By Todd DeFeo
HarpBlaster.com News Wire
Al Qaeda has “repeatedly declared that Iraq is the central front of their war with America,” but in the wake of increased pressure there, “terrorists are stepping up their efforts” in Afghanistan, President Bush yesterday.
“After (Sept. 11), coalition forces destroyed the Taliban regime. We drove al Qaeda from the Afghan sanctuary where they had plotted and planned unprecedented attacks on our country,” Bush said. “We helped Afghans begin to build a new democracy. Together with our military, American civilian experts helped the Afghan people build their economy, and provide basic services, and expand health care, as well as open up schools for Afghan girls and boys.
“These were important successes. Yet the enemies of a free Afghanistan refused to give up the fight,” the president added. “They sought to undermine the democratic government so they could regain the place of dominance they enjoyed in Afghanistan before (Sept. 11). With the help of their sanctuary in Pakistan, they ruthlessly attacked innocent Afghans across the country.”
As part of what the president called a “quiet surge” in Afghanistan, the number of American troops increased from less than 21,000 two years ago to roughly 31,000 today.
“These troop increases have made a difference, yet huge challenges in Afghanistan remain,” Bush said. “This is a vast country. And unlike Iraq, it has few natural resources and has an under-developed infrastructure. Its democratic institutions are fragile. Its enemies are some of the most hardened terrorists and extremists in the world. With their brutal attacks, the Taliban and terrorists have made some progress in shaking the confidence of the Afghan people. And in the face of all these challenges, the Afghan people are naturally questioning what their future looks like.
“Afghanistan’s success is critical to the security of America and our partners in the free world,” the president added. “And for all the good work we’ve done in that country, it is clear we must do even more.”
Bush made his comments as part of the National Defense University’s Lecture Program.