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Laura Bush hosts a luncheon for the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council.
Laura Bush hosts a luncheon for the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council in the Family Dining Room located in the private living quarters of the White House Tuesday, June 15, 2004. Pictured with Mrs. Bush are, clockwise from left: the Honorable Zohra Rasekh, Mrs. Shamim Jawad, Dr. Habiba Sarabi, Ms. Shukria Amani, the Honorable Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Mrs. Joyce Rumsfeld and Ms. Patricia Mitchell.

Rebuilding Afghanistan

“Now and in the future, we will support our troops and we will keep our word to the more than 50 million people of Afghanistan and Iraq .”-- President Bush, September 7, 2003

"We've seen in Afghanistan that the road to freedom can be hard; it's a hard struggle. We've also seen in Afghanistan that the road to freedom is the only one worth traveling. Any nation that sacrifices to build a future of liberty will have the respect, the support, and the friendship of the United States of America ."-- President Bush,   October 11, 2002

“My vision of Afghanistan is of a modern State that builds on our Islamic values, promoting justice, rule of law, human rights and freedom of commerce, and forming a bridge between cultures and civilizations; a model of tolerance and prosperity based on the rich heritage of the Islamic civilization.”-- Afghan President Hamid Karzai, September 12, 2002

“We have conducted a thorough assessment of our military and reconstruction needs in ... Afghanistan ... (to) support our commitment to helping the Iraqi and Afghan people rebuild their own nations, after decades of oppression and mismanagement. We will provide funds to help them improve security. And we will help them to restore basic services, such as electricity and water, and to build new schools, roads, and medical clinics. This effort is essential to the stability of those nations, and therefore, to our own security.” -- President Bush, September 7, 2003

Afghanistan was already one of the poorest nations in the world before the Soviet incursion of 1979 precipitated more than two decades of conflict and destruction. In 2003, Afghanistan remains at or near the bottom of every socio-economic indicator used to measure human and economic progress, and the country's overall human-misery index is among the highest in the world. One in four Afghan children dies before the age of five. Afghanistan and Sierra Leone have the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

While Afghanistan's infrastructure suffered severe damage during more than 20 years of conflict, its institutional devastation was equally severe. In January 2002, we found a nation without a viable security apparatus, courts, or functioning ministries. It was a place where the basic structure of a nation-state had been obliterated. Compounding these reconstruction challenges, Afghanistan suffers some of the harshest climatic conditions and most difficult terrain on earth. Much of that terrain is laced with millions of unmarked landmines

U.S. Commitment

The U.S. government has provided more than $3.7 billion since September 2001 to programs and activities throughout Afghanistan. Congress authorized $1.2 billion in supplemental funding for Fiscal Year 2004 in advance of the regular appropriation, and the Administration has reallocated nearly $400 million from existing accounts to accelerate progress in Afghanistan. The United States is working to revitalize agriculture, provide security, expand educational opportunities, improve basic health, build effective government, and encourage citizen participation in the democratic process. At the Afghanistan Donors Conference held in Berlin on March 31, 2004, the United States pledged an additional $1 billion.

These efforts have borne fruit for Americans and Afghans alike. Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven and base of operations for terrorists who would attack the United States, and Afghans have returned to their homes from refugee camps. With the Taliban no longer in power, all Afghans are free of the vigilantes and judges who exacted harsh punishments for playing music, flying kites, or shaving. Afghans are taking the first steps to provide not only their own democratic government, but their own national defense and internal security as well. Thanks to road improvements, farmers can get the inputs and supplies they need and send their harvests to market. Schools have reopened, with girls attending and women teachers taking their places in the classroom once again. New clinics and hospitals are being opened, and women and children are gaining access to the health care they need. Children have been immunized against diseases such as measles, which had taken thousands of Afghan children.s lives.

