Opening Remarks by Colin L. Powell the U.S. Secretary to Afghan Reconstruction Steering Group

Secretary Colin L. Powell
World Bank Annex Auditorium
Washington, DC

Thank you very much, Jim, and thank you for hosting this very important meeting. I’d like to thank all of you who came such long distances to be here with us, and especially for those who area the head table.

Mr. Minister, it’s a special pleasure to have you here representing your people and your government. It is essential that you be in the center of the table because you’re going to be the center of our activity. As you will see as we go forward, we want everything to be seen as going through and essentially coming from the efforts of your government and your leadership. So it’s a great pleasure to have you here.

The participation here today of the representatives of some 60 nations, key international organizations, multilateral banks, is a clear indication of the world community’s continuing commitment to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Before we discuss the enormous challenges that remain in Afghanistan, I think it is wise, it is important, to reflect on the enormous progress that has been achieved to date by our concerted support and by the determination of the Afghan
people.

This time one year ago the dual tyranny of the terrorists and the Taliban held sway in Afghanistan. Today their grip on power is broken forever. Last December in Bonn, with the support of the international community, Afghanistan adopted a roadmap to constitutional government, and in June the Afghan people passed a major milestone along that road. We all watched with admiration as they held a Loyal Jirga, which resulted in the creation of a transitional administration that is the most broadly representative authority in the history of that country.

One year ago there was every reason to think that the next generation of Afghans would know the same war, the same misery that their parents had known. But today, with the help of the world community, with the help of all of you here, the people of Afghanistan are beginning to recover and to rebuild. They are seeing the first tangible signs of our reconstruction effort: the massive international de-mining effort has resumed; boys and girls have returned to school; women who just one year ago were prisoners in their own homes are now free and they are judges and educators, broadcasters, economists, businesswomen, government ministers. And there is broad recognition within the world community and within Afghanistan’s transitional administration that
women must be planners, must be implementers and must be beneficiaries of our international relief, reconstruction and development efforts.

One year ago Afghanistan was an exporter of instability to the region. Today it seeks to become a contributor to regional well-being. The new
transitional administration is reaching out to its neighbors, ready to cooperate with them on such issues as shared concerns concerning
terrorism, border and customs control, and narcotics trafficking.

One year ago one-fifth of the population had been driven from their homes and was living displaced within the country or living as refugees in neighboring countries and had been doing so for many, many years. Today over 1.7 million refugees have repatriated and more are returning every day. Indeed, this reverse flood of returnees has strained Afghanistan’s absorptive capacity and presents the new Afghan administration and the world community with the daunting task of meeting their most basic human needs.

The gains made in just one year have indeed been dramatic, but we all know that they are still fragile. In recent weeks, we saw the attack on President Karzai and we saw the bombing in Kabul that killed civilians. There are those in Afghanistan who stand to profit from continued instability and seek to empower themselves by exploiting the country’s weaknesses. Afghanistan has not survived foreign invasions, civil war and Taliban oppression only to be torn apart by “warlords. “We will not allow that to happen. We must not allow that to happen.

So the coalition forces of Operation Enduring Freedom will continue to hunt down and destroy the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaida, and the International Security Assistance Force will continue to exert a stabilizing presence in the country. At the same time, the international community must press forward to train and equip a new civilian-controlled Afghan army and a police force. We must all help the transitional administration tighten the reins of legitimate power
given to it by the Loyal Jirga, and we must all come together to support President Karzai’s effort to unify the country.

Perhaps most important of all for the long-term stability of the country, we must help to strengthen the country’s fledgling institutions; in particular, we must provide resources and expertise to help the new human rights, judicial and constitutional commissions lay the groundwork for a vibrant civil society, the rule of law, and accountable and transparent government. All the while, we must help the Afghan administration meet the pressing humanitarian needs; the needs
of its people that must be met if there is going to be hope, if there is going to be a future; needs that will only increase as winter approaches.

When we met in Tokyo in January, we pledged approximately$4.5 billion over the next five years to set Afghanistan firmly on the course to reconstruction. Of that amount, $1.8 billion was for 2002.Additional pledges since have pushed our collective commitment for this year up to $2 billion. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reports that of the $2 billion we pledged, approximately $1.3 billion has either been spent, is available to be spent, or is clearly moving down the pipeline and is going to be available. In other words, 65 percent has moved in eight months. That’s not bad, but it’s not nearly as good as it needs to be.

I recognize that each donor government has different procedures, standards of accountability, different fiscal structures and fiscal year structures, and that pledges are projected over a variety of timelines and timescales. I would be the first to admit that my own government’s requirements and procedures for the disbursement of assistance are unduly complicated. That said, I am proud to report that the United States has been able to disburse 95 percent of the monies we pledged in Tokyo. I hope this meeting will help identify where the bottlenecks are and how we can accelerate the process of getting assistance to Afghanistan.

