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Karzai Reassured With Pledges of US Help for Afghanistan - 2003-03-02

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he got assurances of continued AAmerican support during his recent visit to Washington. He met with President George W. Bush, conferred with top administration officials, and appeared before the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Karzai's message to President Bush was simple: Do not forget Afghanistan if you decide to take military action to disarm Iraq.

The Afghan leader told CNN's Late Edition that he was satisfied with the response. He said he got a pledge of continued aid for reconstruction.

"There was a good promise with regard to irrigation projects, which are very important to us for the current year. Last year, we had an emphasis on highways and road reconstruction. This year, we are working on the irrigation system," Mr. Karzai said.

He was asked if he is concerned that U.S. forces in Afghanistan might be pulled out in the event of war with Iraq. Mr. Karzai said the Bush administration assured him that the United States would not reduce its presence in his country.

"The reason is, it is extremely important to make sure that you finish work that you start, not leaving it half-way. It is a question of credibility. It is a question of success. It is a question of making sure the objective that we have is achieved and achieved fully," Mr. Karzai said.

President Karzai acknowledged that Afghanistan would probably need foreign military help for some time. He said the task of creating new security institutions, including a national army, has just begun.

The Afghan leader went on to say he hopes there will not be a war with Iraq. But he said Afghanistan would support the United States, if President Bush opts for military action.

He noted the Iraqis have suffered for a long time under Saddam Hussein. "We are with the Iraqi people," Mr. Karzai said, and added, "we are a friend of the United States."