Cheney, Afghan President Review Progress in War Against Taliban

By David Shelby
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington -– Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during Vice President Cheney’s recent visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, expressed increased optimism about progress in the war against the Taliban, according to a senior administration official.

“Karzai was more positive and optimistic than I'd seen in my recent visits,” the official told reporters February 28.  “That doesn't mean that there's no threat. ... The point is a lot of work has been done.”

The official acknowledged that there is still tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan over the continued insecurity along their border, but, he added, “we are working hard at getting them to work together.”

The official said U.S. forces in Afghanistan are prepared for the Taliban’s expected spring offensive.  The Taliban typically take refuge from the weather during the harsh Afghan winter and mount fresh offensives each spring, and the official said this spring likely would be no exception.

The official said the U.S. military presence and economic assistance to Afghanistan are “absolutely vital to [the Afghans’] ability to continue to improve the circumstances on the ground, to train their own Afghan forces, and to take on more and more responsibility, viable functioning governments.”

He said the administration has requested “significant sums” for Afghan reconstruction in this year’s federal budget and has committed an additional brigade to the security operations in Afghanistan.  The ongoing U.S. commitment, the official said, is an important reason for Karzai’s optimism and added that a show of weakness on the part of the United States anywhere in the region likely would undermine the confidence of key allies in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Many in the region, the official said, rely “on the United States to be there, and to support them, and in many cases provide the leadership necessary to prevail in this global conflict with these extreme elements of Islam. And it would be difficult to sustain that conviction on their part if the United States were to suddenly decide that the problems in Iraq are too tough; we're going to pack it in and go home.”

A full transcript of the briefing is available on the White House Web site.

For more information on U.S. policy, see Rebuilding Afghanistan.