International Information Programs
December 10, 2004

December 10, 2004





**  Afghan papers say inauguration of President Karzai opens a "new chapter" for nation.


**  Global media see a moment "full of symbolism and hope" for strife-torn country.


**  Afghanistan's gains remain "fragile" and international community must fulfill promises of aid.




'A new page for the Afghan people'--  Afghan dailies hailed the inauguration of President Hamid Karzai as opening "a new chapter in the contemporary history" of the "war-hit Afghan nation."  State-run Hewad stressed that Karzai "entered the [presidential] palace through the nation's direct vote instead of cannons, tanks, coups and uprisings."  Karzai's inaugural address "boosted the weak confidence of the people" while strengthening "the feeling of national...harmony."  Karzai "enjoys a golden opportunity" that his predecessors did not have, independent Kabul Weekly said, but along with other outlets noted he will face such challenges as "establishing and boosting security and stability all over the country" while curbing "tribal fascism" and the drug trade.


A day of 'hope for change'--  Writers elsewhere greeted the inauguration as marking "the start of a new era" in Afghanistan and a "transformation" in what had once been "the definitive failed state."  Urdu-language papers in Pakistan termed Afghanistan's emergence as a democracy "the region's most important development" and "a matter of great solace" for neighboring countries because of the "peaceful effects" that stability in the "strife-torn country" would bring.  France's right-of-center Le Figaro, though taking a swipe at "the enormous mistakes made by the Pentagon in the past two years," asserted that Karzai's installation marked a "real success" for President Bush’s "diplomacy...[and] unrelenting belief in the value of democracy," adding that France "can be proud of being militarily involved alongside the U.S." to stabilize the nation.  Skeptics dismissed Karzai as "mayor of Kabul" and questioned how much popular support a president enjoyed whose inauguration took place in a palace " a high-security prison" to meet security needs.


World must 'deliver on its promises'--  Even enthusiasts conceded that Karzai faced "truly daunting tasks" posed by Afghanistan's "booming drugs industry" and the need to extend the central government's "very weak" control over the country as a whole.  Britain's conservative Times took heart that Karzai is "fiercely committed to weaning his country of warlordism and the opium poppy."  Afghanistan "has only just begun its path to the civilized community of nations," stated Germany's right-of-center Die Welt, and "needs all kind of support."  Editorialists called on the international community to provide "much greater" aid.  A "test of the West’s and the world’s commitment" has begun, according to a Lebanese daily.  A Pakistani analyst agreed, stating that "utmost attention must be paid to reconstruction," and called on international donors to "fulfill promises made" toward the new democracy.


Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,


EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 26 reports from 15 countries December 8-9, 2004.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "Afghanistan, Jewel Of American Foreign Policy"


The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (12/8):  "Drugs and violence often go together.  Afghanistan is no exception, with warlords and their militia funding their operations from opium production....  Nevertheless, the power of the warlords has diminished as that of the central government has grown.  Ismail Khan was dismissed as governor of the western province of Herat in September.  Mohammed Qadim Fahim, a Tajik, is no longer minister of defense.  And the Uzbek Abdul Rashid Dostum, unsuccessful in his presidential bid in October, cuts a less formidable figure than before.  The presence of 18,000 American troops as well as the [NATO-led International Security Assistance Force] bears witness to continuing instability.  But that should not detract from the transformation symbolized by yesterday's inauguration."


"A Brave New Dawn"


The conservative Times commented (12/8):  "Many of those bereaved on September 11, 2001, may still be asking themselves if anything unequivocally good can come of that day.  The swearing-in yesterday of Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan offered a positive answer.  As a direct result of the attacks on New York and Washington, Afghanistan has, for the first time, a democratically elected leader who is respected at home and abroad, and fiercely committed to weaning his country of warlordism and the opium poppy.  For the first time, likewise, Afghanistan has the rest of the world on its side.  The international community is now heavily invested in what was the definitive failed state, and too grimly aware of how that failure was exploited by extremists."


FRANCE:  "First American Successes"


Renaud Girard observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/8):  "The enormous mistakes made by the Pentagon in the past two years must not hide the reality of the real successes achieved by President Bush’s diplomacy elsewhere.  His unrelenting belief in the value of democracy is beginning to bear fruit all across the great wide world.  In Kabul, a new president has been elected by more than eight million Afghans....  In spite of all their attempts, the Taliban and al-Qaida were not able to keep the people of Afghanistan from having their say.  For the first time in their life Afghan women were able to vote.  Major world powers, including France, can be proud of being militarily involved alongside the U.S. to stabilize this Central Asian nation.  Karzai’s tasks are immense, but the progress made since the obscurantist regime of Mullah Omar with bin Laden as ‘eminence grise’ is also immense."