Support for Democracy/Constitutional Government

"Today we are entering the last stages before the Afghan people can, for the first time in their history, freely elect their country's leader and legislature. Let us not forget that direct election of a legitimate and fully representative government by the men and women of Afghanistan as scheduled for next year was but a distant dream two years ago." -- Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, November 10, 2003

A post-Taliban rebirth of civil society is under way in Afghanistan. The successful Emergency Loya Jirga, or grand council, completed last year was followed by a vigorous process to adopt a new constitution. A draft constitution was distributed throughout Afghanistan in 2003, and Afghans from all walks of life joined the official Constitutional Debate. A Constitutional Loya Jirga convened on December 14, 2003, to discuss and revise the draft. It approved a new constitution on January 4, 2004. The peace process agreed to in Bonn, Germany, in January 2002 has been kept on track. Judicial and Human Rights Commissions are in place, and programs are under way to demobilize factional fighters in the countryside. Numerous radio stations are up and running, a journalist-training center operates in Kabul, and a functioning Ministry of Women's Affairs has established women's centers across the nation.

  • The Afghan Constitution creates an Islamic republic with guarantees of individual freedoms, including freedom of worship and rights for women. It grants equal status to minority languages.
  • The constitution establishes a presidential system with a bicameral legislature. The lower house will be chosen by direct elections, while the upper house will be evenly divided between representatives selected by provisional councils, representatives selected by district councils, and presidential appointees. Checks and balances exist between the branches of government.
  • The constitution also provides for a four-tiered judicial system with a Supreme Court.
  • In the autumn of 2003, meetings were held at the local and provincial levels to select delegates for the loya jirga , or grand council, which met in December to debate the draft and adopt the new constitution. More than 90 of the 500 delegates participating in the loya jirga were women.
  • Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in September 2004. More than 3 million Afghans are currently registered to vote, 35 percent of whom are women. President Karzai signed a new electoral law on May 25, 2004.
  • To support responsible journalism and the development of a free and independent media, the United States has trained 326 broadcast and print journalists.
  • Because Afghans rely heavily on radio for their news, information, and entertainment, the United States has supported the creation of 31 community radio stations and provided equipment and logistical assistance for Kabul 's first independent FM radio station, Arman (Hope) FM.
  • New courthouses will be built in all 16 provinces. Two have been completed, and five are under construction. The United States and Italy are working with the government of Afghanistan to create a National Legal Training Center for standardization, continuing legal education, and accreditation for legal professionals.
  • A telecommunications system that connects each of Afghanistan 's 32 provinces with Kabul is in place. This is a first step in helping the Afghans improve their ability to run their own affairs.
  • The United States has helped rebuild 13 Afghan ministries, including the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, and Education, and other institutions wiped out during the conflict and Taliban oppression. We are repairing buildings and record-keeping systems, and training competent managers and teachers.

Security and Defense

Afghan ArmySecurity and stability are improving as the new Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police grow in size. The central government is gradually but surely extending its authority throughout the country. And the U.S. military is helping the Afghan people help themselves through provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs), which carry out both civil-military operations and security functions.

  • Current ANA strength is approximately 9,800 troops. Thanks to active retention programs, the ANA attrition rate has dropped to 1.3 percent per month. The central government is projecting its presence by deploying ANA soldiers to at least 16 provinces. The ANA is a disciplined fighting force capable of conducting both combat operations and civil-military affairs in conjunction with coalition forces.
  • Fifteen Provincial Reconstruction Teams now operate throughout Afghanistan . The United States , the United Kingdom , New Zealand , and Germany each sponsor teams, and several other coalition countries provide team members.
  • The United States has trained nearly 14,000 police, and will meet its goal of 20,000 for FY 2004 . Five regional training centers (RTCs) around Afghanistan are fully operational, and two more are planned. Germany has rebuilt a police training academy and is conducting training programs for officers and NCOs. To date, Germany has trained 750 border police and 3,700 national police.
  • The Afghan government has made steady progress with pilot programs to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate militia members in Kabul and three other cities. The demilitarization of Kabul is well under way, and heavy weapons are being collected in Kabul and Mazar e-Sharif. More than 8,000 former militia members have been demobilized in six provinces, and more than 4,000 have completed a reintegration program.
  • President Karzai has begun to remove provincial warlords—including the powerful warlord-governor of Kandahar Province —whose control over large parts of the country complicates the security situation. Karzai has extended central government control to the provinces by forcing warlords to send customs they collect to Kabul and by replacing governors, police chiefs, and other officials who support the warlords. The United States has actively supported this process by building central government capacity and providing resources.
  • Although poppy cultivation and opium production continues to be a problem, since October 2003 Afghan Special Narcotics Forces have destroyed 31 labs and seized 32 tons of opiates. The United States will continue to support the counter-narcotics efforts of the Afghan government and the U.K.-led international program by expanding Afghan security services, providing resources the government needs to control its territory, and supporting the Afghan eradication effort aimed at reducing the 2004 opium crop.

