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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 . C ongress 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.

Security and Defense

Security 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.


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.

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.

Humanitarian Assistance

In 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.


In 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 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:

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.

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

“People around the world are looking closely at the roles that women play in society. And Afghanistan under the Taliban gave the world a sobering example of a country where women were denied their rights and their place in society... Today, the world is helping Afghan women return to the lives that they once knew.... Our dedication to respect and protect women's rights in all countries must continue if we are to achieve a peaceful, prosperous world.... Together, the United States , the United Nations and all of our allies will prove that the forces of terror can't stop the momentum of freedom.” First Lady Laura Bush,March 8, 2002

President 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.

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:

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.

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