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23 September 2003

Terrorism Still a Threat to Afghanistan and South Asia, Karzai Says

But Afghanistan "stable and peaceful," president tells U.N.

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned on September 23 that terrorism continues to threaten his country and can harm the region as a whole.
 
In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Karzai said that "terrorists aim to harm the nation of Afghanistan, a deeply believing Muslim nation that is averse to extremism. They pose a threat to the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan. Terrorists see, in the success of reconstruction, their lasting defeat."
 
Ranging from cross-border militants to hateful teachings at places disguised as religious schools, "terrorism continues to make inroads" into the peace and prosperity of Afghanistan, the president said.
 
Terrorism is a liability to the governments in the region as well, the Afghan leader said.
 
" Governments must stop using extremism as an instrument of policy. As long as terrorism survives in this part of the world, neither Afghanistan, nor our neighbors, nor indeed the rest of the world can be safe," he said.
 
Islam has "absolutely no place for terrorism," the president said. "Those apostles of hatred who preach murder in the name of religion, those who abuse the name of Islam and the sanctity of madrassas, are the enemies of Islam. They act against all that Islam teaches -- peace, tolerance, compassion, social justice, and the good of humanity."
 
In his second address to the General Assembly, Karzai also reported that "Afghanistan today is more stable and peaceful than at any other period in its recent history."
 
He said that "a lot has changed in Afghanistan over the last two years. But no change is so critical and pervasive as the animated response from the people of Afghanistan to the recent developments in our country."
 
" I find no sight more rewarding than the sight of our young girls and boys flocking to schools every morning; I find few things more engaging than the company of elderly representatives who come to Kabul from far-flung provinces of the country to discuss their priorities for reconstruction; and, in the same order, there is nothing more enthusing than the active participation of Afghan men and women in the process of public consultation for the new constitution," he said.
 
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has done "a tremendous job of security the nation's capital," the president said, adding that that is why other provinces want the multinational force to be expanded.
 
The president welcomed NATO's decision to take over the ISAF command. "No matter what flag they fly, forces that ensure stability will be welcomed throughout Afghanistan," he said.
 
The president cited a number of positive developments: the nationwide disarmament and demobilization program will begin in October; a draft constitution will be submitted to the national assembly, the Loya Jirga, in December; political parties and banking laws have been adopted; there has been a 30 percent economic growth rate; schools are being built at a higher pace than ever before, and almost 40 percent of students and teachers are female.
 
Nevertheless, Karzai said, all the achievements "only amount to a good beginning."
 
" Our challenge is to stay the course. This depends not only on the resolute determination of the Afghan people but also on the continued engagement of the international community," he said.