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Afghan Ambassador Speaks Out

Afghan Ambassador Speaks OutIn a speech at Tufts’ Fletcher School, Afghan ambassador Ishaq Shahryar urged Tufts students to take an active role in rebuilding his nation. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.05.03] In the United States' attempt to address issues in Iraq, some critics say other important international tasks -- such as rebuilding Afghanistan -- have been overshadowed. In a speech at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S. urged students not to let this happen. Support from both governments and individuals, said the ambassador, must continue in order to rebuild the troubled nation.

"Let America deal with [Iraqi President Saddam Hussein]. But let us also secure the victories we have already won," said Ishaq Shahryar -- who represents the new government of president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president since the summer of 2002. "If the Western world has a lapse of attention and turns elsewhere, the institutional memory of the region will refill the circle of instability with drugs, corruption, and terror."

The ambassador - who was born in Kabul and attended college in the United States - said the assistance of the United States has been "heroic and generous," especially the $3.3 billion Freedom Support Act approved by Congress in November.

But the ambassador - a well-known California entrepreneur before he gave up his U.S. citizenship to serve Afghanistan - said that the support from the Western world is not nearly enough.

"You can build a community with $4.5 billion, but you can't build a country," Shahryar -- a longtime associate of former Afghan King Mohammad Zaher Shah -- told The Boston Globe in an interview prior to his speech at Tufts.

Calling for more peacekeepers in the nation, Shahryar said that the 4,300 International Security Assistance forces stationed in Kabul are not enough.

The ambassador also said that his country needed a new army - a benevolent one.

"Afghanistan has been invaded and occupied enough by the armies of soldiers," said Shahryar. "What we need today is to be occupied by a new benevolent kind of army, an army of teachers, doctors, builders, farmers, civil engineers, merchants, bankers, and public safety experts, and perhaps even a few lawyers."

Shahryar encouraged the Fletcher students to join the rebuilding efforts, reported the Globe.

"We have to be hopeful," said the ambassador. "I believe in change."

A successful scientist living in southern California at the time of the terrorist attacks, Shahryar was invited to join the Cabinet of the interim government in Afghanistan after the Taliban collapsed in 2001. But, according to the Associated Press, he said he did not feel suited to the task.

But after returning to Kabul last winter, Shahryar said he was shocked to find the city of his youth destroyed.

"That's when I made the commitment to do something," he told Tufts students and faculty. "There are times you take and times you give."

After his visit to Afghanistan last winter, Shahryar began to work to rebuild his nation. He formed a task force of advisors from varied disciplines, and began working to bring money into his country's new regime.

"Shahryar worked to entice American businesses to invest in Afghanistan, touting its reserves of gas, oil, copper, iron, gold, emeralds, and lapis lazuli, blue semiprecious gems," reported the Globe.

But the majority of investors, said Shahryar, are concerned for the security of investment in Afghanistan.

"The bottom line is that businessmen do not go into a country unless there is security," said the ambassador.



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