Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, travels to Washington for talks Monday with President Bush and other American leaders. The visit is part of a diplomatic effort by Mr. Karzai to build lasting international support for reconstruction of his war-torn country.
Hamid Karzai was an unknown figure on the world stage until last month when Afghan factions meeting in Germany chose him to head an interim administration. Since then, Mr. Karzai has taken his country's case before the international community. He attended a donor's conference in Tokyo, where he garnered more than $4.5 billion in reconstruction aid for his country. He's also visited Saudi Arabia, China and Tajikistan.
Mr. Karzai is in Washington to meet with his government's most powerful supporter. It will not be Mr. Karzai's first visit. He has spent time there before, and members of his family live in the United States and run a successful string of restaurants in several cities. Over a year ago, Mr. Karzai spoke before a U.S. Senate panel on Afghanistan, but no one seemed to take much notice.
Not so this time. The Afghan leader is to meet with President Bush and a host of senior officials and congressional leaders. He is expected to accompany Mr. Bush to Capitol Hill when the President delivers the annual state of the union address before Congress on Tuesday.
By now the soft-spoken, distinguished looking Afghan has become a familiar face on television sets around the world. He has played host to the British Prime Minister, the U.S. secretary of state, American congressional delegations and the United Nations secretary-general. Hamid Karzai says he wants world leaders to come here and he wants to keep the world's attention focused on his country as it tries to recover from more than two decades of war and repression.
The world community has promised to help and Secretary of State Colin Powell has said Washington is committed for the long term to help Afghanistan rebuild and ensure that it does not again become a haven for terrorists. And during his visit to the United States Hamid Karzai will be seeking to shore up that kind of support.