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Remarks At International Conference For Reconstruction Assistance To Afghanistan

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Tokyo, Japan
January 21, 2002

 8:10 p.m. EST

 SECRETARY POWELL: Prime Minister Koizumi, Chairman Karzai, excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.  Let me begin by expressing the gratitude of President Bush and the American people to Prime Minister Koizumi and the government of Japan for so graciously hosting this conference and to my dear friend, Madame Ogata, for chairing it.  Our Japanese hosts have dedicated many long and intense hours to working with the United States, European Union and Saudi co-chairs.  We're pleased it all came together so well and I'm especially pleased at the level of participation that we see in the room here today. 

 This conference is not about rhetoric.  It is about resources and about helping the people in need and so I'll go right to the bottom line.  On behalf of the United States, I am pleased to announce that the American people will give $296 million in this fiscal year to the Afghan people for the reconstruction of their society and their nation.  President Bush, the Congress of the United States, the American people fully recognize that this is the first contribution to what must be and will be a multi-year effort.  The Bush administration will work closely with our Congress to sustain our contribution in future years.  Chairman Karzai, we were all moved by your presentation, especially your unscripted preamble and I want to say to you, and through you, to the people of Afghanistan that the American people are with you for the long term. 

 On my way here, I had the extraordinary experience of visiting Kabul.  My stay was short, but my impressions are vivid.  Like many of you who also have had the dust of Kabul on your shoes, I was struck by the immensity of the devastation wrought by over two decades of war and five years of Taliban misrule.  At the same time, you can't help but be impressed by the eagerness of the Afghan people to make up for lost time.  They are absolutely determined not to lose another generation to war, exile and misery.

 In the two short months since the initial Afghan reconstruction meeting in Washington, DC, the United States and coalition forces have lifted the yoke of the Taliban regime from the backs of the Afghan people.  We have destroyed the Al-Qaida terrorist base in Afghanistan and a stabilizing international security force has begun to arrive.  Al-Qaida and Taliban leaders are now either captured, killed or on the run and we will continue to pursue them until the Afghan people are safe. 

 Only two months ago, when we first gathered in Washington, the international community lacked an Afghan partner.  Many doubted that it would be possible to bring the different factions together.  Well, it was done.  Under the leadership of Mr. Brahimi and with the help of so many other people, today a new multiethnic interim authority is in place in Kabul, led by Chairman Karzai.  And an agreed process is in place that will lead to a broad-based Afghan government, a government that represents all the people of the country -- people of every ethnic background and region, women as well as men.  There are other achievements that are just as significant and far-reaching for the future of Afghanistan.  Once deserted market places are bustling.  Music drifts into the streets.  Everywhere there are sights and sounds of a city of a nation returning to life.  As the funds we pledge today help the reconstruction process gather force and gain momentum, we must cooperate closely with the interim authority.  My government will ensure that part of the $296 million pledge we make today is devoted to help cover the interim authority's start-up costs.  And in accordance with the recent lifting of the sanctions against Afghanistan by the United Nations, we will search out and release to the Afghan authority, frozen Afghan assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 

 Afghans themselves, as has been noted, must take the lead, and are ready to take the lead, in the rebuilding of their country.  The interim authority, as you also have heard, has begun to define its priorities and there is broad agreement on the key areas.  First, Afghanistan must have a political system that is capable of representing the interest of all the people and that is accountable to the people.  Chairman Karzai and the interim authority have made clear their firm commitment to this goal. 

 Our reconstruction efforts must focus on high-impact projects that quickly create jobs, generate income, get money flowing through the economy again, rebuild critical infrastructure, and encourage the successful return of the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons.  We must help to restore the agricultural sector, the heart of the Afghan economy.  We must have agricultural alternatives to poppy cultivation in order to prevent drug processing and trafficking.  We have to rebuild the education and health systems, both of which are devastated from decades of war and oppression.  We must provide rehabilitative care and vocational training for Afghanistan's millions of disabled citizens, not least the appalling number of Afghans injured by landmines.  Humanitarian demining in Afghanistan must be high on the agenda.  Action in this area promotes public safety, helps to heal the wounds of war, facilitates the delivery of humanitarian assistance, opens economic opportunities for shattered communities, and creates a secure and stable environment where political and economic freedom can thrive. 

 Reconstruction cannot take place without a secure environment.  A lack of security is one of the main reasons why Afghanistan disintegrated into anarchy into the 1990s, leading to the emergence of the Taliban.  The mobilization of former combatants and their reintegration into society is a vital priority.  In particular, we must reach out to the child soldiers, showing them that the way to a better life is to put down their Kalashnikovs and pick up schoolbooks -- and we must provide the schoolbooks.  The interim authority also needs our support to establish and train a national army and a police force that are firmly under civilian control and meet international human rights standards.  Even as we move forward in reconstruction, we will not forget the pressing humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. 

 The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.  The United States government is providing approximately $400 million of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan above and beyond the funds we are committing to reconstruction.  Every one of these priority areas will require a systematic, sustained and large-scale commitment of resources.  Our shared goal is to help the Afghan people rebuild a politically stable, economically viable, secure Afghanistan.  An Afghanistan where terrorism and traffickers can never again flourish, an Afghanistan to which refugees will want to return, an Afghanistan whose sons and daughters can contribute fully to the life of their nation and to the world.  President Bush has made it clear that the United States will not abandon the people of Afghanistan and we, as an international community, must not fail them.  Today, let us all pledge the resources needed to help the people of Afghanistan build a future that is worthy of their highest hopes and of ours. 

 For hundreds of years, the people of the world met in Afghanistan.  Traders bought the essentials and the luxuries of their nations.  Ideas ebbed and flowed from one side of the world to the other -- north and south, east and west.  Civilizations and religions gave to each other and fought each other in bloody wars.  Let us meet again now in Afghanistan.  This time, let us help the Afghans in their search for a stable and prosperous future.  Let us build on the richness of Afghanistan's past.  Let us a build a new history that will protect and ennoble us all. 

 Thank you very much.



Released on January 21, 2002

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