The new U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, says he wants to accelerate reconstruction in the country. The ambassador also says he wants Pakistan to no longer be a "sanctuary" for Taleban and al-Qaida fighters who launch attacks on aid workers and U.S. soldiers inside Afghanistan.
Ambassador Khalilzad told reporters his mission in Afghanistan is to speed up reconstruction efforts, improve security and assist moves toward a democratic government.
The ambassador will arrive in Kabul next week, about two years after the Taleban was ousted from the Afghan capital, and during a time when there has been a resurgence of attacks against coalition forces and aid workers.
Mr. Khalilzad says the United States will continue to work toward a stable and secure Afghanistan until those goals are accomplished.
“We are committed to success in Afghanistan,” he said. “We will see this thing through. We will be there for as long as it takes to do the job. There is no alternative.”
Ambassador Khalilzad says he also wants Pakistan to do more to prevent militants from crossing its border to attack military and civilian targets in Afghanistan.
He says while Islamabad has been very cooperative in fighting the war on terror, it needs to better police its porous border with Afghanistan.
“We want everyone, including Pakistan, to do more against al-Qaida, the remains of al-Qaida in Pakistan,” he said. “With regard to the Taleban they do pose a threat to the stability of Afghanistan and to the success of the effort in terms of the speed with which we want things to develop in Afghanistan and to the stability of Afghanistan. We want to work with Pakistan to end Pakistan's use as a sanctuary by the Taleban.”
Pakistan has denied its territory is being used as a base for attacks in Afghanistan. A foreign ministry spokesman told reporters Wednesday that his country has made Pakistan inhospitable territory for Taleban remnants and their allies, including the al-Qaida terror network.
The United States and its allies have about 11,000 troops carrying out military operations in Afghanistan, while NATO has about 5,000 peacekeepers in the country.
The U.S. Congress recently approved $1.7 billion in aid for Afghanistan.
Ambassador Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan, will also retain his title as special presidential envoy to the country.