For Immediate Release
October 12, 2004
From an Op-Ed by Special Presidential Envoy and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, Wall Street Journal, 10/7/04
More than 10 million Afghans had the opportunity to cast ballots to choose their president Saturday in the first direct election for head of state in the nation's 5,000-year history.
Three years ago, few predicted that Afghans could reach this milestone. Yet, with the world's assistance, they have seized the moment.
Afghanistan faced enormous challenges after the fall of the Taliban, including the lack of a legitimate political system. But step by step, Afghans are rebuilding an effective state and political system.
With the support of the international community, Afghans are breaking the back of warlordism. Customs revenues increasingly flow to the national government, rather than to the pockets of regional strongmen.
The days of those who have conducted themselves as warlords are numbered. Some seek to reform their ways by cutting their ties with the dying institution of private militias and looking to find their place in emerging national institutions. Those who do not reform will have no place of power in the new Afghanistan.
Afghans say that life is immeasurably better than under the Taliban, and that they are profoundly grateful for the help from the United States and the rest of the world.
With our help, Afghanistan will realize its enormous potential by improving the lives of people who have suffered for a quarter century, and will consolidate a landmark victory in the war against extremists and terrorists. This will be a major step toward the necessary political transformation of the wider region.