Bush Praises Australia’s Support in Afghanistan, Iraq
By Donna Miles
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2008 President Bush thanked Australia’s prime minister today for his country’s support in the war on terror, praising Australia’s plan to continue assisting Iraq even as it withdraws combat forces there and for continuing to be a solid partner in Afghanistan.
Speaking during a joint news conference at White House here following his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the president said Australia has been a loyal ally in Iraq and a strong supporter of Afghanistan’s government and its president, Hamid Karzai.
“I want to thank very much the Australian government and the Australian people for their willingness to help a young democracy such as Afghanistan,” Bush said.
He thanked Rudd for planning to attend the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, and said the two had brainstormed on how to ensure the meeting is successful.
“I can't thank you enough for going, and I appreciate very much your strong commitment to helping the Karzai government succeed and thrive,” Bush said. “It's in our national interests that we do so.”
Rudd said he confirmed to Bush that Australia will remain in Afghanistan “for the long haul” despite the challenges there. “It's a tough fight, but we intend to be there with our friends and partners and allies for the long haul,” Rudd said. “And I look forward to being with the president in Bucharest soon so we arrive at a common civil and military strategy with our friends and partners in Europe and elsewhere.”
Bush also thanked Australia “for being a good, loyal ally on Iraq,” and said he respects Rudd not only for living up to his campaign promise of withdrawing Australian combat troops from Iraq, but also in how he has treated the United States during the process.
Rudd “acted like you'd expect an ally to act,” the president said. “And that is, he consulted closely with his friends. His military commanders consulted closely with our military commanders.”
In carrying out Rudd’s campaign promise, Australia hasn’t deserted Iraq, but rather, changed its mission there, Bush said.
Rudd said he told Bush the Australian government plans to provide the Iraqi government a $165 million assistance package that includes trainers to teach dryland agricultural techniques to Afghan farmers.
“I want to thank you for stepping forward to help Iraq develop a civil society and a strong economy that will enable this young democracy to thrive and help yield peace,” Bush told him.
Bush said his talks with Rudd ran to other issues, as well. Both leaders expressed a joint commitment to continue working together to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon capability. They also expressed mutual support for the Six-Party Talks designed to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Rudd said the U.S.-Australian alliance defines the common future two of the world’s great democracies share.
“I'm confident that this alliance has a strong, robust future,” he said. “And the reason I'm confident of that is because it's rooted in shared values. We actually take the idea of democracy seriously. … It's something which is part and parcel of who we are as peoples.”