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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Doubling of U.S. aid is timely for Afghans

An eye-opening story by Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press in yesterday's paper suggested once more why we hope Afghanistan is not Washington's model for rebuilding Iraq.

Gannon details corruption, smuggling and drug-running by U.S.-backed warlords, a lack of security in most areas outside the capital, and a "roaring comeback" of the opium industry, which had been harshly suppressed by the Taliban.

It doesn't hurt to remember that Afghanistan already is a United Nations undertaking, and that international forces are participating in peace-keeping there.

The good news is that President Bush evidently has more than doubled this year's aid to Afghanistan in an effort to make visible improvements in the lives of the Afghan people before the country's first elections, coming in June.

Of the $87 billion Bush sought from Congress this week for Iraq and Afghanistan, it appears $1.9 billion is for Afghanistan, suggesting that it's much cheaper to rebuild one of the world's poorest countries than one that's reasonably well-developed.

It's understandable that spending and attention on Afghanistan lagged during the war in Iraq. But speeding up reconstruction and combating the Taliban resurgence are necessary if the bright hopes for Afghan liberation are not to fade.