Karzai To Visit Nebraska Farms

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, autographs a photo for U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Linda Cashion, left, during her stint in Operation Eduring Freedom in Afghanistan, after a full honors ceremony in his honor, Monday, May 23, 2005 at the Pentagon.
Fresh off visits to the White House and Boston University, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's last stop on his current U.S. tour is a place most heads of state don't reach: rural America.

In addition to addressing troops at Offutt Air Force Base and receiving an honorary degree from the University of Nebraska, Karzai was to visit a feedlot and farm on Wednesday.

Karzai's visit to the town of West Point is intended to give the Afghan president's group an opportunity to see how a city of 3,660 supports a sausage company and meatpacking plant, small businesses and farmers growing corn and raising cattle.

"You can go see a lab, drive around a city, but this might give them a real chance at seeing how a successful rural American city thrives," said Thomas Gouttierre, director of the university's Center for Afghanistan Studies.

Karzai also planned to visit the farm and feedyard of Harry Knobbe.

"In this country we have the right to own the land, to make a profit," Knobbe said, adding he and others hope to show Karzai and other Afghan officials that self-motivation is the key to good production.

Karzai faces economic and military challenges in Afghanistan, including the country's status as a major source of opium poppies, the raw material for heroin.

With President Bush at his side Monday, Karzai said he is hopeful that poppy production will be down 20 percent to 30 percent this year. The two men also signed a strategic partnership agreement that ensures long-term U.S. support for Afghanistan in economic, security and other sectors.

Afghanistan historically did not produce opium, Gouttierre said. It used to be a net exporter of fruits and nuts, particularly grapes, raisins, pomegranates, apples, pistachios, walnuts and almonds, he said. There also is good potential in Afghanistan for beef, lamb and chicken production, Gouttierre said.

By Joe Ruff