GERMANY:  "Power Base"


Karl Grobe argued in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (12/8):  "The presence of U.S. Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad showed the real power base of the new president.  This power base continues to be maintained with about 18,000 combat forces, until, as commanding General David Barno said, reconciliation with a considerable part of the Taliban has succeeded.  On the one hand, this is realistic, but, on the other hand, it gives the lie to the previous war argument.  If there was a considerable number of good guys among the bad guys, the war reasons have the similar quality like the ones for Iraq.  But there is more behind it.  The Taliban are in general Pashtuns, and the 55 percent of the overall Afghan electorate that supported Karzai are also Pashtuns.  Reconciliation with other ethnic people has not yet taken place.  To put it more precisely:  with the warlords, who live on the cultivation of opium.  Without the United States, Karzai will be unable to come to terms with this mixture."




Dietrich Alexander had this to say in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (12/8):  "Hamid Karzai's inauguration in the Kabul presidential palace, which had to be restructured for this ceremony like a high-security prison, shows that there is still something wrong in Afghanistan.  Of course, the new president is still a president...without a hinterland, for outside the provincial warlords have the say....  But what was the situation three years ago?  The Afghanistan of the Taliban was a place of horror, a place of self-appointed religious warriors who, in their religious craze, made slaves of the Afghan people....  Today's Afghanistan has only just begun its path to the civilized community of nations.  And it needs all kind of support.  Its fate is also put in German hands, because Germany has deployed Bundeswehr forces there.  The Afghanistan project must succeed, because it is the first of its kind.  The success or the failure will have considerable influence on the second project of this kind:  Iraq.  The new Afghanistan is damned to succeed, and by swearing into office a freely elected president, the country made a great leap forward."


ITALY:  "Karzai Promises Peace And Fight On Drugs"


Rome's center-right daily Il Tempo noted (12/8):  “With a military presence of 16,000 men, the U.S. will do everything in its power to make the Karzai experiment work.  Afghanistan, with all the obvious differences, is a model for Iraq.  A good Karzai will demonstrate to the skeptics that even U.S. ‘puppets’ can yield positive results:  this will be a message for the Iraqis, and for the Palestinians as well who have already designated the local Karzai, Abu Mazen, as their presidential candidate for the January 9 elections.  Mazen is a moderate and favored by the U.S. and Israel.”


AUSTRIA:  "With God's Help"


Senior columnist Ernst Trost wrote in mass circulation tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung rites on (12/9):  "Despite the quick victory over the Taliban, the country is by no means pacified and is anything but united.  Part of the responsibility for this state of affairs falls to Cheney and Rumsfeld.  With the Iraq war, Afghanistan became a matter of secondary importance to them:  they withdrew troops and acted as though everything was all right in the state that had been freed from the Taliban rule....  However, Afghanistan has a claim to success in that it has once again become the largest and most important provider of heroin for Europe.  The Afghan farmers make their living by growing poppies for opium production, and the drug barons are doing a booming business."


"Cleaning Up After The Anti-Terror Warriors"


Editor Konrad Kramar commented in mass-circulation tabloid Kurier (12/9):  "Europe takes care of Afghanistan like a bad student takes care of his homework--by doing as little as possible and that too late, while shrugging off the admonishments of the teacher in Washington.  This is taking the easy way out.  If Europe wants to commit to Afghanistan, as peacemaker as well as helper, it needs to establish just which role it is planning to play there.  There is no point in adhering to the Bush administration's military logic, thanks to which the war against terror has already got stuck in two states in the region.  That way, the only task left for Europe to perform is that of cleaning up.  What it must do is develop a position of its own towards Afghanistan.  What does this devastated country need?   More troops, more humanitarian aid, or real assistance with rebuilding its institutions?  Europe must formulate its own political goals for the Hindu Kush--even if this should turn out to go against Washington's wishes."


