Bush Announces New Plan for Afghanistan

By David McKeeby
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – President Bush announced a new six-point plan February 15 to help Afghanistan defeat Taliban forces and terrorists, and establish a stable, moderate, democratic state.

The United States' commitment to Afghanistan and its future remains strong, he said.

“We will train you, we will help you, and we will stand with you as you defend your new democracy,” Bush said at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

The president also said that part of the United States' strategy is to work with allies to strengthen NATO forces in Afghanistan.  Bush said it is NATO's most important military operation.

"For NATO to succeed, member nations must provide commanders on the ground with the troops and equipment they need to do their jobs," Bush said.  When there is a need to fill security gaps and commanders in the field say they need additional help, "our NATO countries must provide it in order to be successful in this mission," he said.

The Taliban and al-Qaida had been on the run over the past five years, but they struck back in 2006 with a doubling of roadside bombings, a tripling of attacks on NATO troops and a fivefold increase in suicide bombings, which were once a rarity in Afghanistan, he said.

In anticipation of a spring surge in attacks, Bush said his administration has completed a comprehensive strategic review and is preparing six initiatives combining a stepped up military presence with an expanded focus on economic development.

First, he said, the United States and its allies will help expand and strengthen Afghanistan’s security forces, building the national police force from 61,000 to 82,000 personnel and the army from 32,000 to 70,000 troops by 2008.  New capabilities will include counternarcotics and border patrol units for the police, and expanded commando battalions, intelligence capabilities and support units for the army.

Second, Bush called on allies to join the United States in strengthening their contributions to the 37-nation, 32,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.  U.S. forces in Afghanistan will be increased by 3,200, he said, while acknowledging new commitments from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

“The people of Afghanistan need to know that they've got a lot of friends in this world who want them to succeed,” Bush said, but other allies must lift restrictions, or “caveats” placed on their contributed forces, so that commanders have the tactical flexibility to deploy them as needed. (See related article.)

The alliance was founded, Bush said, on this principle: "An attack on one is an attack on all. That principle holds true whether the attack is on the home soil of a NATO nation or on allied forces deployed on a NATO mission abroad.”

Third, the United States and its allies will redouble efforts to help the Afghan government improve local governments and expand economic development, giving new and better alternatives to rural residents that the Taliban targets for recruitment.  The United States will support NATO’s 25 joint military-civilian provincial reconstruction teams as they train local elected officials, build roads and extend microcredit programs, irrigation systems and electric power to improve the daily lives of Afghans.

Fourth, Bush said, the United States will help Afghanistan confront the poppy cultivation used by militants to finance terror.  The United States will support poppy eradication efforts, as well as alternative income programs, giving Afghan farmers credit, seeds, fertilizer and assistance in bringing their crops to market.

Fifth, legal experts from the United States, Norway and the United Kingdom are helping the government stamp out corruption in its judicial system by training new Afghan prosecutors, judges, police, defense attorneys and other legal professionals.

“The international community is helping this new government build a justice system so they can replace the rule of the Taliban with the rule of law,” Bush said.

Finally, Bush said, the United States would continue support of Afghanistan’s neighbor, Pakistan, arming its security forces and helping to strengthen their control of the border region while bringing new opportunities to area residents through the creation of reconstruction opportunity zones, where new businesses will benefit from duty-free export of locally made goods to the United States. (See related article.)

For additional information on U.S. support for Afghanistan, see fact sheet and Rebuilding Afghanistan.

A transcript of the president’s remarks is available on the White House Web site.