Secretary Vilsack in Afghanistan as Part of USDA’s Effort to Help Re-develop the Nation’s Agriculture Sector
This weekend, Secretary Vilsack traveled to Afghanistan as part of USDA’s efforts to help re-develop the nation’s agriculture sector – the top Obama administration priority for reconstruction. “Agriculture is at a critical intersection in our efforts to try to stabilize Afghanistan,” said Vilsack. “If we are able to assist them in doing that, it also builds confidence in their government.”
The agricultural assistance strategy was developed by Afghans and Americans working together to restore Afghanistan’s once-vibrant agricultural economy. It is meant to help provide sustainable economic development in the long term by creating jobs, helping the nation achieve food self-sufficiency, reducing funding that the insurgency receives from poppy cultivation, and drawing insurgents off of the battlefield and back onto the farms and grazing lands that drive the nation’s economy.
At a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Vilsack reiterated the Obama Administration’s commitment to assisting Afghanistan in the development of its agricultural sector.
As Afghans roll out the new strategy in many of the nation’s 34 provinces, Vilsack and other members of the Administration want to ensure that U.S. civilians are effectively partnering with Afghans over the long term to enhance the capacity of national and sub-national government institutions and to help rehabilitate Afghanistan’s key economic sectors, especially agriculture.
In December 2009, President Obama outlined his Administration’s strategy to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al Qaeda and to prevent their return to either Afghanistan or Pakistan. Along with an infusion of troops was a simultaneous increase in the number of civilian technical experts deployed to Afghanistan. Currently, about 1,000 U.S. civilians and more than 50 USDA employees are fanned throughout the country, working with NATO forces and Afghan government officials as a crucial link between the needs of local populations and the ability of local governments to answer those needs.