IRELAND:  "Afghanistan's Future"


The center-left Irish Times concluded (12/8):  "[The Karzai] government's political and administrative reach within it are severely circumscribed.  Effectively he has full sovereignty only over the Kabul region, where his rule is bolstered by 8,400 NATO peacekeeping troops.  Elsewhere 18,000 United States troops have free rein to pursue al-Qaida bands, including their elusive leader Osama bin Laden; most other regions are ruled by warlords with another 50,000 troops and militias at their disposal, subject to very weak central control.  Since Mr. Karzai started in office as interim president in mid-2002, three million refugees have returned from neighboring countries; many women have returned to the workforce, schools and the electorate in what remains an extremely patriarchal society; and there has been some reconstruction of the capital and major transport infrastructure.  A draft constitution has been agreed.  But Mr. Karzai's new government faces truly daunting tasks in establishing its authority against warlord control of most of the country.  The warlords' independent role is enormously strengthened by the country's booming drugs industry....  U.S. and British agencies plan to spend large sums buying out farmers or spraying crops; but it is hard to see such policies rolling back [economic] realities in the short to medium term without much greater international aid for nation-building.  Ideologically and financially this does not suit the Bush administration.  In these circumstances Afghanistan seems well on the way to become a ‘narco-state’, rather than a beacon of democracy.  The huge wealth arising from opium production under warlord control could be more dangerous in the longer term than terrorist movements such as al-Qaida based in Afghanistan.  It would be surprising if they too do not cash in on the drugs bonanza.”




SAUDI ARABIA:  "Afghanistan"


The pro-government, English-language Arab News remarked (Internet version,  12/8):  "[Karzai's] concern, and that of all Afghans who look to a stable and prosperous future, is that the international community will not deliver its promised support and aid, and without that, the transformation of Afghanistan cannot be achieved....  Karzai’s mandate has now been legitimized by an election which, despite shortcomings, has been judged fair.  If, however, Washington remains fixated upon a purely military defeat of terror, it can never be victorious.  Karzai knows that unless the root causes of terrorism, poverty and factionalism in Afghanistan are addressed, the men of violence and the destabilizing presence of the warlords will remain a threat.  It does not matter how many Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are killed, there will always be desperate and deluded people who are ready to take their place.  The challenge in Afghanistan is arguably now more manageable than the one in Iraq.  Militarily the terrorists there are on the back foot.  The multitude of forces throughout the country are content to allow the relatively weak central government in Kabul to continue.  This precarious stability cannot, however, last indefinitely, even with international forces to protect the government and its institutions.  Karzai...knows very well that exhortation alone is not going to convince these historically independent and often fiercely proud factional leaders to work together for the greater benefit of Afghanistan....  People have become accustomed to the more accessible and understandable rule of their ethnic leaders....  They have elected a president but this alone will not reunify the country.  Kabul and the central government must have something tangible beyond political legitimacy to offer all its people.  The world simply has to deliver on its promises; if undelivered, the future of Afghanistan will become even less hopeful.  There will be a resurgence of terrorism."


LEBANON:  "Three Years Later In Kabul, The Commitment Test Starts"


The English-language Daily Star editorialized (12/8):  “Three years after the U.S. led a war to overthrow the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai was sworn in as Afghanistan’s first democratically elected president Tuesday.  The moment is full of symbolism and hope for a country that has suffered a quarter century of warfare....  A great deal has changed for the better in Afghanistan in the past three years, and the country has a good change of moving steadily towards the stability, democracy and prosperity that it deserves.  Yet this is also a moment to remember how much remains to be done, and how fragile some of the gains of the past three years are.  This remains a major, ongoing, test of the very controversial Anglo-American policy of promoting regime change by military means.  The test of the West’s and the world’s commitment to Afghanistan’s well being starts now.”


UAE:  "President Karzai Is 'Mayor Of Kabul'"


The English-language, expatriate-oriented Gulf News editorialized (Internet version, 12/8):  "Karzai's position as head of state is little more than a provincial mayor, since he is unable to effectively run the country beyond the regions of Kabul.  Indeed, Karzai is rarely able to travel far afield, and certainly not without a strong band of henchmen usually American troops and mercenaries.  Thus, it is harsh but realistic to describe Karzai as mayor.  It is possible to go further and claim he is a puppet mayor, kept in place by the will of the present U.S. administration--a dangerous reliance, considering how quickly yesterday's friends of America can become today's enemies, and vice versa.  It is not a happy situation for Karzai, but then there were few takers for the job.  Most warlords were fighting for dominance over their own particular region and to protect their lucrative poppy fields....  Karzai will have his work cut out.  He has appointed two deputies, members of the country's two largest ethnic minorities, in the hope it will bring people onside his side.  But the real test will come when Karzai appoints his cabinet.  Thus far he has been able to keep the various factions quiet by giving sinecure positions.  Now he will have to 'firm up' his cabinet to make it work positively, which may result in a backlash if he leaves any of them out.  An appearance of stability must be seen if the international community is ever to come forward with the pledges of donor aid, made two years ago in Tokyo and yet to appear.  Some $20 billion is needed, a quarter of that was promised, and only about 10 per cent has materialized.  Too little, too late for a country that is still divided."




