Afghanistan - Foreign policy

Karzai, in an early address after becoming chairman of the interim government, stated, "We will strive to build a government that responds to the wishes of our people and behaves as a responsible member of the international community, to whom we owe a great deal."

In January 2002 he traveled to the United States, where he was seated next to First Lady Laura Bush for President George W. Bush's State of the Union address. Karzai, speaking at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to an audience that included many expatriated Afghanis, encouraged Afghanis living outside their country to return to join him in rebuilding their nation. During his North American visit, he also addressed the UN General Assembly.

His travels in the weeks following his appointment included the United Kingdom, Germany, and India. Wherever he spoke, he urged foreign government officials and business people to consider investing in Afghanistan. With the Central Bank of Afghanistan essentially bankrupted by the Taliban regime, the interim administration actively sought international help to build a financial system that could eventually support Afghanistan's participation in the global economy.

Karzai also emphasized that, for the immediate future, Afghanistan would depend heavily on the International Security Assistance Force (made up of forces from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and others) to keep the peace in urban areas and remote villages. He also noted that the Afghan people regard the presence of the international forces as evidence that Afghanistan won't be abandoned at this critical stage in their development as a nation.

Karzai also traveled to Paris, France, where he joined President Jacques Chirac at the opening of a museum exhibition of Afghan art and sculpture, most of which had been collected by French archaeologists with the assistance of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), who feared the Taliban would destroy these important artifacts from Afghanistan's rich history. The artifacts will be returned to Afghanistan when the Museum of Kabul has sufficiently recovered to preserve and protect them.

Karzai met with U.S., Japanese, and European leaders after becoming president. In late September 2002, Karzai also traveled to the Persian Gulf to solicit aid for Afghanistan's reconstruction and security, speaking with leaders from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. However, the large amount of international money pledged for reconstruction has been slow to arrive.

U.S. and European intelligence agencies agree that, as of January 2003, al-Qaeda and the Taliban were regrouping in camps on both sides of the border with Pakistan. Many are allied with a former mujahidin commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The security threat posed by these groups is another challenge confronting Karzai he struggles to lead Afghanistan to stability.

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