Agriculture

Since 85 percent of Afghans depend on the agricultural sector for survival, the U.S. assistance program emphasizes agricultural recovery and rural reconstruction. Last year, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported an 82 percent increase in production of wheat-Afghanistan's staple grain-since the fall of the Taliban. The wheat harvest for 2004 is expected to roughly equal last year.s total of 4.4 million metric tons (mt).Afghanistan.s best harvest in more than two decades.

  • Afghan farmers achieved this abundant harvest in part due to 12,439 mt of fertilizer and 9,252 mt of seeds for drought resistant, higher yielding varieties of wheat. Both were supplied by the United States through private dealers to more than 100,000 farmers in 13 provinces during the fall 2002 planting.
  • To improve vital irrigation in this chronically dry country, the United States has rehabilitated more than 7,441 canals, underground irrigation tunnels, reservoirs, and dams by de-silting and cleaning waterways, repairing stone masonry, and building retaining walls.
  • Irrigation projects affecting 325,000 hectares are now nearly half complete, with 150,000 hectares already under irrigation.
  • Working with the Afghan government, the United States has rehabilitated 7,269 km of rural roads and completed more than 600 related road-reconstruction projects, including repair of retaining walls and culverts. This allows humanitarian supplies to reach the needy and helps the Afghans employed in the agricultural sector—more than 70 percent of the population—ship produce to markets and receive needed supplies.
  • The number of Afghans dependent on food aid dropped from 10 million to 6 million in 2002 and continued to drop in 2003 and 2004.

Infrastructure and Economy

Afghans are working hard to overcome years of war and Taliban rule, which left the public infrastructure in a state of ruin. According to the International Monetary Fund, Afghanistan is experiencing a strong recovery. Growth in the legitimate economy reached 30 percent in 2003 and is expected to continue at a rate of 20 percent through 2004. The recovery is most visible in agriculture, but includes the construction and services sectors, driven by the international reconstruction effort. Domestic revenue figures for the fiscal year ending March 2004 were approximately $210 million, which well exceeded the Afghan government's goal of $200 million.

  • At the direction of President Bush, the Kabul-to-Kandahar highway has been rebuilt and repaved—ahead of schedule. It is the first leg of a joint project by the United States , Japan , and Saudi Arabia to rebuild the highway connecting Kabul , Kandahar , and Herat . This is the most heavily traveled portion of the road and is critical to commerce, transportation, and communication in Afghanistan .
  • The United States has rehabilitated 74 bridges and tunnels, which are critical parts of the highway infrastructure in mountainous Afghanistan .
  • Highway-improvement projects provided Afghans with 23 million days of labor—the equivalent of one month's wages for more than 1 million Afghans.
  • In support of private sector investment, a new national currency –the Afghani —is in circulation, the Afghan central bank is on a sound footing, new central bank and banking laws have been enacted, and a new investment code is being prepared.

Humanitarian Assistance

Afghan RefugeesIn the largest refugee repatriation in the world in the last 30 years, more than 2.5 million Afghan refugees have returned home since March 2002. Another 2 million continue to receive assistance in neighboring countries.

  • Since September 11, 2001, the United States has provided more than $250 million to support Afghan refugees, returnees, and other conflict victims in Afghanistan and neighboring countries.
  • By providing emergency food, shelter, and medical care, the United States helped prevent a major humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan . Since September 11, 2001, the United States has delivered more than 400,000 metric tons of food to Afghanistan .
  • o meet the needs of returning refugees and help winterize dwellings for Afghan families, the United States has provided winterization kits, door and window kits, and other forms of shelter improvement.