CHINA:  "New Government Faces Challenges Ahead"


Hu Xuan wrote in official, English-language China Daily (Internet version, 12/8):  "Hamid Karzai's inauguration yesterday as Afghanistan's first elected president provides this war-torn nation with hope and optimism....  The installation of Karzai is the culmination of a three-year drive to transform Afghanistan from a training ground for al-Qaida extremists into a moderate Islamic republic.  Under his interim leadership, Afghans have adopted a new constitution...and have held their first Western-style vote.  Some 3 million Afghan refugees displaced by more than two decades of warfare have returned home, and women and girls are back in the workplaces and schools from which they were barred under the Taliban.  The economy is also showing signs of recovery.  Now all eyes are on who Karzai will select for his new cabinet next week.  A cabinet that is both competent and representative of the ethnic, cultural and geographical diversity of the country would be critical for advancing national reconciliation.   It is crucial to whether Karzai can chart a course of reform, during a five-year term, away from persistent insecurity, the endemic illicit narcotics industry and weak central control....  The country's booming drug economy...will be the top priority for the coming years.  UN surveys...warn the corrupting power of drug smuggling mafia is taking an iron grip on the country, which poses an increasing threat to national security, social stability and government effectiveness.  The new government must address arms and narcotics--two issues that have the potential to combine and form a vicious cycle that could seriously undermine much of the progress the country has made."


JAPAN:  "Karzai Must Independently Manage Afghanistan"


Liberal Mainichi observed from Islamabad (12/8):  "As the first democratically elected leader in Afghanistan, President Karzai must manage the country independently with less reliance on the U.S.  The presence of U.S. Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld at Tuesday's inauguration ceremony illustrates Washington's strong support for the president.  However, the Afghan leader will increasingly need to assert his nation's policy and direction from now on.  Incorporating local warlords into his new cabinet is Karzai's immediate political priority, in addition to maintaining security in regional areas.  He is also reportedly anxious to marshal support from certain elements of the disbanded Taliban in order to ensure parliamentary elections are held peacefully next spring.  However, many tribal leaders have voiced strong opposition to the president's move."


"U.S. Still Holds Key To Afghan Reconstruction"


The top-circulation, moderate-conservative Yomiuri argued (12/8):  "It is clear that the U.S. still holds the key to reconstruction efforts and to maintaining security in Afghanistan.  The Bush administration reportedly hoped that the attendance of Vice President Cheney and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld at the inauguration ceremony would help spread the image that Afghanistan is a model of success in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.  Amid growing views that the U.S. occupation in Iraq is failing, it is critical for Washington to demonstrate Afghanistan's smooth transition to a democratically elected government."


INDONESIA:  "Afghanistan Enters A New Era With Karzai’s Inauguration"


Leading independent daily Kompas editorialized (12/9):  “A new era that provides much hope for change and improvement began to be seen in Afghanistan after Hamid Karzai was inaugurated as president.  He has high legitimacy with support from more than 55 percent of the voters during the October direct presidential election....  Developments in Afghanistan will be determined by the performance of Karzai’s administration in safeguarding the democratic process as well as in restoring stability and economic development....  Karzai still relies on the presence of 27,000 U.S. and NATO forces.  There is concern about the capability of his administration to maintain security when NATO pulls out its forces.  Karzai himself has twice survived murder attempts.”




AFGHANISTAN:  "A New Chapter In Our History"


State-run daily Anis observed (12/8):  "Hamid Karzai, the elected president, has faced major challenges inside and outside the country over the past three years of the interim and transitional governments.  He will face such challenges and problems in the next five years too....  Establishing and boosting security and stability all over the country, combating narcotics, implementing general disarmament...are the tasks ahead of the elected president....  Now that our people have opened a new chapter in the contemporary history of their country, they hope that Mr. Karzai's oath of allegiance will be implemented in practice in a lawful and logical way, taking into consideration the high interests of the people."


