Voting has officially concluded in Afghanistan where 15 opposition candidates challenged President Hamid Karzai. President Bush says the vote is an important step forward for Afghan democracy.

President Bush calls Afghanistan's election a marvelous thing.

"Freedom is powerful," said President Bush. "Think about a society in which young girls couldn't go to school and their mothers were whipped in the public square and today they are holding a presidential election."

That is because U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taleban government there after it refused to hand over al-Qaida terrorists suspected in the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

During a political rally in the Midwest state of Missouri, Mr. Bush spoke about a former refugee who said she never believed she would be able to vote. "She's voting in this election because the United States of America believes that freedom is the almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world," he said.

In his own campaign, President Bush uses Afghanistan as an example of how he has made America safer by fighting terrorists abroad.