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Emergency Afghan Wheat Seed Distribution

Emergency Wheat Seed Distribution

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan
Nangahar Province
Jalalabad, Afghanistan
December 4, 2004

December 4, 2004, Jalalabad, Afghanistan: U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad announced a wheat seed distribution program for farmers in Nangarhar. Minister Atmar, Minister Anwari, Governor Din Mohammad, Mr. Mirwais Yasini, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me here today.On October 9, Afghans across the country showed the world that they are determined to put the last two decades of war and division behind them, and start a new chapter in Afghan history.The entire world watched as Afghans stood in line, sometimes for hours, to cast their votes, even in the face of threats of violence in some cases.

But courageous Afghans, as always, were not deterred. They voted no to the warlords, no to extremism, and no to the rule of the gun. Afghanistan enjoys political freedom as it has never enjoyed before, and many Afghans feel as if their country has been given a new lease on life, with a sense of hope and opportunity that they have not felt in decades.

The free world rejoiced along with the Afghan people in your triumph, and freedom-loving people everywhere have extended their goodwill and best wishes to the people of Afghanistan as they continue down the path of building a successful country. Afghanistan has achieved much in a short period of time. But there is a grave threat that looms large across the land, a dark specter that has the potential to undermine all that has been achieved thus far, and return Afghanistan to a period of war and chaos.

That threat is the illegal narcotics trade: Illegal drugs pose a mortal threat to Afghanistan's future. They pose an undeniable threat to Afghanistan in many ways. First, narcotics are a threat to Afghanistan's political future. Corruption is everywhere the enemy of the public good, and corruption follows illegal drug money as surely as night follows day. Ruthless and immoral druglords use their ill-gotten gains to corrupt politicians, suborn judges, and crush the intersts of ordinary citizens who stand in their way. Second, narcotics pose a threat to the environment. The process of extracting and refining opium gum into finished heroin damages the environment at every step in the process.

Precursor chemicals used to convert raw opium into other forms are highly toxic, and contaminate the water when disposed. The chemicals used in the filtering process to make heroin are similarly hazardous, turning illegal drug labs into both purveyors of death to drug users and manufactorers of poison to everyone else. Third, narcotics pose a threat to the economy. Afghanistan's rich farmlands once produced enough food to meet virtually all its needs. Today Afghan farmers are substituting traditional crops for poppy, leaving Afghans dependant on foreign countries to feed themselves.

Fourth, narcotics pose a threat to Afghan children. No Afghan family wants their child to grow up addicted to dangerous, illegal drugs. Chemical dependence robs children of their dignity, their freedom, and their future. And yet drug use among children will continue to rise if Afghanistan becomes a narco-state. Fifth, drug money funds terrorists and extremists. Profits from the heroin trade are a major souce of income for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist groups. Their deadly campaigns to kill innocents are financed by illegal substances and methods that are condemned by religious authorities as contrary to Islam.

Lastly, narcotics pose a threat to Afghanistan's partnership with the free world. Afghanistan is a success story, and the free world is eager to help Afghans continue to move forward in building a successful country. But it will not support a narco-state, and a narco-state is not in the interest of Afghanistan, or in the interest of other nations.

If Afghanistan is to join the community of successful nations, it must put an end to the illegal drug trade. We will work with the Afghan government, the United Kingdom, and other nations to help Afghanistan defeat this menace. The United States Congress has passed legislation that will provide $780 million to assist Afghanistan in this effort, and we have adopted a comprehensive strategy based on five pillars to help rid the country of illegal drug trafficking.

1. One, through a public information campaign, we will help educate Afghans about the dangers of illegal narcotics. 2. Two, we are moving forward with an ambitious alternative livelihoods program that will give farmers real alternatives to growing poppy. 3. Three, we are helping to reform Afghanistan's judicial system by training police, training judges, buiding prisons, and putting in place a legal process that will make enforcement of the law a cornerstone of the counter-narcotics program. 4. Four, we will support operations aimed at interdicting drug smugglers and major drug offenders, ensuring that narco-traffickers are brought to justice. 5. And five, we will support the government's efforts to eradicate poppy crops.

Today's wheat seed and fertilizer distribution to Nangahar farmers is example of our alternative livelihoods program. The alternative livelihoods program is a comprehensive effort aimed at providing long-term, sustainable employment in the legal sectors of the economy. Due to the urgency of the planting season, today's distribution is a response to immediate needs. We have worked hard to provide high quality seed and the right type of fertilizer to produce good yields at harvest time. We are eager to help, but the choice to become a narco-state or to become a successful country is ultimately in your hands.

We will work with other nations to help Afghanistan defeat this menace, but it will require leadership by Afghans at all levels if our strategy is to succeed. This is Afghanistan's moment to seize, and the stakes are enormous. I hope and pray that the Afghan people will make the right choice. Thank you, and may God bless the people of Afghanistan.

[End]

Released on December 6, 2004


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