Terror War 'Largely Over' in Afghanistan, Karzai Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2003 The war against terrorism is "largely over" in Afghanistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said during a Pentagon news conference today.
He said combat against the Taliban and al Qaeda has been successful, but that there are still "bits to do."
The president said, contrary to published reports, that there will not be Taliban or al Qaeda spring offensives. "I don't think there is going to be anything like offensive," he said. "Offensive means what - means 1,000 people or 100 people or 500 people attacking a place? I don't think that's going to happen.
"These guys are on the run," he continued. "They're hiding. The two operations we've had ... people there were hiding in a mountain. They even had fake walls to conceal them further from search and arrest."
Karzai said terrorist acts might occur, "but an offensive of the kind that we understand? No. Never."
Karzai met with President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and members of Congress during his visit to Washington this week. He said he asked for aid for irrigation, power and the reconstruction of Afghan dams and canals.
"We've also asked for more support for the national army of Afghanistan and the overall stability operations in the country," Karzai said. "We've received assurances that the United States will continue to support Afghanistan and that the attention will continue to be focused and continuous." He said he has been assured that operations against Iraq will not reduce attention from or the amount of money dedicated to Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld said the U.S. goal in Afghanistan "is to do what we can do to help this important country continue its pathway to becoming a stable, healthy, democratic moderate Muslim state."
He praised the leadership path Karzai has taken and said the United States is pleased with the progress in the country. He said the United States is anxious to continue working with the Afghan national army.
Karzai thanked Rumsfeld for his support in building the national army of Afghanistan. "We have now 3,000 people and they are doing a wonderful job," he said. "They are going around the countryside and they are meeting with people. People, when they see them first, think they are an army from Britain or Germany, and when they come to find out that these are their fellow Afghans - well-dressed and well-equipped and well-trained - they are thrilled. The troops have been to three provinces so far with good reception from people."
Rumsfeld said that he and Karzai spoke about the many positive changes in Afghanistan. He pointed to the fact that 2 million Afghan refugees returned home. "They voted with their feet," he said. "There are 3 million young people in schools today compared to two years ago, almost nothing."