Hamid Karzai: Afghanistan is a wasteland - please help us

From a speech given by the interim Prime Minister of Afghanistan at a conference, held in Tokyo, on assistance to his country
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The Independent Online

We have achieved things. We are hoping to achieve more, but one thing I was surprised about yesterday – which I'm so glad about – is that wearing the Afghan traditional chapan has become a fashion. I believe Gucci said something about it. That's one of the achievements. Let's add more to it.

I stand before you today as the citizen of a country that has had nothing but disaster, war, brutality and deprivation against its people for so many years. While we understand the procedural requirements for the delivery of international aid, unfortunately we have seen little sign from the international community in response to our urgent needs. We see it as essential that pledges promptly materialise.

Our country today can be compared to a wasteland. We are nicely dressed, we have eaten a good breakfast this morning but, ladies and gentleman, remember that there are in Afghanistan millions of people who are unable to go to basic school, find a treatment for some minor illness, forced to travel with relatives on incredibly bad roads. The Afghan delegation isn't what you would see in Afghanistan.

One thing I would like to say with certainty, with clarity, is that we need your help. We need your help to bring a new life to those millions of children and women and wounded and disabled victimised by years of trauma and terrorism. Help us to begin a new life, help us to stand again on our feet to make a country that will pursue its own values and traditions and will also contribute to a world community in terms of providing a better peace and working against terrorism. I'm hoping very much that I will go back to my country and my people with my hands full.

Although the interim administration has been in place for only one month, we have already agreed on a vision for the road ahead. Our vision is of a prosperous and secure Afghanistan. We are marching ahead with the objective of building a credible state with an efficient and transparent government. This new Afghanistan will bring prosperity to its trading partners and stability to this region of the globe.

Security and development are two sides of the same coin, because over a million Afghan combatants cannot be absorbed into the mainstream of society and the economy without imaginative developmental efforts.

My administration is fully committed to the education of girls, who were banned from going to school under the previous Taliban regime, and to eradicating the production of poppies that are the source of much of the world's heroin. Security is also a priority for our country. It is not an easy task; it's a very difficult task. We hope you will help.

We pledge to create a free-market economy and to crack down on corruption. My government will hire a reputable international firm to audit its expenditures regularly. People will be able to choose their own government. People will be empowered. But one area where we will be extremely tough and rather oppressive will be against corruption. So trust us, we'll be very, very rough there. There's no way we can allow that.

In addition to money, the Afghan people have been asking for a partnership with the United States in order to make this region safe, to enable Afghanistan to stand on its own feet and to continue to fight against terrorism, or the return of terrorism, in any form, to anywhere in the region. We are asking for a long partnership that will bring Afghanistan back to its own people. So that they may control its borders, generate their own revenues, to bring the people of Afghanistan to prosperity and to go back to the international community as a stable, strong member of the world community.