Bush Holds "Frank Conversation" with Afghan, Pakistani Leaders

By Stephen Kaufman
Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington - President Bush said the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan “share the same goals” of defeating extremists such as the Taliban and al-Qaida, and can realize success only by working together.

Speaking in Washington September 29, two days after his dinner with President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House, Bush said both countries are “strong allies who are committed to routing out the terrorists in their midst.”

The U.S. president said the three leaders had a “long and … frank conversation” concerning how to defeat extremists in their countries, including through intelligence sharing and providing their citizens with “an alternative to the dark ideology of the enemy,” with measures such as strengthening civil society institutions in both countries.

As a result of the September 27 discussions, Bush said the leaders agreed on the need to support tribal leaders on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“By helping these local leaders build schools and roads and health clinics, we will help them build a better life for their communities and strengthen their hand against the fight against the extremists,” he said.

The president said the 2001 military action against al-Qaida and Afghanistan’s Taliban government was “only the start of an important mission to make this world a more peaceful place,” and added that the United States has “learned the lesson of the 1980s,” and would not leave the Afghan people to “fend for themselves” after helping to remove an oppressive regime.

Bush said the United States has provided more than $4.5 billion for reconstruction throughout the country since the military action.

“We're helping with electricity and irrigation and water and sanitation and other necessities. Our coalition is working with President Karzai to strengthen the institutions of Afghanistan's young democracy,” he said.

The United States and its coalition allies also have helped Afghanistan improve its security by training and equipping more than 30,000 soldiers in the Afghan National Army. Bush said that several thousand more are currently in training, and the coalition also has trained about 46,000 members of the Afghan National Police.

“As the police become more capable, and better led, and more disciplined, they will gain legitimacy and they will earn the respect of the Afghan people,” the president said.

Along with the Afghan forces, Bush said more than 21,000 U.S. troops and more than 20,000 personnel from 40 other countries remain deployed in Afghanistan, under NATO or coalition command.

The president said NATO’s deployment to the southern part of Afghanistan, where Taliban forces are located, “has begun to bring security and reconstruction to a region that it previously had had little. And it has allowed the United States and Afghan forces to stay on the offense.”

The United States also is helping President Musharraf establish stronger control over Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan and bring security to his own country.

“[W]e're also supporting him as he takes steps to build a modern and moderate nation that will hold free and fair elections next year,” Bush said.

The transcript of the president’s remarks and a fact sheet on the U.S. alliances with Pakistan and Afghanistan are available on the White House Web site.

For additional information, see Response to Terrorism.