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President Bush Reaffirms Strong Commitment to Afghanistan

On February 15 at a speech hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, U.S. President George Bush reaffirmed America’s commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan and seeking unconditional victory in the war on terrorism. He stressed that the United States was dedicated to ensuring that the Afghan people will not return to the tyranny of the past and that Afghanistan’s state will continue to serve as a beacon of democracy. “Freedom is universal…We believe all human beings desire to live in freedom and peace,” he said. To support the mission to win the peace in Afghanistan, President Bush will seek $11.8 billion in additional funding, along with 3,200 additional US troops.

President Bush stressed the need for the international community to stay committed to Afghanistan. "The lesson we've got to remember, and one of the lessons of that September 11th day, is that we cannot allow terrorists to gain sanctuary anywhere. We must not allow them to reestablish the safe haven they lost in Afghanistan,” he said.

President Bush described the nightmarish reign of the Taliban, and lauded the progress made since 2001 by Coalition Forces and the Government of Afghanistan. “Afghanistan has a democratically elected president named Karzai, I respect him. I appreciate his courage. Afghanistan has a national assembly chosen by the Afghan people in free elections. Under the Taliban women were barred from public office. Today Afghanistan's parliament includes 91 women.”

The President outlined a 5-point plan for Afghanistan focused on several key goals. New forces and funds will aim to strengthen the Afghan national security forces. “These folks understand courage. They're willing to fight for their country. They're willing to defend this young democracy,” explained President Bush. He further outlined increases in the size of the Afghan National Police from 61,000 to 82,000 by the end of 2008 along with developing counter narcotics and border surveillance. The Afghan National Army will grow to more than twice its current size, from 32,000 to 70,000 soldiers by the end of 2008.

To support the Afghan security forces, President Bush’s strategy called for strengthening NATO in the interest of reinforcing its founding principle: “An attack on one is an attack on all.” The United States will also work to strengthen provincial governance, strengthen the rural economy, and support President Karzai’s efforts to eliminate poppy cultivation and corruption. “I'm confident that with persistence and patience and determination, we will succeed," he said.

The President concluded his remarks by emphasizing the link between Afghan stability and U.S. national security. "I thank you for giving me a chance to come and talk about a strategy for success. A strategy that is part of our efforts to make sure that a generation of Americans beyond our generation will look back and say, they did their duty to protect the homeland, and as a result, we can live in peace."

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