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First Lady Laura Bush Travels to Afghanistan and Visits Bamiyan Province

On Sunday, June 8, First Lady Laura Bush arrived in Afghanistan for her third suprise visit. During her visit, Mrs. Bush met with President Hamid Karzai, members of the Afghan Cabinet, U.S. and NATO soldiers at Bagram Airbase, as well as Afghan civilians as she toured Kabul and traveled to Bamiyan province. (Read her op-ed on the trip published in the Wall Street Journal on June 12 here.)

The First Lady praised both Afghan and Western efforts and re-emphasized the U.S.'s commitment to Afghanistan. "It's very important for the international community to redouble their efforts so that the word gets out to the people of Afghanistan that the rest of the world is with you and that we're not going to leave you.”

The First Lady also spoke out about the role of women and education in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. She has focused much of her charitable and diplomatic efforts as First Lady on education initiatives for women, especially those in Afghanistan. "Of course we want more girls in school and I think that's really key to the success of Afghanistan," she explained.

First Lady Bush visited Bamiyan Province where she met with Governor Habiba Sarabi and also took the opportunity to visit the site of a planned orphanage and school being built by the Ayenda Foundation that will house and educate 128 children upon its completion. She met with Afghan girls and women at the new learning center.

The First Lady also participated at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Bamiyan Bazaar Road Project, which is the second road project the U.S. has supported in the province during the past year. Funded by the U.S., the road will continue through the town center, making it easier to transport goods to and from Bamiyan's commercial center. She announced that the U.S. will be providing $778,000 for this project. The First Lady also met with the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which performed a special welcome ceremony.

While in Kabul, the First Lady also met with students from Kabul University, the Women’s Teacher Training Institute, American University and the International School of Kabul. During her meetings, she stressed the U.S.'s commitment to supporting these institutions that will empower women by providing education, health care and training. Mrs. Bush also traveled to Bagram airbase to meet U.S. military personnel stationed in Afghanistan and conveyed her gratitude for their military service.

Mrs. Bush praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s resilience explaining, "He inherited – just by becoming president—a country that's been totally devastated. It is very, very difficult when you have al-Qaeda and Taliban all over the borders and making incursions into Afghanistan, and it’s intimidating for everyone."

Mrs. Bush will also be attending an upcoming international donor’s conference in Paris on June 12, where Afghanistan will make its case for renewed foreign aid. Throughout the trip, the First Lady emphasized the need for redoubled efforts in both the security and economic development of Afghanistan. She commended the resolve of the Afghan people and demanded that the international community keep its promise to Afghanistan. "The people of Afghanistan know what it was like. The international community can’t drop Afghanistan now, at this very crucial time."

Click here to see the First Lady's website.

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