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JICA signs agreement to help rebuild Kabul

December 21, 2007 (JICA): It is one of the world's most ancient cities—more than 3,000 years old straddling major trade routes in southern and central Asia, the prize of invaders ranging from the Moghul Empire to the Soviet Union.

Kabul City was established between 2000 and 1500 BC along the Kabul River and near the vital Khyber Pass linking Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia to India and Pakistan.

In 1504 it was made the capital of the Moghul Empire by the conqueror Babur. During its tumultuous history, it was captured in 1738 by the Persian ruler Nadir Shah and in the 1770s it became the capital of an independent Afghan state. It then became the focus of British, Persian and Russian rivalry for control of the region in the 19th century and was occupied by Soviet troops in 1979.

After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the city went through its most disastrous civil war, more than 50,000 people losing their lives during street fighting after the Taliban government seized control. Roads, electricity, water, telephone systems, businesses and home were destroyed, leaving Kabul a skeletal wreck.

This ruined city was eventually 'liberated' by American-led forces in 2001.

Following the inauguration of a new government, the city has begun to slowly revive, but it now faces the formidable problem to repair destroyed infrastructure, house hundreds of thousands of returning refugees and accommodate a booming business community.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA, in December signed an agreement, "the Development of the Master Plan for Kabul Metropolitan Area," to help the government draw up a blueprint for the rebuilding the Afghan capital.

It was initialed during a week-long visit by JICA President Sadako Ogata and will be launched in March 2008 to develop a comprehensive plan to revive water supplies, transportation, electricity and other infrastructure.

JICA has been involved in similar projects around the world, including a blueprint for Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, in time for its forthcoming 1,000th anniversary.

During her second visit to the country between Dec. 11 and 15, Mrs. Ogata held talks with President Hamid Karzai, was awarded the Malalai Heroine of Maiwand War medal, the highest award given to women by the government, reviewed the country's reconstruction in the last few years and visited several JICA projects.

The agency has been active in the country for the last five years in such fields as health and particularly education, including the encouragement of widespread participation by girls who were denied opportunities during the previous Taliban regime.

As part of her discussions, and also during a nationwide television appearance, Mrs. Ogata said that Afghanistan's development was progressing steadily, particularly compared with the situation in 2004 and that it had now moved from a period of reconstruction to a more long-term development stage.