Bush Reaffirms 'Ironclad Commitment' to Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 15, 2004 Following meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, President Bush reaffirmed the United States' "ironclad commitment" to aid Afghanistan.
Bush and Karzai spoke to reporters at the White House Rose Garden today.
Bush said the United States is just one of many nations helping the Afghans find and defeat Taliban remnants and eliminate al Qaeda terrorists. The United States provides the lion's share of combat troops some 15,000 with coalition countries providing 2,000 troops and NATO countries providing 5,000 soldiers for the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul.
The United States is helping to build the new Afghan National Army and to train new Afghan police and border patrol. Those forces, Bush said, joined with coalition forces, will maintain the peace, secure the borders and deny terrorists any foothold in Afghanistan.
The United States and Afghanistan are launching five new initiatives "that will help the Afghan people achieve the peace, stability and prosperity they deserve," Bush said.
First, he said, the United States will launch an ambitious training program for newly elected Afghan politicians and help newly elected assembly members better serve those who elected them.
Second, Afghanistan and America will print millions of new textbooks and will build modern schools in every Afghan province. "Girls as well as boys are going to school, and they are studying under a new curriculum that promotes religious and ethnic tolerance," Bush said. Women under the Taliban rule were repressed and forbidden from receiving an education.
A part of this initiative is a new $4 million women's teacher training institute in Kabul. "Graduates of this innovative program will return to their provinces and rural districts to train other teachers in the crusade against illiteracy," Bush said.
Another initiative will promote cultural exchange programs to help foster understanding and respect and to accelerate progress. More than 250 qualified Afghans will participate in Humphrey, Fulbright, Cochran and other U.S.- government-sponsored exchange programs, the president said.
A fourth initiative is the intent of the United States and Afghanistan to pursue a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement. "Years of war and tyranny have eroded Afghanistan's economy and infrastructure, yet a revival is under way," Bush said. "Afghans are busy starting their own businesses. Some 15,000 licenses have already been issued for foreign businesses and investors to explore economic opportunities in Afghanistan."
The United States and Japan have worked together on other basic infrastructure improvements. "We have rebuilt the Kandahar-Kabul highway, a vital commercial and transportation link between Afghanistan's two largest cities," Bush said. "A bilateral trade agreement will add new fuel to the economic revival."
Fifth, the United States pledges "to continue our efforts to create opportunities for women," Bush said. The United States will dedicate $5 million to fund training programs and grants for small businesses. "The additional funding we announce today will provide Afghan women with small-business grants and training in business-management skills," the president said.