Politics & Policy

Freedom in Afghanistan

Witnessing Afghanistan's progress.

While leading a recent congressional delegation to Afghanistan, I was struck by the progress that the Afghan government is making towards establishing democracy, as well as the enthusiasm and determination of the Afghan people to finally–and deservedly–live in a free society.

#ad#The purpose of this trip–which also included stops in Iraq and Kuwait–was for members of Congress to see firsthand the efforts being made to bring stability and democracy to these nations. In Afghanistan, where the prospects for reform once looked bleak, a transformation has occurred which has resurrected freedom, established legitimate leadership, and invigorated the population.

It is difficult to imagine that, a mere five years ago, the Taliban government was thriving in this nation, exporting terrorism and calcifying archaic extremism. Today, media, cultural, business, and political leaders are free to meet and to discuss, demonstrate, and guide policies which are reforming their nation’s economy, opening the political process, and liberating society from the fundamentalist laws which enslaved the nation.

This overwhelming progress has been made under the leadership of President Hamid Karzai. Having met with President Karzai, I am convinced that he is capable of continuing to guide his nation’s transition into a modern democracy, and he is determined to do so. To help facilitate this, Karzai and the Afghan government are seeking to implement the Afghanistan Compact, a commitment to achieve specific goals, within five years, relating to security, the rule of law, human rights, economic development, and narcotics trade. The task ahead remains difficult and lengthy, but with the sustained help of the United States, other international donors, and, especially, the demonstrated optimism and resilience of the Afghan people, I am confident that the goals of this Compact will be realized.

The progress being made in Afghanistan also has serious implications for our nation’s security. My delegation conveyed to Afghan leaders that Congress remains deeply concerned about the mounting bloodshed in their nation and over the ongoing narcotics trade which supplies almost 90 percent of global opium and heroin. My colleagues and I were also able to meet with high-ranking U.S. military officials, including Commanding General John Abizaid, to discuss the current military situation. I left there impressed with our military’s success against the resistance, and confident in our decisive victory over it.

Afghanistan was the first foreign front in our campaign to eradicate terrorism, and the success that we have had in eliminating the Taliban and establishing a democratic government is monumental and undeniable. However, our job is not complete, and America must not yield in its commitment to our troops and to their noble efforts. Standing side-by-side with its Afghan counterpart, our military will continue to seek out and destroy terror elements, and work towards establishing complete stability and rule of law, so that Afghanistan will never again be a safe-haven for terrorists. At a time when many are questioning the legitimacy of U.S. efforts abroad, Afghanistan serves as a perfect example of why our efforts to bring freedom, stability, and security are crucial, just, and attainable.

Clearly, the new Afghanistan is emerging as one of our closest allies in the fight against terrorism. While meeting with Speaker Quonunni of the Afghan parliament, he and I discussed the critical partnership which is developing between our two nations. Both nations are committed to furthering our alliance, which has already borne much fruit, with the knowledge that neither nation’s goals will be most effectively realized without the friendship and cooperation of the other.

In our meeting, the speaker expressed his hope that the Afghan people will serve as a “bridge to democracy for other peoples of the region.” I share Speaker Quonunni’s hope, and am firmly confident that the inevitable spread of freedom and democracy will protect and preserve the American way of life at home, and make it available to those currently oppressed abroad.

The undeniable progress that continues to be made in Afghanistan makes peace, security, and prosperity all the more assured and protected–for Americans as well as Afghans.

Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a U.S. Representative from Florida and serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia.

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