Education

Afghan children in a classroomIn 2000, only about 32 percent of school-age children were enrolled in school, and an overwhelming 97 percent of the country's girls did not attend school at all. By the end of Taliban rule, 80 percent of existing schools were either severely damaged or destroyed. Today, the situation has improved dramatically:

  • The United States has printed and distributed more than 25 million textbooks in Dari and Pashtu for the 2002 and 2003 school years, contributing to tremendous growth in school enrollment. In 2004, about 2.5 million textbooks have been delivered to the Kabul area, with 13.5 million more to arrive in coming weeks.
  • Enrollment grew from approximately 1 million children in 2001 to 3 million in 2002 to an estimated 4.2 million in 2003. Accelerated learning is now under way in 17 of Afghanistan 's 34 provinces. Enrollment in accelerated-learning programs is now at 121,000 students.
  • The United States has repaired or constructed 205 schools, including primary schools, kindergartens, teacher-training colleges, vocational schools, and a university. Thirty-three more are under construction.
  • More than 7,900 teachers have been trained, including 1,600 primary teachers during the 2002 school year (74 percent of whom were women) and 1,500 in 2003. Thirty thousand teachers received teacher-supply kits for the 2002 school year.
  • Since March 2002, 50,000 Afghan teachers have been receiving a salary supplement in the form of vegetable oil, which is a valued commodity in Afghanistan . The supplement represents 26 percent of their monthly income.

Health

Afghan child at a clinicThe United States is working to improve the basic health and nutrition of Afghans, particularly women, children, and displaced persons. It is bringing basic services and health education to underserved communities, focusing on maternal and child health, hygiene, water and sanitation, immunization, and control of infectious diseases. In this effort, we have:

  • Rehabilitated 141 health clinics, birth centers, and hospitals, and 72 more are under construction. Provided operational support, including staffing, equipment, and pharmaceuticals, for 163 basic health clinics, obstetrics centers, hospitals, and feeding centers.
  • Provided funding to UNICEF to treat 700,000 cases of malaria and provide malaria-prevention education and supplies to 4.5 million people.
  • Vaccinated 4.26 million children as part of a larger international effort that vaccinated more than 90 percent of Afghan children against measles and polio, likely preventing some 20,000 deaths.
  • Provided basic health services to more than 2 million people in 21 provinces; 90 percent of recipients are women and children. Since spring 2002, 1.1 million people have been treated.
  • Provided, through CARE, a quarter of Kabul 's water supply, focusing on the poorest districts.
  • Rehabilitated 3,637 potable-water supply projects, as well as the municipal water systems in Kandahar and Kunduz, improving water quality, availability, and reliability for 700,000 people.
  • Surveyed all health facilities and services and supported plans to expand basic health services for 11 million women and children and to rebuild 400 rural health centers.
  • Funded non-governmental organizations to operate clinics that serve approximately 4.8 million Afghans.

International Cooperation

The international community has rallied to support Afghanistan with assistance for humanitarian relief, reconstruction and development, economic stabilization, health, education, and governance and democratization.

