 by the time of elections this summer.

Over 1,200 new recruits are awaiting training in Kabul—an ethnically diverse group representing 26 of 32 provinces. These recruits are the result of a strengthened recruitment effort in the provinces. Ten new recruitment centers are partly or fully operational and twenty-four more are planned.

Our police-training programs also entered a new phase over the last four months. With new resources available under the supplemental appropriation, we are building seven new regional training centers for national, border and highway police. The training center in Kabul is already complete and centers in Mazar-e-Sharif, Gardez, Kandahar and Konduz are under construction and will reach full capacity of 750 trainees by the end of next month.

All-told, since last October, German and U.S. police-programs have trained over 2000 new national police officers and over 200 highway patrol officers. With the added capacity of the new training centers coming on line, this puts us on track to reach our goal of fielding 20,000 police officers by the time elections take place next summer.

 

Provincial Reconstruction Teams

As I reported in October, we are also working with our partners in the international community to deploy civil-military teams around the country to enhance security, accelerate reconstruction and extend the reach of the central government into the provinces. These provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) contribute to both stabilization and institution building.

In December we established four new PRTs – in Parwan, Herat, Kandahar and Jalalabad, bringing the total number of PRTs to eight. By the end of next month we expect to establish another four PRTs – in Ghazni, Asadabad, Khowst and Qalat. Over the last few months these PRTs have been instrumental in facilitating preparations for the Constitutional Loya Jirga, assisting voter registration teams, defusing tensions among rival militias and supporting DDR efforts and police training. We are examining options for expanding their number still further and encouraging NATO/ISAF to establish additional PRTs.

Embassy Staffing

Finally, we are well on our way toward building the team at our Embassy to manage the accelerated reconstruction effort. Ambassador Khalilzad presented his credentials to President Karzai on November 27, 2003, and is being joined by a team of senior advisors to help him implement the acceleration program.

 

Conclusion

Mr. Chairman, we are still very much in the stabilization phase—hunting Taliban and Al Qaeda, jump-starting the economy. Even as these efforts continue, however, we are starting to build the institutions—a constitutional government, credible elections, loyal army and police forces—that will move Afghanistan toward the self-sustaining market democracy that we seek and the Afghan people deserve.

As the President said last week:

The men and women of Afghanistan are building a nation that is free, and proud and fighting terror - and America is honored to be their friend.

As their friend, we need to assure the Afghan people that, this time, we will see this important mission through to success.

Thank you.


Released on January 29, 2004

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