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Reconstruction Of Afghanistan - Powell

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release

November 20, 2001

Remarks By Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell At The Working Session On The Reconstruction Of Afghanistan

November 20, 2001 Loy Henderson Conference Room U.S. Department of State Washington, D.C.

9:05 A.M. EST

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Al, and good morning, everyone. And I, too, want to join in welcoming you all here and thanking you for coming at such short notice.

Answering the call of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1378, we have come together today to demonstrate our commitment to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan, and to the future of its 25 million people. President Bush, Secretary O'Neill and I wish to express our gratitude to the Government of Japan and Mrs. Ogata, Prime Minister Koizumi's Special Representative for Afghan Assistance, for co-hosting this conference. And I wish to thank all of you, the senior representatives of foreign finance and development ministries of key partner countries and international institutions for traveling all the way to Washington on such short notice.

Events on the ground are moving swiftly. My government and our coalition partners are pleased to report that the Taliban is in retreat in most of the country. The very ones who harbored Usama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network now search in vain for someone to harbor them. As the Taliban's grip on power is broken in more and more parts of the country, the long-suffering people of Afghanistan are taking their future into their own hands once again. Yet we all know that will also take a long, concerted effort by all of us to ensure that the people of Afghanistan have their feet set firmly on the path to recovery, stability and development.

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All of us know that the international community must be prepared to sustain a reconstruction program that will take many, many years. This must be a global effort involving East Asia, Europe, the Americas, the Islamic world, and countries of the region. And we must achieve seamless connections between reconstruction and relief and development efforts.

The vast majority of the Afghan people awaken hungry, cold and sick every morning. An entire generation of Afghans have never known peace, never known a full stomach, never known a decent education, never known what freedom is all about.

The United States and our coalition partners, the United Nations and others, all of us in the international community, are moving quickly to provide lifesaving humanitarian supplies. Withdrawals of Taliban forces have opened up more and more regions of Afghanistan to international relief efforts. The American people are proud that the United States has long been the leading humanitarian donor to Afghanistan. And in October, President Bush announced an additional allocation of $320 million specifically to help Afghan refugees -- Afghan refugees that are located in neighboring countries and the displaced persons within Afghanistan itself.

The international community's vital humanitarian work clearly must continue and gain pace as the Taliban retreats and the winter gets ever closer. The time has already arrived, however, to look beyond just immediate humanitarian needs to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. We must seek and seize opportunities to begin reconstruction as areas of the country are freed from Taliban control. We cannot wait; we must act as fast as we can. We must act as soon as possible.

At the same time, the international community will be unable to carry out reconstruction on the scale that is needed until there is an Afghan partner. This requires the emergence of an interim political authority. Such an authority must lead to a broad-based government that represents all the people of the country, people of every ethnic background and region, women as well as men. Indeed, in all of our efforts, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction, we must ensure that women play prominent roles as planners, as implementers and as beneficiaries.

In order to survive through the years of fear and misery, the women and men of Afghanistan drew deeply on their courage, their ingenuity, their skill and, above all, on their faith. With our close cooperation and the disciplined management of the assistance we provide, we can help the Afghan people draw on those same strengths to recover and to thrive in a 21st century world.

Success, of course, ultimately depends on the will of the people of Afghanistan and their legitimate representatives to build a free society with free markets and a stable, drug-free environment in which political and economic freedom and activity can flourish.

We have called you here together today not for a pledging conference. We do not yet know how much money and other forms of rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance will be needed from the international community. The security situation in Afghanistan does not yet allow a comprehensive needs assessment. But we are confident that such an evaluation can and should be made soon.

Our meeting today is a crucial start, the start of a long process, one that must grow to include many other countries than those represented here, and many other organizations that will have important contributions to make as we go forward. It is imperative that we begin today to address in a systematic way the many practical issues of transition and reconstruction that lie ahead.

One important step would be to organize a steering group to help focus our efforts at the policy level, encourage contributions and give overall guidance. The steering group would collaborate closely with the Afghan support group's work on humanitarian relief. We hope that the steering group would convene in the month ahead. It would take into account the meeting next week in Islamabad of representatives from the World Bank, the UN Development Program, and the Asian Development Bank. As soon as it is feasible, we would also envision forming an implementation group, which would focus on operational matters, such as coordinating reconstruction programs in the field. It will be especially important in the first weeks and months of this program to put all these pieces in place so we can make sure we have an immediate, visible impact on people's lives.

For the first time in decades, the people of Afghanistan have reason to hope for themselves and for their children. Together, we can make that hope tangible and real. That is exactly what rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance is all about: Turning hope into a powerful force that shapes a better future for the Afghan people, their region and our world.

We have a noble task before us. President Bush is totally committed to this task. He has said from the very beginning we will go after Usama bin Laden, we will go after al-Qaida. If the Taliban regime does not understand the crimes that they are committing as well, we will go after them. But when al-Qaida is gone, when the Taliban regime has passed into history, as the President said, we then have an enormous obligation -- not only the United States, but the whole international community -- an enormous obligation to not leave the Afghan people in the lurch, to not walk away as has been done in the past. We are committed to doing just that, as the President said, to help them find hope and to make that hope a reality.

I now have the great honor of yielding the floor to an old friend, Mrs. Ogata, in and of herself a powerful force for good in the world, as well as an invaluable source of wisdom on the interrelationships between relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. Mrs. Ogata, you have our deepest admiration and rapt attention.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

9:10 A.M. EST


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