President Bush is promising more help for Afghanistan, saying that country represents the first victory in the war on terrorism. The words of support came at a White House news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
With the transition of power in Iraq just weeks away, President Bush is pointing to Afghanistan as a model. He said there has been dramatic progress, referring to Hamid Karzai as a leader of honor, courage and skill.
"Afghanistan is no longer a terrorist factory sending thousands of killers into the world," he said.
Mr. Bush added the United States wants to help Afghanistan succeed and prosper. He said security is essential.
"The forces of many nations are working hard with Afghans to find and defeat Taleban remnants and eliminate al-Qaida terrorists," he said.
About 20,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Afghanistan. President Bush said America is also working to help that country complete its democratic transition.
Standing side by side with Hamid Karzai before reporters, Mr. Bush listed five new initiatives ranging from training for newly elected politicians to school modernization. He said cultural exchanges are being expanded, and more money is being provided to educate women and help them start small businesses. He also announced the start of negotiations on a bilateral trade and investment agreement.
"The road ahead for Afghanistan is still long and difficult. Yet the Afghan people can know their country will never be abandoned to terrorists and killers," he said.
The president was asked why the transition period seems to be going far more smoothly in Afghanistan than in Iraq. He noted that the Afghans have been working at it for a longer period of time, and that both countries have hard work to do - a reference, perhaps, to the sporadic violence that continues on Afghan soil.
"It's hard work," he said. "It may look easy in retrospect, but it is not easy. And that is why it is very important for us to speak clearly to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq that the United States will help them, stay and help them fulfill the mission."
President Karzai agreed, saying his country is now emerging from decades of oppression. He defended his decision to consult prior to the September elections in Afghanistan with leaders of various factions, including some men considered warlords.
"It's my job to keep stability and peace in Afghanistan," he said. "And I will talk to anybody who comes to talk to me about stability and peace and about moving towards democracy."
Before coming to the White House, Hamid Karzai addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. He used the occasion to thank America for its support and called for a long-term partnership with the United States.