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Afghanistan: Foreign Minister Appeals For Increased Aid

By Stephanie Wells

Abdullah Abdullah, the foreign minister of Afghanistan, is in Washington to urge the United States and other Western nations to live up to their commitments and deliver economic assistance to his country.

Washington, 15 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah says further commitments from the international community are needed to maintain stability within the country and give credibility to the government of Afghanistan.

Abdullah made the remarks yesterday during a briefing at RFE/RL headquarters in Washington on various topics concerning Afghanistan. He spoke at length on reconstruction efforts and prospects for elections in Afghanistan. General elections are scheduled to take place in the war-torn country in just under a year.

Abdullah said there were unique problems involved in running elections in Afghanistan. "The issues which are not directly linked to elections in normal circumstances, are linked to the general elections in our case. For example, means of communication, access to the areas. These issues are not being dealt with in [the] electoral process," he said.

Abdullah expressed concern about accessing many remote and mountainous regions in the country to run fair elections, as well as the difficulties of educating the people about various candidates.

He also emphasized the importance of increased and continuing investment in Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts, saying, "Our great hope is on the United States as the great friend of Afghanistan, as well as the rest of the international community, to engage in a much, much more serious manner with Afghanistan."

Abdullah said that the Afghan people still have trust in the Transitional Administration and its chairman, Hamid Karzai, elected last year in an emergency Loya Jirga. But the foreign minister added that without employment, electricity, or security in much of the country, that support could soon disappear.

"They are giving us time. How long? This is my point. The international community should build the capacity in the central government in order to deal with the core issues of security and reconstruction in [the] economic sector," Abdullah said.

Abdullah was asked about Afghan relations with Pakistan, which have been strained in recent weeks due to alleged Pakistani incursions along the Pakistani-Afghan border. Afghan militia clashed with Pakistani border guards in a mountainous region of Afghanistan where the borders have never been properly demarcated. The clashes also led to protests in Kandahar last week, and the ransacking of the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul. Pakistan has denied the incursions took place.

Abdullah emphasized that Afghanistan would not give up any territory to an occupying force, as this would destabilize the region and threaten the sovereignty of Afghanistan.

"I can assure you that Afghans will not allow an inch of their soil under occupation by any means. There are reports, there are events, there are incursions, there are incursions being pushed back by the people of Afghanistan. There is a sense of understanding in Afghanistan which never prevailed, a sense of tolerance which never prevailed in any government in Afghanistan in the past in regards to these issues. But those issues will not be tolerated. It is against the stability of Afghanistan," Abdullah said.

He added: "There is a good level of dialogue in the highest levels between both countries, but there are areas that there will be no compromise in. You know this from learning about the history of Afghanistan and those mistakes of the past shouldn't be repeated by any of our neighboring countries."

Funding from countries around the world has mostly gone to humanitarian causes in Afghanistan, Abdullah said. He said more was needed to effect long-term development in Afghanistan, and warned that without such assistance, the country could again become a breeding ground for terrorism.

"If we are not able to build the infrastructure, the necessary institutions, the legal framework, what will be the future of Afghanistan? Again, an underdeveloped, illiterate population with lots of problems. And again, a ground for instability," he said.

Abdullah called on the international community, including the United States, to do more to ensure that Afghanistan did not become "a failed state."

After the briefing, the minister met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to ask for continued U.S. support. The Bush administration has pledged in the past to do all it can to help with Afghanistan's reconstruction.

The United States provided about $1 billion to Afghanistan during the past year. The World Bank estimates Afghanistan needs between $15 billion to $20 billion over the next five years in reconstruction assistance.

The United States attacked Afghanistan in 2001 to overthrow the Taliban regime, which had given shelter to Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden. The organization was blamed by Washington for carrying out the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in America that killed some 3,000 people.