Afghanistan: Gains threatened by drugs and terrorism, Karzai says

New York, 25 Sept. (AKI) - Afghanistan's recent economic gains were threatened by the twin perils of terrorism and drugs, according to President Hamid Karzai.

In an address to the United Nations general assembly on Tuesday, Karzai said the Afghan economy was showing serious improvement, its institutions were getting established and its health indicators were on the rise.

But he said terrorism and illegal drugs were placing enormous obstacles in front of further improvements.

Karzai thanked the international community for its “steadfast support” since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and the subsequent establishment of democratic government.

He said Afghanistan’s reconstruction was going ahead and more Afghans now enjoyed access to health and education services than ever before. He said the child mortality rate had been slashed by over 25 per cent in two years, ensuring that at least 85,000 children were alive today.

But Karzai told the general assembly’s annual high-level debate that while the economic and institutional gains had been impressive, so too were the “momentous challenges” that Afghanistan still faced.

He cited poverty, underdevelopment and climatic hardship as well as the greatest threats – terrorism and narcotics.

The president also denounced the sharp rise in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in the past two years, and particularly the “new and brutal tactics such as beheadings, kidnappings and the burning of schools and clinics.”

Karzai said the terrorism threat could only be truly overcome if dealt with regionally and internationally.

He described the recent joint peace jirga between Pakistan and Afghanistan as a symbol of the benefits of constructive co-operation in devising a counter-terrorism strategy.

Karzai said sustained international support was also needed so that Afghanistan’s national army and police could lead anti-terror efforts.

On the issue of illegal drugs, Karzai said his Government would prioritise the provision of alternatives to farmers and speed up its poppy eradication programmes and interdiction of traffickers.

But he said other countries needed to play their part in defeating the global narcotic trade by battling international drug mafia and crime, strengthening border controls and reducing the demand for illegal drugs in foreign markets.

The Afghani president said the country, which had been torn apart by decades of war, was once again about to become self-sufficient in cereal production.

Afghanistan joined the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) earlier this year to help with its plans to eventually serve as a commercial bridge between South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.


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