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Cheney Promises Continued Support for Afghanistan

Vice President Dick Cheney says Washington will not reduce its military and financial support for Afghanistan, despite Afghan fears of such a cut-back. Mr. Cheney attended the inauguration of Afghanistan's first elected president.

Mr. Cheney offered warm praise for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was sworn into office, and promised continued U.S. support for Afghanistan, regardless of what problems it may face.

Some Afghan officials have worried that U.S. commitments to the war in Iraq would result in less aid for their country. President Karzai has repeatedly urged the United States and other foreign donors not to abandon Afghanistan.

In addition to serving as the country's largest aid donor, Washington also maintains an 18-thousand-strong troop presence in Afghanistan to help provide security.

Mr. Cheney voiced support for President Karzai's policies, making special mention of his pledge to curb opium production and trafficking.

"We strongly support his decision to convene a national council in just two days to discuss plans to end the narcotics trade," Mr. Cheney says.

Since the overthrow of the former Taleban regime by a coalition led by U.S. and Afghan forces in 2001, Afghanistan has become the world's leading producer of opium.

The trade reportedly helps fund not only insurgents opposed to Mr. Karzai's government, but also the al-Qaida network, blamed for the catastrophic attacks on the United States in September of 2001.

Joining Mr. Cheney at a news conference, President Karzai said U.S. support has been responsible for a dramatic revival of Afghan life.

"Without that help, Afghanistan would be in the hands of terrorists, destroyed, poverty stricken, and without its children going to school or getting an education," Mr. Karzai says.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joined Vice President Cheney at Mr. Karzai's swearing-in. The two men also visited the U.S. military's Afghanistan headquarters in the town of Bagram, just north of the capital.