Charles Nailen/The Hoya Yesterday’s Afghanistan-America Summit was one of a series of initiatives led by Georgetown University and President John J. DeGioia (front).

Security uniforms dominated Healy Circle on Monday morning as participants in the 2003 Afghanistan-America Summit filled the seats of Gaston Hall to discuss reconstruction efforts in the troubled country.

Metal detectors served as subtle reminders of the security problems facing the world as speakers inside Gaston Hall spoke on such topics as social change, internal conflict and hopes for future economic progress.

“Since Sept. 11, [2001] the lives of Afghans have changed . mostly for the better,” Abdullah Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said.

Abdullah expressed his thanks for the U.N. resolution that will allow peacekeepers wherever they are needed but emphasized that there are still threats to the nation’s stability.

The new government must end disputes between factions and curb the narcotics trade, Abdullah said.

“We have only just begun,” he said. “We cannot walk away and be distracted.”

The summit is part of Georgetown’s on-going efforts to aid Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts. Afghanistan’s Interim Authority Chairman Hamid Karzai spoke to about 2,000 Afghan-American and members of the Georgetown community at the university in January 2002. The first Afghanistan-America Summit in the summer of 2002 laid the groundwork for the reconstruction plans discussed at this year’s summit.

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew S. Natsios (CAS ’71) noted recent accomplishments in Afghanistan, such as a reformed ministry of defense, a new constitutional draft and the best wheat harvest in Afghan history (up 82 percent since last year).

Natsios also acknowledged the instability still troubling southeastern Afghanistan, but insisted that the “society is beginning to restore its equilibrium.” Natsios also mentioned the organization’s future plans to dramatically increase the number of textbooks by 25 million, re-train teachers and repair 1,000 schools by 2006 in response to the country’s “huge thirst” for education.

Progress has also been made in repairing Kandahar road, originally constructed under the Eisenhower administration by USAID’s predecessor organization. Close to one third of the nation’s population is concentrated within a three-mile radius of this road, which provides a vital means of transportation for the agrarian community – the “backbone” of the country’s economy. Ultimately, however, Natsios concluded that “Afghans have to rebuild themselves; we’re there to supplement.”

Ashraf Ghani, minister of finance of Afghanistan, appeared via videotape to convey his concerns about the nation’s security, constitution and institutions, financial management, social protection and administrative reform. Ghani commended the enthusiasm with which the population takes part in local elections, showing promise for the nation’s first national elections in June of 2004, he said.

Yet the risks threatening the country prove that “the glass is always both half full and half empty,” he added. ost of Ghani’s attention seems focused on the creation of jobs for the 4.2 million children now attending Afghan schools. For a solution, he looks to encouraging private investments and international aid to strengthen their economy. “Despite all our challenges, multilateralism works in Afghanistan,” he said. “There is now a window of opportunity, but that window is shrinking. We must deliver to our people and deliver rapidly.”

John B. Taylor, undersecretary for international affairs for the U.S. Department of Treasury, reaffirmed Ghani’s assertions, saying the acceleration of the economy will help lock in political reform. According to Taylor, laws proclaiming an independent Central Bank, a new stable currency (the Afghani) and a new agency created to reduce red tape faced by new entrepreneurs all raise hopes for gaining economic momentum.

A member of the Constitutional Commission for Afghanistan, Fatima Gailani explained the difficult process of shaping the future of Afghanistan through its new constitution. After 24 years of war, Afghanistan was rescued by the international community, but must now negotiate between the desires of its people and the expectations of foreign powers. Many of the constitution’s architects, including Gailani, traveled throughout the country to gather information on the populace’s hopes and desires for their constitution. Essentially, the main issues espoused were the Islamic beliefs of the people, education and accessible health care. Gailani noted of the constitution, “If it’s not acceptable, it’s not practical. It could be the best constitution in the world, but if it’s not practical, it’s just a beautiful book on the shelf.”

The speakers reflected on each other’s concerns. Speakers included the Coordinator for Afghanistan from the U.S. Department of State, William B. Taylor, and Special Presidential Envoy and American Ambassador-designate to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad. The video “Return to Afghanistan” by washingtonpost.com producer Travis Fox was shown to participants. Fox sat on a panel representative of the media perspective with Paul M. Rodriguez, editor at Insight Magazine and The Washington Times; William Royce from Voice of America; and Tom Squitieri, national correspondent for USA Today.

Together, they pointed out the need for Afghans to overcome internal differences and strive toward a “national future.” Despite the speakers’ optimism, all the panelists expressed worry and personal regret that Afghanistan has lost much attention in the media where it is overshadowed by the war in Iraq, as international media coverage is vital to the Afghan cause.

In the words of Gailani, “Please don’t forget Afghanistan. We live in one big home. This is a world where we cannot forget each other.”

Other attendees of the Summit included Paula J. Dobriansky, undersecretary for global affairs from the State Department; Habiba Sarabi, minister of women’s affairs of Afghanistan; Said Tayeb Jawad, appointed ambassador of Afghanistan; Robert G. Liberatore, senior vice president of external affairs and public policy, from Daimler Chrysler; and Shair Baz Hakemy, minister-advisor of private sector economic affairs of Afghanistan.

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