Afghanistan, which is 1.7 times as large as Japan with a population of 30 million, was once an important transportation hub called "crossroads of civilizations" connecting South Asia, Central Asia, Western Asia and Eastern Asia.
Afghanistan's strategic geopolitical position had attracted continuous involvement of the great powers throughout history. At the same time, the relations with the great powers had brought diversity to the ethnicity, language and culture of Afghanistan as they are today.
A dynasty which united the different tribes in Afghanistan was founded in 1747 and lasted until 1973 when Afghanistan became a republic. Since then, Afghanistan has experienced continuous confusion such as a military coup, the military intervention by the Soviet Union, civil war, Taliban's rise of power, and the military operation led by the US and UK following the September 11 attacks.
Finally, the Afghan Transitional Administration was established in 2002. In 2004, the nation's new constitution was adopted and the former President Hamid Karzai was declared the first ever democratically elected head of state. He was reelected in 2009. As a result of the 3rd presidential election which took place in 2014, the new President Ghani took office. This election was the first time in Afghanistan's history that power was democratically transferred.
Meanwhile, the international community including Japan has been supporting Afghanistan actively to ensure the country will never again become a hotbed of terrorism.
Afghanistan has been facing a number of difficult challenges such as reconciliation with antigovernment forces, reintegration of ex-combatants into the society, maintaining security, and social and economic development. The international community has continuously supported Afghanistan as the peace and stability of Afghanistan is crucially important for the peace and stability of not only the Middle East and Central Asia region but the world as a whole.
Since the long-lasting conflict ended in 2002, the development of Afghanistan has been largely supported by the international community. Now the new Government positions the next 10 years from 2015 as the "transformation decade" and is promoting nation building aiming at the realization of self-reliance.
In the "Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan" held in July, 2012, the Government of Japan announced to provide up to around 3 billion US dollars of assistance to Afghanistan in about five years from 2012 in the field of socio-economic development and enhancement of security capabilities.
JICA has been implementing a number of projects in Afghanistan based on the assistance policy of the Government of Japan which contribute to the economic growth with employment generation, stability in people's livelihood and human resource development.
The priority areas of JICA's assistance to Afghanistan are infrastructure development with a focus on the Kabul Metropolitan Area, as well as agriculture and rural development. The Project for the Promotion and Enhancement of the Afghan Capacity for Effective Development (PEACE), one of JICA's flagship projects which started in 2011, is likely to achieve its target of accepting 500 civil servants to the Japanese graduate schools within this fiscal year.
It has been 13 years since the opening of the JICA Afghanistan Office in July, 2002. Meanwhile, JICA has been thinking and working together with the people of Afghanistan for the peace building and the development of Afghanistan. A total of more than 3,500 Japanese, including JICA officials, technical experts and mission members, have been dispatched to Afghanistan since the opening of the JICA Afghanistan Office. The efforts of the Japanese experts closely working together with the Afghan people in the field have been highly recognized. More than 3,600 Afghans have participated in JICA's technical training programs held in Japan or other countries. At this moment, there are more than 250 Afghans including PEACE participants who are striving to acquire technologies and knowledges in Japan.
I am sure that these human resources will lead the peace building and nation building of Afghanistan, and contribute to strengthening the friendship between Afghanistan and Japan.
In the infrastructure development sector, JICA has continuously supported the development of the Kabul International Airport through such projects as the construction of the international terminal, improvement of the taxiway, installation of the solar power generation system, and the improvement of the security equipment. As a result, the function and service of the Airport have greatly improved, which led to the increase of the number of the international air carriers providing service to Kabul from 3 in 2005 to 11. The number of routs, flights and passengers has also increased dramatically. The national flag of Japan is hoisted together with the national flag of Afghanistan in front of the main entrance of the international terminal building as a token of appreciation of Japanese support.
In Afghanistan, 80% of the population is engaged in agriculture. In the agriculture development sector, the Rice-based Agriculture Development Project has succeeded in tripling the rice production volume and is now working to disseminate the results. The project for the Development of Wheat Breeding Materials, which is implemented in collaboration with the Yokohama City University, is working on the development and breeding of the disease-resistant and drought-tolerant wheat materials.
The joint project with PMS, an affiliated NGO of the Japanese Peshawar-kai, supports the "Green Ground Fund for Afghanistan" which aims to realize stable agriculture by irrigating a total of 16,500 hectares in the northern-Jalalabad breadbasket area. Over 600 local residents are participating in and supporting the project which has the potential to provide 650 thousand farmers with the foundation of living.
Afghanistan is still one of the poorest countries ranked 169th of the 187 countries in the UNDP's Human Development Index in 2014. The security condition is still unstable. However, the streets are vibrant and the markets are crammed with seasonal vegetables, fruits and groceries. The capital, Kabul has a population of 5 million, and the people are striving to live their lives to the fullest with their families and friends while helping each other. I think there are still a lot JICA can do for the brighter future of the people in Afghanistan.
While taking sufficient security measures in our operations, JICA Afghanistan Office looks forward to working closely together with the people of Afghanistan side by side, for the purpose of contributing to the peace building and development of Afghanistan as well as to deepening the friendship between Afghanistan and Japan.
May 2015, Eiichiro CHO, Chief Representative, JICA Afghanistan