Secretary of State Powell Visits Kabul

The Secretary of State affirmed that Washington would stand by Afghanistan after forcing the Taliban from power last month.

“We will be with you in this current crisis and for the future,” Powell said during a joint news conference with Karzai. “We are committed to doing everything we can to assist you in this time of transition to a new Afghanistan, an Afghanistan where people will be able to live in peace and security.”

The secretary said the U.S. recognized the need to rebuild the war-torn nation from the ground up.

“This country needs everything,” Powell said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show. “It needs a banking system. It needs a health-care system. It needs a sanitation system. It needs a phone system. It needs road construction. Everything you can imagine.”

In meetings with Afghan officials, Powell pledged the U.S. would make a “significant contribution” at the international aid donor’s conference in Tokyo next week.

The World Bank has estimated it will cost $15 billion over 10 years to rebuild Afghanistan. Powell also said the U.S. is freeing up millions of dollars that were frozen before the fall of the Taliban.

The secretary of state also officially re-opened the U.S. embassy, which resumed operations in mid-December. Powell presented an award to Afghan employees of the State Department who protected and maintained the embassy between its closing in 1989 until 2001.

Security was heavy during Powell’s five-hour stay, and security concerns prompted the State Department to hold off announcing the visit until after his arrival in Kabul.

Powell, on an Asian tour dominated by the continuing tension between India and Pakistan, is the highest ranking U.S. leader in the Central Asian country since then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Afghanistan in 1976.

Karzai said Powell’s visit to Kabul “shows the commitment” of the United States.

“People ask me, ‘Will they (the Americans) stay with us?’ And now I can tell them, ‘Yes,'” Karzai told reporters.

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