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Bush, Karzai Stress Commitment to Fighting Terrorism


President Bush says he is confident al-Qaida leaders will be brought to justice, and pledges to continue the struggle against terrorist elements and remnants of Afghanistan's ousted Taleban regime. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports he spoke at the end of a strategy session at his secluded Camp David retreat with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The fight against terrorists and extremists clearly dominated the two days of talks at the mountain-top presidential compound.

President Karzai told reporters progress has been made in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led ouster of the Taleban regime in 2001. But he said his people are still suffering, as Taleban remnants seek in vain to regain power.

"The Taleban do pose dangers to our innocent people, to children going to school, to our clergy, to our teachers, to our engineers, to international aid workers," he said. "They are not posing any threat to the government of Afghanistan. They are not posing any threat to the institutions of Afghanistan."

U.S. forces went into Afghanistan after the September 11th 2001 attacks on the United States. The aim was to rout out al-Qaida terrorists and their Taleban supporters. But years later, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden remains at large, most likely in the remote tribal areas of Pakistan along the Afghan border.

President Bush was asked if he would go into Pakistan to get bin Laden if he had good intelligence that pinpointed his location. The president said he is confident terrorist leaders will be brought to justice. But he did not say if he would be willing to act alone, without the prior knowledge of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

"We are in constant communication with the Pakistan government," he said. "It is in their interest that foreign fighters be brought to justice, after all these are the same ones that are plotting to kill President Musharraf. We share a concern."

The situation along the Pakistan-Afghan border has created tensions between Presidents Karzai and Musharraf. They will try to find common ground when they meet later this week in Kabul.

President Bush offered his support as they seek reconciliation, and forge a partnership to fight extremism.

"History has called us into action," he said. "And by fighting extremists and radicals, we help people realize dreams."

Other issues that came up during the Camp David talks included steps to combat the narcotics trade and corruption in Afghanistan. They also discussed Afghan concerns about the high numbers of civilians who have been caught in the cross-fire when coalition troops targeted terrorist and Taleban elements.

Mr. Bush said he understands the sorrow Afghans feel when an innocent life is lost.

'I can assure the Afghan people, like I assured the president, that we do everything we can to protect the innocent - that our military operations are mindful that innocent life might be exposed to danger, and we adjust accordingly," he said.

The two were not asked at their press conference about the fate of 21 South Korean hostages being held by the Taleban somewhere in Afghanistan. However, a White House spokesman later said the matter was discussed, and the two agreed there should be no concessions.

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