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Bush Pledges To Help Build Afghan Military - 2002-01-28


President Bush says the United States will help the new Afghan government provide security, and will play a leading role in rebuilding that war-torn country. He spoke after talks at the White House with Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai.

President Bush vowed a lasting commitment to the people of Afghanistan. He said America will not turn away. "Chairman Kharzai, I reaffirm to you today that the United States will continue to be a friend to the Afghan people in all the challenges that lie ahead.

Mr. Karzai had hoped to convince the Bush administration to commit troops to an expanded peacekeeping mission. The president said the United States would help in other ways, by providing support for peacekeepers and by training a new Afghan army and national police force.

"We are going to help Afghanistan develop her own military," he said. That is the most important part of this visit it seems to me, besides the fact of welcoming a man who stands for freedom."

Hamid Karzai listened silently to the praise. He was then asked if he is comfortable with the notion of Americans training an Afghan army. "We are a fiercely independent country and the world knows that," he said. "Our neighbors know that very well and countries in the region know that."

He said with help from the United States and other countries Afghanistan will get back on its feet. And he stressed the terrorist threat emanating from Afghan soil will never return.

"This joint struggle against terrorism should go to the absolute end of it," he said. "We must finish them. We must bring them out of their caves and their hideouts. And we promise we will do that."

During their talks, President Bush also promised an additional $50 million in aid. It will come in the form of credits to encourage private investment in Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai will also seek financial help Tuesday from the International Monetary Fund. In the evening he will end his visit to Washington, the first by an Afghan leader in 39 years, by going to Capitol Hill to attend President Bush's State of the Union address.

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