"Boost To Confidence Of The People"


Independent Cheragh commented (12/8):  "With his oath of allegiance...Hamid Karzai closed an old chapter and opened a new page for the people....  Hamid Karzai boosted the weak confidence of people about a brighter future...and strengthened the feeling of national participation and harmony."


"A Great National Festival"


State-run Hewad remarked (12/8):  "Hamid Karzai took oath of allegiance as the president yesterday.  The war-hit Afghan nation waited...many years and went through many witness this moment....  Hamid Karzai took oath of allegiance yesterday as a president who entered the palace through the nation's direct vote instead of cannons, tanks, coups and uprisings....  This was truly a great national festival.  This was the festival of renewal of strong national determination.  This was the festival of the beginning of a new chapter in our thousands years history.  This was the festival of the renewal of international community's solidarity and support for the Afghan nation."


"The New Cabinet"


Independent Kabul Weekly noted (12/8):  "If President Karzai fails to curb tribal fascism and remove elements who are disrupting security and who are involved in drugs trade...from his cabinet, he will become the most disreputable political personality of Afghanistan, because he enjoys a golden opportunity that none of the past statesmen of the country have ever had."


INDIA:  "The Battle Has Only Begun"


The nationalist Hindustan Times commented (12/9):  "Afghanistan's newly sworn-in President Hamid Karzai probably has one of the most unenviable jobs in the world....  Although the election strengthened Karzai's political hand, voting was apparently along ethnic lines.  This limited the margin of victory for Karzai as many of his challengers did well in their ethnic strongholds.  Unfortunately even the successful conduct of the polls seems to have had little to do with the declining capability of terrorist elements in Afghanistan, as with the cross-border influence of Pakistan.  For the U.S. evidently put pressure on Islamabad to ensure that the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami-that are still active in the Pashtun belt of the Afghan-Pakistan border did not disrupt the polls.  And to make Karzai--a Pashtun--a shoo-in, Washington probably also prompted Islamabad to ensure that Pashtun refugees in Pakistan participated in the election in large numbers.  But this shouldn't detract from Karzai's credentials as the best bet for Afghanistan."


"A New Era In Afghanistan"


Independent Telugu-language Eenadu editorialized (12/9):  "Countries of the world have welcomed the emergence of Afghanistan as a democratic nation that is liberated from decades long uncertainty and tyranny.  Afghanistan was made a rubble in the aftermath of the U.S.' war with the Taliban regime.  The U.S. and European countries were not sympathetic to the plight of Afghanistan when they set democratization of the country as a pre-condition to financial aid.  While watching the moves of the U.S. on the Afghan chessboard very carefully, countries of the world should actively participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan."


PAKISTAN:  "President Of The Islamic Republic Of Afghanistan Takes Oath"


Lahore-based independent Urdu-language Din noted (12/9):  "With Mr. Hamid Karzai’s inauguration as the first elected president of Afghanistan, the country has formally taken on the status of a democratic republic.  This should indeed be termed as the region’s most important development....  The foremost challenge before Mr. Karzai is to assure the world of the effectiveness of his government and to gain the capability to rely on his own forces and eliminate dependence on foreign troops."


"Inauguration Of Afghanistan’s First Elected President"


Leading mass-circulation Urdu-language Jang commented (12/9):  "The formal inauguration of Afghanistan’s first elected president Hamid Karzai is a matter of great solace for the neighboring countries including Pakistan, because the internal stability in this strife-torn country would establish peaceful effects on the overall situation of the region."


"Dreams Of The Afghan President"


The sensationalist Urdu-language Ummat concluded (12/9):  "It is only after 42 years in Afghanistan that some 'elected president' has 'democratically' taken the oath of his office.  The 'reality' of Hamid Karzai’s election, democracy in the country and he being a public representative, was exposed from his inaugural ceremony which was held amid tight security.  Hamid Karzai is limited to his presidential palace in Kabul.  How much public support a president enjoys, who, while holding his inaugural ceremony, did not allow the people to come out of their houses in the capital and who took the oath under the siege of U.S. troops, must be evident to all.”


"The Start Of A New Era In Afghanistan"


The populist Urdu-language daily Khabrain (12/8):  "Hamid Karzai has now become the country’s first elected president.  This marks the beginning of a new democratic era in Afghanistan.  Now that a democratic government is in place in the country, utmost attention must be paid to reconstruction, rehabilitation of the Afghans, improvement of law and order and to lessen dependence on foreign troops....  At the same time, the international community must also fulfill promises made towards Afghanistan at the Bonn Conference."


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