  • At the Tokyo Conference in January 2002, the international community pledged $5 billion for Afghanistan over several years, including humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. In 2002, the international community spent or obligated about $2 billion of the $5 billion pledged.
  • At the Berlin Conference in March 2004, donors pledged a total of $4.5 billion for the March 2004-March 2005 Afghan fiscal year and $8.2 billion through March 2007.
  • Since 2001, 29 countries have made donations to Afghanistan , including grants and concessional loans.
  • In Afghanistan , our coalition partners are contributing nearly 8,000 troops to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul – making up more than half of the 15,000 non-Afghan forces in Afghanistan .
  • Our NATO allies have deployed 5,500 military personnel to Afghanistan . On August 11, 2003, NATO assumed command and coordination of the ISAF. NATO had already played a significant role in support of ISAF, with NATO member countries contributing more than 90 percent of the troops involved at any time.
  • Nearly two dozen countries are providing troops under ISAF. It operates under a UN mandate, is currently under NATO auspices, and is deployed in Kabul and Kunduz. ISAF forces provide security in Kabul as well as a range of services including engineering, medical, civil-military affairs, legal, and security.
  • Seven countries have sent troops to support OEF, whose forces are engaged in the war on terror. Twelve countries have sent forces to support both ISAF and OEF.
  • In April 2003, the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's top decision-making body, agreed to significantly expand NATO's support to the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan , paving the way for NATO's first mission beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. The alliance is responsible for the command, coordination, and planning of the force.
  • UN Security Council Resolution 1510 of October 2003 extended ISAF's mandate to December 20, 2004, and authorized ISAF expansion for the first time outside Kabul .

Progress for Women

“The Afghan people face continued struggles in rebuilding their government and the nation. But the days when women were beaten in streets and executed in soccer fields are over.” President Bush, May 9, 2003

“No society can prosper when half of its population is not allowed to contribute to its progress. Educated and empowered women are vital to democracy – and important for the development of all countries .” First Lady Laura Bush, October 10, 2003

Afghan women reading and writingPresident Bush has made women's human rights in Afghanistan a foreign-policy imperative and a cornerstone of all U.S. humanitarian efforts in the region. Before the Taliban came to power, women were important contributors to Afghan society. Many Afghan women were professionals-teachers, doctors and lawyers; they had the right to vote as early as the 1920's. Under the Taliban, women had few rights. They were denied the right to education and employment and were not allowed to leave their homes without an appropriate male escort. Since female doctors could not legally work and a woman's contact with unrelated males was severely limited by law, women were effectively denied access to medical care. Under the Taliban, women were forbidden to work outside the home, which forced many widows to beg for survival, and women who laughed out loud in public could be beaten.

  • More than 200 women voted in the Emergency Loya Jirga , which established Afghanistan 's provisional government in 2002.
  • The provisional government includes two female ministers—the Minister of Women's Affairs and the Minister of Public Health. A woman is Chair of the Human Rights Commission. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently created an Office of Human Rights, Health and Women's Affairs, and the Ministry of Commerce has set up a department to help women establish their own businesses.
  • Two of the nine members of the committee that drafted the new constitution and seven of the 35-member Review Commission were women. Almost 20 percent of the 500 seats in the Constitutional Loya Jirga were held by women.
  • Under the new constitution, 25 percent of the seats in the legislature are reserved for women.
  • Afghan women are participating in the economy again. Assistance projects throughout the country have helped women establish businesses in traditional artisan fields, small manufacturing, agriculture, and trades such as tailoring and bread baking. Seventeen day-care centers for government ministries and offices were built to enable women to return to work.
  • Under the Taliban, girls were allowed only minimal schooling, and m any were educated illegally in risky clandestine schools. Today, one million of the nearly four million children in school are girls.
  • The Ministry of Education established accelerated learning programs to help 15,000 older children who had been denied education under the Taliban catch up with their age groups. Half of those children are girls.
  • The United States has established more than 175 projects that support Afghan women and many more that benefit all Afghans. These projects increase women's political participation, help build civil society, create economic opportunities, support the education of girls and women, and increase access to health care.
  • The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, inaugurated by Presidents Bush and Karzai in January 2002, has mobilized the American private sector to support Afghan women. U.S. businesses have provided computer education and leadership training for women working in government ministries. The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council has sponsored 17 multi-service women's centers offering vocational training, networking opportunities, counseling, child care, and social services for widows and orphans.

