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Bush Rallies Troops - 2001-11-22

President Bush says the most difficult part of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan is still ahead. The President rallied troops of the 101st Airborne Division at a pre-Thanksgiving meal in the state of Kentucky.

President Bush said America has a message for the nations of the world if they train, arm, feed or fund a terrorist, they will be considered terrorists themselves and held accountable by the United States and its allies, no matter where they try to hide. "Afghanistan is just the beginning on the war against terror," he said. "There are other terrorists who threaten America and our friends. And there are other nations willing to sponsor them. We will not be secure as a nation until all these threats are defeated."

The president said the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is off to a "good start" with 27 of the country's 30 provinces now no longer under Taleban control. Communications have been cut, he said, and the terrorists are on the run. Despite this encouraging start, Mr. Bush said there is still a lot to be done.

President Bush said, "There are still terrorists on the loose in Afghanistan, and we will find and destroy their network piece by piece. The most difficult steps in this mission still lie ahead. Our enemies hide in sophisticated cave complexes located in some of the most mountainous and rugged territory. These hideouts are heavily fortified and defended by fanatics who will fight to the death."

Unlike efforts to liberate a town or destroy Taleban equipment, President Bush said success in this more difficult part of the mission may come more slowly.

But he said the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism will prevail with a combination of good information, decisive action and great military skill. "The enemy hopes they can hide until we tire," he continued. "But we're going to prove them wrong. We will never tire, and we will hunt them down."

The president said America and its allies are committed to helping rebuild Afghanistan once the Taleban is driven from power. He said Afghans deserve a "just and stable" government and the coalition is working with the United Nations and Afghan politicians to see that that is achieved as quickly as possible. He said, "We are urging them to move quickly toward a government that is broadly based, multi-ethnic and protects the rights and dignities of all Afghan citizens, including women."

After their meal with the troops at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the president and Mrs. Bush left for Camp David where they will spend the Thanksgiving holiday.