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Rumsfeld, Karzai Discuss Terrorism, Reconstruction

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 7, 2003 – Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld here today to discuss the continuing war on terrorism and the way ahead for Afghan reconstruction.

The men met at the presidential compound under threatening skies. Karzai said Rumsfeld had brought the rain with him to the drought-stricken country.

Security was tight at the outdoor press conference, as the Taliban have tried to kill Karzai many times. An American official said the assassination attempts are proof that the national government is becoming more effective. "(The Taliban) can't stand to have this country succeed," the official said.

Karzai said Rumsfeld's visit reconfirms that the United States will continue its support to Afghanistan, and may actually increase that aid. Rumsfeld said President Bush's address to the American people on Sunday night might cover aid to Afghanistan.

The men discussed the continuing fight against terrorism, the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the training of the Afghan National Army. They also spoke about reconstruction of the Afghan economy and rebuilding roads in the country. Karzai said road repair projects already are benefiting the Afghan people. The work done in the last two months has already cut down the time it takes to get from one city to the next, he said.

They discussed reports of the actions in the eastern and southern parts of the country. Coalition forces, along with units of the Afghan National Army, have had the biggest week against anti-coalition forces in more than a year. Army Lt. Gen. John Vines, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 180, said the coalition forces had killed between 150 and 200 Taliban during the week.

"We will be working together to fight terrorism to the very end and completely," Karzai said during the press briefing following the meeting. "That is something we are not going to be soft against, even for the fraction of a second."

Rumsfeld said that each time he visits the area he sees improvements in the economy and in the security situation. "The efforts to build a modern, democratic government that is representative of the people of this country that is opposed to terrorism and terrorists is an important effort, and certainly the United States of America fully supports that effort," he said.

Rumsfeld journeyed to Gardez, seat of Paktika province, and spoke with members of the Provincial Reconstruction Team. He said the teams have proven themselves. There are five teams now, with plans for eight. It is an international effort, including Britain and New Zealand, with Germany agreeing to run the team in northern province of Konduz in the near future.

Both men said they are concerned about the increased anti-coalition activity on the Afghan-Pakistani border. They said they will use the mechanisms of the Tripartite agreement - among the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan - to crush terrorism on both sides of the border.

"This proves the point that the global war on terrorism is not a problem in one country or for one country," Rumsfeld said. "It is a problem in that it crosses borders. ... I could name five or six countries where borders are actively used to advantage the terrorists."

Rumsfeld said the people of Afghanistan are the final judge of how successful things are in the country. "And people are voting with their feet," he said. "More refugees are returning to Afghanistan every day."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addresses reporters with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. Rumsfeld's trip to Kabul was part of his scheduled tour of the Middle East. Photo by Staff Sgt. Keith Thompson.  
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