News: U.S. ambassador visits Kandahar province
Story by Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen
KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, from Spokane, Wash., met with Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar Province, and other provincial officials in Kandahar City Aug. 6.
The two men discussed the progress made in and the challenges still ahead for Kandahar province during the more than hour-long visit.
Kandahar is one of the most important provinces in Afghanistan. Afghanistan means Kandahar,” said Wesa. “The history and policies of Afghanistan are determined in Kandahar. A peaceful Kandahar is a peaceful Afghanistan; a developed Kandahar is a developed Afghanistan.”
This trip was the ambassador’s first visit to Kandahar province since being sworn in as ambassador last month.
“It was important for me that my first trip be to Kandahar,” said Crocker. “The role of Kandahar has been central to shaping Afghanistan. I also came here to learn.”
Wesa expressed the thankfulness of the Kandahari people for the sacrifices made by coalition forces to wrest control of the province away from the insurgents.
“Our international friends have helped us with their blood and with the lives of their youth,” said Wesa. “The people of Kandahar will never forget their sacrifices.”
Because of its historical and strategic importance, both sides are focusing on control of Kandahar province, said Wesa.
“We should not rush into withdrawing [international forces] right away,” said Wesa. “We should have them for another summer.”
“We are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Crocker. “We are committed to lead the transition [to full Afghan control] in a secure and responsible way. This time, we will get it right. We have set a timeline of 2014, but we will be engaged in your support for many years to come.”
Wesa told the ambassador that education is still a serious problem in Kandahar province.
“We need to focus on education,” said Wesa. “It used to be that the first doctors and the best doctors and the first engineers and the best engineers came out of Kandahar. It is a real problem. Those people that left should come back to lead the process forward.”
“I completely agree that education is central. That is how a democratic society is built,” said Crocker. “I congratulate you on the progress you have made. Today there are 8.5 million students [in schools] and almost 40 percent are girls. It starts at the primary and secondary levels, and then that expands into the universities.”
Crocker finished up the meeting expressing condolences from the American people on the recent deaths of municipal and provincial government officials.
“I express my sympathy and my solidarity,” said Crocker.