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Bush to Welcome Karzai at Camp David Presidential Retreat

U.S. President George W. Bush is scheduled to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai Sunday August 5-6 at Camp David, the presidential retreat outside Washington. It will be Mr. Karzai's first visit to Camp David. He comes as U.S. coalition forces in Afghanistan are battling a resurgent Taleban rebellion, with southern Afghanistan hard-hit by fighting that has killed thousands. VOA's Robert Raffaele has more.

The two leaders last met at the White House in September. Their agenda this time is expected to be much the same -- Afghanistan's long-term democracy, prosperity and security.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters earlier this week (Thursday, August 2nd) that U.S.-led and NATO forces must train Afghanistan's security forces to reclaim areas from the Taleban, so that Afghanistan's government can take control. "You need to train the military forces to be able to do that, to push them out. You need to train the security forces, more generally, the police, to be able to hold and provide stability and safety for the inhabitants. And you need to bring in the assistance."

To that end, Boucher announced the U.S. will spend 10-point-one billion dollars for emergency Afghan reconstruction, development, governance and security projects this year.

Another issue: Afghan opium harvesting. Boucher says there are various drug networks that are linked with the Taleban, with the Taleban enjoying profits.

William Byrd of the World Bank says the Afghan government's efforts to wipe out opium crops often have the opposite effect, due to local corruption. "Through political connections or bribes, farmers will avoid being eradicated."

"It tends to disproportionately affect the poor -- those farmers who don't have money or political connections in order to bribe their way out of their field being eradicated. So this is an issue and the same issue can come up in interdiction: who gets arrested, which traders get arrested, are they the ones who are closer to some of the local political interests or are they opposed to it?"

The State Department says despite the drug trade problem, Afghanistan's economy is growing at a healthy rate. Richard Boucher also pointed to increased road and school construction across the country, and decreasing rates in infant mortality.