|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-326223 Rice-Afghanistan-Envoy (L-only)
TITLE=Rice-Afghanistan Envoy (L-Only)
HEADLINE: Rice Swears-In New U.S. Envoy to Afghanistan
INTRO: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led swearing-in ceremonies Wednesday for the new U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, veteran diplomat Ronald Neumann. He replaces Zalmay Khalilzad in the Kabul post, who has gone on to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
TEXT: Kabul was once one of the more obscure U.S. diplomatic posts. But that is hardly the case now, and the swearing-in of Mr. Neumann was a high-profile event, drawing not only the Secretary of State but other top government officials including Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.
Secretary Rice, who administered the oath of office to Mr. Neumann, said the fate of the United States and Afghanistan became intertwined on September 11th, 2001 when al-Qaeda terrorists launched their attacks in New York and Washington.
She said that now, three and a half years after the U.S. led invasion, Afghanistan has gone from being the home-base of al-Qaeda to a place of great hope and promise, exemplified by an on-going democratic electoral process:
It is a place of great hope and promise first and foremost because of the remarkable people of Afghanistan, a people who survived years and years of civil war and turmoil to emerge now determined to build a democratic future, a prosperous future, and a future in which Afghanistan is now longer a platform for terrorism and chaos in the region, but rather stable member of a growing South Asian and Southwest Asian region.
Mr. Neumann previously served as U.S. ambassador to Bahrain and Algeria, but most recently was a top official of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad where he served as the principle liaison between the embassy and the multi-national military command there.
In his remarks, Mr. Neumann said he is grateful for the privilege to represent the United States in Afghanistan, a country he said has become so important in a fight against terror and an extremism he said would divide peoples, and turn the clock backwards on human equality and toleration:
The struggle in which we are contending is not a clash between civilizations. Rather it is a clash within Islam that seek to remove our influence so that it can impose by force a narrow view that would restrict human freedom and progress throughout the Islamic world. It is a view of Islam that has been repeatedly rejected by Muslim scholars, and much rests on our success in Afghanistan.
Mr. Neumann said he is optimistic about Afghanistan's future though saying significant challenges remain, especially in fighting narcotics, establishing the rule of law, and enhancing security.
He said that weakened Taliban and al-Qaeda forces are resorting to what he described as desperate attacks on soft targets, but will not be allowed to undermine the rule of President Hamid Karzai's government or the country's progress.
Mr. Neumann follows in the footsteps of his late father Robert, a career foreign service officer who was U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 1966 to 1973. (Signed)
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