America's Fund for Afghan Children

Since President Bush announced America's Fund for Afghan Children in October 2001, the fund has raised $11.96 million. This money has purchased 4,054 chests of school supplies for 162,000 students, 750 teacher kits, 130,000 school bags, and has built new playgrounds for Afghanistan schools. The fund has also supported programs to provide winter relief items and health kits, vaccinate children, and rehabilitate clinics. The American Red Cross has processed nearly 800,000 letters and donations to the fund. For more information: http://kidsfund.redcross.org

The Kabul-Kandahar Highway: Bringing Unity, Progress, and Hope

  • The highway from Kabul to Kandahar is 482 km long. It is one segment of a ring road connecting the major cities of Kabul , Kandahar , and Heart. Thirty-five percent of the population of Afghanistan lives within 50 km of this segment of the road and will benefit immediately.
  • This major highway, which originally was built by the United States , had deteriorated to a nearly impassable state over the last 30 years and was plagued by land mines.
  • Because of the vital importance of this road to the economic, social, and political life of the country, President Bush directed that rehabilitation of the road be a top priority of the U.S. government.
  • The United States , Japan , and Saudi Arabia have committed to jointly fund the reconstruction of the entire road. The United States and Japan completed the first phase together, and the governments of both Japan and Saudi Arabia are collaborating with the United States in the second phase.
  • Because of the state of Afghanistan 's economy and infrastructure, nearly all materials and equipment needed to complete the project had to be imported, and an asphalt-manufacturing plant had to be built in Afghanistan . Mines were cleared along the construction route before work could begin, and workers had to be protected from threats and attacks.
  • The highway links diverse regions of Afghanistan and strengthens the government's ability to reach communities outside of the Kabul region.
  • The new road permits speeds of over 60 miles an hour and reduces travel time from Kabul to Kandahar from more than a day to six hours.
  • For Afghans, this road means lower transportation costs, better access to education and health facilities, increased labor mobility, and greater diversity of products and services through increased inter-provincial trade.
  • The highway will improve access to health care for Afghans by permitting quicker transportation to hospitals in Kabul .
  • Afghanistan is more secure because of the highway, since the United States and new Afghan military will be able to patrol larger areas of the country more quickly and easily.
  • With the completion of the first layer of pavement, the road was opened to traffic. Paving of the second layer began in spring 2004. In addition to final-layer paving, work on shoulders, bridges, signage, and drainage improvements are under way.
  • The United States will rebuild the next 329 km of the road—the Kandahar-Herat Highway —while Japan and Saudi Arabia take on the final 232 km. Work on the Kandahar-Heart Highway will begin in summer 2004.

Press Releases and Speeches
June 15, 2004
President Bush meets with President Karzai of Afghanistan
March 19, 2004
President Bush Reaffirms Resolve to War on Terror, Iraq and Afghanistan
March 10, 2004
The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council
November 3, 2003
Statement on Draft Constitution in Afghanistan
July 7, 2003
The Rights and the Aspirations of the People of Afghanistan
July 1, 2003
President Discusses Progress in Afghanistan, Iraq
May 19, 2003
Rebuilding Afghanistan
February 27, 2003
President Bush Meets with President Karzai of Afghanistan
January 13, 2003
Statement on Afghanistan
November 11, 2002
Afghanistan: Then and Now
November 10, 2002
President Bush Welcomes Highway Construction in Afghanistan
October 11, 2002
Fact Sheet: American Assistance to the People of Afghanistan
October 13, 2002
Statement by the Deputy Press Secretary
May 21, 2002
Radio Address of First Lady Laura Bush to Radio Free Afghanistan
May 3, 2002
To Restore Nondiscriminatory Trade Treatment to the Products of Afghanistan
January 29, 2002
Remarks of Mrs. Laura Bush at USAID Event with Interim Chairman of the Afghan Authority Hamid Karzai
January 28, 2002
Fact Sheet: Assisting People of Afghanistan
December 31, 2001
President Names Special Envoy for Afghanistan
December 14, 2001
Afghanistan Combat Zone Executive Order
November 26, 2001
President Welcomes Aid Workers Rescued from Afghanistan
November 19, 2001
President Discusses War, Humanitarian Efforts
November 6, 2001
President Bush: "No Nation Can Be Neutral in This Conflict"
October 16, 2001
Afghan Children's Fund Launch
October 4, 2001
President Directs Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan
September 28, 2001
Presidential Determination