Colin L. Powell's statement at press briefing on new U.S. humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan

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USA Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's Statement at Press Briefing on New U.S. Humanitarian Assistance for Afghanistan. Washington, DC May 17, 2001

Good morning, everyone. Afghanistan is in crisis. After more than 20 years of war, and now the third year of a devastating draught, the country is on the verge of a widespread famine. Nearly 4 million Afghans are at risk. If the international community does not take immediate action, countless deaths and terrible tragedy are certain to follow.

At the direction of President Bush, I am today announcing a package of $43 million in new humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan, including 65,000 tons of wheat, $5 million in complementary food commodities, and $10 million in other livelihood and food security programs within Afghanistan. We also expect to soon announce additional assistance to Afghan refugees.

Even before this latest commitment, the United States was by far the largest provider of humanitarian assistance for Afghans. Last year, we provided about $114 million in aid. With this new package, our humanitarian assistance to date this year will reach $124 million. This includes over 200,000 tons of wheat.

We will continue to look for ways to provide more assistance for Afghans, including those farmers who have felt the impact of the ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the Taliban that we welcome.

We distribute our assistance in Afghanistan through international agencies of the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations. We provide our aid to the people of Afghanistan, not to Afghanistan's warring factions. Our aid bypasses the Taliban, who have done little to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people, and indeed have done much to exacerbate it. We hope the Taliban will act on a number of fundamental issues that separate us: their support for terrorism; their violation of internationally recognized human rights standards, especially their treatment of women and girls; and their refusal to resolve Afghanistan's civil war through a negotiated settlement.

UN sanctions against the Taliban are smart sanctions and do not hurt the Afghan people, nor do these sanctions affect the flow of humanitarian assistance for Afghans. America seeks to help the neediest, wherever they may be. I call upon the international community to mobilize and respond generously to help avert this looming humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.

Secretary General Annan and I have discussed this situation before, and I will ask for his further assistance to raise the international community's awareness about this crisis and to impress upon the international community the necessity to respond with energy and with dispatch.

Colleagues of mine from different parts of the government, as well as including the United States Agency for International Development, will be available to provide more detailed information, should you have questions.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).