Q: Can you tell us about the security situation in Afghanistan? Which parts of the country are hot spots and which parts are safe?
A: We are facing increased terrorist activity, particularly in the south, next to the border with Pakistan. We anticipate that the amount of the terrorist activity and the resulting security challenges will increase as soon as the snow melts.
Q: Your country is working to rebuild itself. How that has gone since the September 11th bombings? How is Afghanistan a different country?
A: Today, more than 5.6 million Afghan children are back in school. Under the Taliban, a very small number of only male students were allowed to go to school. Today, more than 38 percent of all the students are girls. We have four million refugees who have returned back to Afghanistan. We have a Parliament where 28 percent of the members are women. We have had an economic growth rate averaging 20 percent in the past five years. But still we are not where we would like to be. The infrastructure was completely devastated. We are working on improving the capacity of the Afghan government to deliver services. We are working on building schools, clinics, roads and improving the daily life of the Afghan people.
Q: There are reports that Afghanistan requires more assistance from other nations. How much more additional aid do you think the country needs?
A: If you compare the average amount of assistance given to Afghanistan, it amounts to something like $57 per person, compared to $250 in Iraq or more than $600 in Kosovo. We hope the aid for the next five years will average around $5 billion a year. We are looking at our friends in the international community, not only the United States, but also the Europeans, the Gulf countries and Japan to help us out with this. There is a strong international consensus on the need to help Afghanistan, and we have been receiving substantial amounts of assistance.
Q: What about military assistance? Does Afghanistan still require help from the NATO countries?
A: If we are able to shut down the training camps outside Afghanistan sooner, we will not be needing additional troops from NATO. What is needed, according to the NATO commanders in Afghanistan, is a small increase in the number of the troops, something like 3,000 to 4,000 for the spring offensive. Hopefully after that, we will have an adequate number of Afghan soldiers and police forces trained to do the job. The long-term solution is to build the capacity of the Afghan security forces to train more Afghan army soldiers and more police forces.
Q: Do you think your country is to the point where it will stay a democracy, rather than fall back into Taliban hands?
A: The Taliban are not a serious threat to the government of Afghanistan or the political system in place. By terrorizing people into submission, the Taliban is only preventing the reconstruction process. They are burning schools, destroying clinics. But they are not a serious threat for the stability process, and they do not provide an alternative to what the Afghan government is doing.
Afghan Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad speaks at the World Affairs Council of Spokane on Thursday, March 1, at 6 pm in the Barbieri Courtroom at the Gonzaga Law School. Members, $5; non-members, $10; free, students.