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Karzai Urges US Not to Forget About Afghanistan


As he winds up his trip to Washington, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on world leaders not to forget about his country.

At a speech at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies Tuesday, President Karzai pointed to a time in recent history when the world did not pay enough attention to Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan went into suffering, pain, destruction and a haven for terrorism because the world forgot us after the Soviets left. I warn you not to make that mistake again three months from today," he said.

President Karzai referred to the upcoming Parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for September.

The Afghan leader said his worries were alleviated after he and President Bush signed a joint declaration, re-emphasizing the strategic partnership between the United States and Afghanistan.

"The strength of Afghanistan will mean stability and peace in that part of the world. The strength of Afghanistan and peace in Afghanistan will mean the safety all along across the rest of the world, to America. The prosperity of Afghanistan will mean end to terrorism," he said.

In order to achieve this prosperity, though, President Karzai said his country will continue to need international support, for at least another 10 to 15 years. He pointed to the Afghan security forces as an example.

"Our army is at 20,000. Our police is at 40,000. Even when they reach their mark, the target that we have of 70,000 and 80,000 or 90,000, that will just be a trained army, not an institutionalized army. It takes longer to be able to defend borders. It takes not only training, but an institutional memory and a strength over time to do that," he said.

The Afghan leader thanked the international community for delivering on nearly five billion dollars that was pledged at a aid conference in Tokyo in 2003. But he said he has concerns with how the money has been distributed.

"We're complaining about the way that money is spent in Afghanistan. That money has not come to the Afghan government. A little bit of it, very little of it, was perhaps in the range of 200-million dollars of it came to Afghanistan. The rest of it is spent through NGOs. That is what we have a disagreement about, because we don't know how it is spent, where it is spent and if the quality of work is alright," he said.

Several contentious issues between the two countries include U.S. complaints about Afghanistan's rampant opium poppy cultivation and Afghan concerns over U.S. torture of Afghan detainees.

The Afghan leader acknowledged his country has a poppy problem, and called for more international assistance. In response to a question about what he thinks about torture, President Karzai summed up his answer by saying he is, in his words, "an anti-torture man."

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