It is absolutely critical that we intensify our collective partnership with the transitional administration and find ways to increase its reach and effectiveness. There will be no second chances. We cannot fail. This is Afghanistan’s best hope. The people of Afghanistan are looking to us to meet our commitments.

I remember talking to President Karzai a few weeks ago in New York when he met with President Bush and we had a separate conversation. He was noting that the Loyal Jirga was a wonderful event and people were just absolutely ecstatic that they could have such a meeting and come together and decide their own fate and their own future. There was much celebration at the end of the Loyal Jirga as people went back to their homes. But President Karzai said that then, two days later, everybody said, “Well, why everything all isn’t fixed? Why isn’t everything all better? We’ve had the Loyal Jirga.”

We’ve raised expectations, as Mr. Wolfensohn said a few moments ago. We won’t be able to meet all those expectations at once; but having raised
them, we have an obligation to meet our commitments to provide what we said we would provide.

We need to take a hard look at whether the $4.5billion that we pledged over five years is enough to meet the immediate and longer term needs that we now see. I am pleased to report that President Bush has just signed into law a supplemental appropriation which includes close to $280 million in new money for Afghanistan; and of that, $33million would go to finance the daily operations of the transitional administration, which is running a more than $150 million deficit, a
deficit that we must close. The rest of the funding would be used for humanitarian and technical and material assistance, road building and other infrastructure projects, law enforcement and counter narcotic support, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, and training and equipping the Afghan National Army. I hope that this meeting will lead to additional pledges from other donors.

Since Tokyo, the American Government has considered where to channel our assistance in order to achieve the highest impact. Let me just take a moment or two to mention some of the areas where the United States has been working, often in partnership with many fogou.

We helped to restore the agricultural sector by providing 7,000 metric tons of seed and 15,000 metric tons of fertilizer for the spring 2002 planting season. We estimate that this has benefited some 140,000 farmers.

We have helped critical services to resume functioning, such as education, healthcare, transport. To this end, we provided 10 million textbooks and 4,000 teacher training kits. We jointly funded the vaccination of over 4 million children against measles and we responded to the water and sanitation needs of about 4 million Afghans.

We have provided support grants for over 80 infrastructure projects, both in Kabul and in the provinces. We have helped to reconstruct schools, universities and training centers. We have rehabilitated ministry buildings, hospitals and clinics. We have played a major role, I believe, in repairing key arteries, including waterways, bridges, roads and the important Slang Tunnel linking the north and south.

On September 12 past, Japan and the Kingdom of the Saudi Arabia joined the United States in announcing support forth rebuilding of the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat highway. My government has pledged $80 million, and our partners in this effort, Japan and Saudi Arabia, have pledged $50 million each.

But even this sum will not cover the total cost of this absolutely vital project, and we hope that others will contribute to the rehabilitation of this traditional trade route between eastern and western Afghanistan.

Such high visibility projects boost trade and commerce and provide desperately needed jobs. They are also a clear symbol of national unity and governmental effectiveness. Eventually, they will help knit together the entire country, and the country into the entire region.

There are many other projects that would provide similar benefits, such as the proposed bridge from Tajikistan to Afghanistan, and I urge each of your governments and each of the organizations here present to consider lending your support to these mega-projects.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough however that large-scale projects must not come at the expense of other necessary assistance to agriculture, education and health, or crucial efforts to strengthen the effectiveness of President Karzai’s transitional administration.

This meeting offers an excellent opportunity to share ideas and insights and consider where to concentrate our efforts in the future. How can we partner more effectively with the private sector? Are the mechanisms we have created flexible enough to shift emphasis as needs and conditions on the ground change? In short, how can we direct our help to projects that advance the Afghan people farthest toward our shared goals: an Afghanistan that is politically accountable,
economically viable and secure?

One year ago Afghanistan’s prospects looked bleak. Today, with our collective help, the men and women of Afghanistan are not just hoping for a better future, they are building it. With our sustained assistance, they will succeed. Without it, they will surely fail.

We have seen what an Afghanistan abandoned to chaos can do to international peace and security. It is in all of our interest to keep critical resources flowing and to stay the course. President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan can be certain of the continuing and abiding support of President Bush and the American people. My government looks forward to working with all of you here in the months ahead to turn our combined commitments into a concrete foundation of freedom, prosperity and peace for Afghanistan.

Thank you so very much, and it’s now my great pleasure to introduce my wingman, my colleague and my old friend, the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Paul O’Neill. (Applause.)