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President Karzai Visits Washington, Meets with President Bush

President Hamid Karzai visited Washington, D.C. on September 24-26, 2008, meeting with congressional leaders and sitting down with President George W. Bush to discuss progress and challenges in Afghanistan. The official visit came on the heels of President Karzai's stay in New York, where he addressed the UN General Assembly, met with a number of foreign leaders, spoke to the Asia Society and discussed Afghanistan with vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

On the morning of September 25, President Karzai met with members of the Senate Leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.). President Karzai expressed his deep gratitude to the U.S. Congress for their support and alliance in helping Afghanistan fight terrorism and rebuild the country after three decades of conflict. The senators received a detailed briefing of the security situation in Afghanistan and offered their continued support for a better future for Afghanistan. President Karzai highlighted the progress made in Afghanistan over the last seven years, including the holding of democratic elections, the return of students to schools across the country, the increase in Afghan reserves and the recent measures taken against poppy production and government corruption. The president also discussed the underlying reasons for an increase in violence over the years and the lessons learned by both the U.S. and Afghanistan.

Later in the afternoon, President Karzai joined members of the House Leadership for a discussion, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Oh.), Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), among others. Rep. Pelosi started the meeting by stating, "What once started as a friendship of convenience [between the U.S. and Afghanistan] has now become a one of deep friendship." President Karzai noted that great progress has been achieved in Afghanistan, thanks to the generous contribution of American taxpayers and the hard work from congressional leadership and administration officials. He stated that 18 provinces will be poppy-free this year and new measures and institutions have been established to deal with corruption. However, President Karzai also discussed the late start in police training and the lack of attention paid to cross-border attacks early on in the war, which have contributed to the rise in violence. He also stressed the need for capacity-building and aid effectiveness, as well as the need to empower locals in the tribal areas against terrorists.

President Karzai also met separately with Vice President Dick Cheney, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), and spoke to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) over the telephone.

On September 26, President Karzai spoke at a public event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In his speech, which was titled "How to Overcome Afghanistan's Security Challenges," President Karzai detailed the many advances that had been made in Afghanistan since 2001 while admitting that a number of shortcomings and failures still existed. (A video of his speech is available here, the full transcript is here.)

President Karzai focused on the continuing threat of terrorism to Afghanistan, noting that it remains a regional problem that requires a regional response. "What's ailing us today? What is putting our achievements in danger? It remains to be terrorism. Where is there terrorism? Is it in the Afghan villages? No. Does it have sanctuaries in Afghanistan? No. Can it launch attacks in Afghanistan? Yes. Can it hurt us both, Afghans and Americans? Yes. Terrorism is regional," he pointed out. President Karzai argued that regional governments and the international community have to work together to deny terrorist groups sanctuaries and that terrorism should never be seen as a tool of national policy. "Some of us in that part of the world must now recognize, must now realize, that radicalism extremism can never be instruments of policy; that it is like a snake, that you can train a snake against someone else, but it can turn around and bite the trainer anytime it wants, and this has happened already," he stated.

In the afternoon, President Karzai visited the White House, where he participated in a video teleconference with the governors of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces and a number of leaders of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan. The participants in the teleconference -- which included high government officials on both sides such as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Afghan Minister of Defense General Abdul Rahim Wardak and Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin D. Spanta -- discussed issues relating to development and security.

After the meeting, President Bush re-affirmed his commitment to Afghanistan and emphasized the positive developments that have taken place. "If you listen to the people who are actually on the ground working with the citizens of Afghanistan on matters such as agriculture, or education, or infrastructure, you'll understand why I said that there is progress and promise -- and hope," he noted.

President Karzai thanked President Bush for his determined focus on helping secure and develop Afghanistan. "You can't imagine here in Washington, especially at the White House, how much difference you have made to the lives of the Afghan people by your personal commitment to Afghanistan, by your commitment for the betterment of Afghan life, for the security of the Afghan people, the democracy of the Afghan people, and for [their] education and health," he stated.

Related News

Interview with President Hamid Karzai (Washington Post)

Afghanistan's Karzai: 'I Yelled, Bush Smiled' (AFP)

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