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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband Travel to Afghanistan to Demonstrate International Unity

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband traveled to Afghanistan on February 7, following bi-lateral meetings in London. The two foreign secretaries visited Kandahar to meet with soldiers and Kabul to meet privately with President Karzai. Following the meeting, they held a press conference, in which Secretaries Rice and Milliband strongly insisted that the Afghan mission remain a priority for NATO. They requested that other NATO countries send more soldiers and equipment to Afghanistan. The alliance's defense ministers will gather in mid February in Vilnius, Lithuania, to discuss ways to bolster their 37,000 troops in the country.

Secretary Rice rejected criticism that the international strategy to stabilize Afghanistan was failing, but insisted that it was in need of further innovation. She condemned the Taliban’s increased attacks on innocent and defenseless people. "They've tried to adopt other tactics, like going after innocent people. We'll have to adapt too. The Afghan government, the Afghan forces will have to adapt," she said.

Secretary Milliband communicated the recommitment of the British Government to work with the Afghan government against the “shared enemies” of terrorism, poverty, underdevelopment and ill health. “And it's to help the Afghan people build a decent life for themselves that I'm here,” he said. He insisted that the British Government will assist development on a national, provincial and local level.

President Karzai hailed the building of road networks as a major boost to Afghanistan’s economy and a tool in the war against terror and drugs in the region. “When we began six years ago the defeat of the al-Qaida and terrorism that were around for so many years was achieved in less than a month and a half,” he said. “For that itself alone, the Afghan people are extremely grateful. That for us brought a liberation that we much desired and much deserved.”

President Karzai insisted that Afghanistan was not “forgotten” and expressed his confidence that NATO would remain united in its commitment to helping Afghanistan. “I'm sure that NATO will continue as a unified organization, will continue to support Afghanistan, and Afghanistan will go to a better future tomorrow and of course, security for today and good security for tomorrow,” said President Karzai.

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