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U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visits Afghanistan

On President Bush’s request Vice President Dick Cheney traveled to Afghanistan for the fourth time as vice president on March 20. His visit was part of a 10-day foreign trip ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania.

Vice President Cheney met with President Hamid Karzai, to whom Cheney expressed that the United States’ commitment to Afghanistan is “firm and unshakeable”. At a joint press conference, Vice President Cheney discussed NATO’s role in Afghanistan, bilateral relations between the U.S.-Afghanistan and the reconstruction process. “During the last six years, the people of Afghanistan have made a bold and confident journey, throwing off the burden of tyranny, winning your freedom and reclaiming your future,” he said. “The process has been difficult, but the courage of the nation has been unwavering.”

The Vice President reiterated the “firm and unshakable” commitment of the United States, citing the upcoming deployment of an additional 3,200 U.S. Marines. While expressing the importance of continuing this commitment on the long term, he stated that the US will ask their NATO allies for an even stronger commitment to Afghanistan for the future.

President Karzai expressed Afghanistan’s gratitude for the assistance provided by the U.S. and NATO in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. “The continuation of NATO in Afghanistan is very, very important,” he said. “As the Afghan National Army gets stronger, there will be less pressure and responsibility on the foreign security forces.”

On the subject of the upcoming NATO summit, Vice President Cheney stated that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will be high on the summit agenda. He praised ISAF’s efforts, claiming that its work has made a tremendous difference. When commenting on the future of NATO ground operations in Afghanistan he said: “I'm quite confident that in fact NATO will continue to play a major role and hopefully even expand their efforts beyond those that they've already undertaken.”

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