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Bush Salutes U.S. Mission, Servicemembers in Afghanistan

Gerry J. Gilmore American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2008 –

President Bush today cited the “incredible” progress that has been achieved in Afghanistan after he’d been briefed on the situation by U.S. Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, NATO’s top commander there. Bush told reporters after meeting with the four-star general at the White House that McKiernan, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, is “going to make sure that we continue helping this young democracy succeed.”

Bush cited several examples of progress in Afghanistan, such as new and renovated schools, expanded education and health care, and the building of much-needed roads.

“There’s been progress when you consider the fact that millions of young girls go to school that didn’t have a chance to go to school before in Afghanistan,” Bush said with McKiernan at his side.

“That’s incredible progress,” Bush said.

The president also acknowledged that challenges remain in Afghanistan. A rejuvenated insurgency is placing Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s fledgling government under renewed attack in some eastern and southern portions of the country.

“Obviously, this is a situation where there’s been progress and there are difficulties,” Bush said. Problems in Afghanistan, he said, are being caused by Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists who want to topple the Karzai government. Bush described the terrorists as “killers” who cannot stand or accept the progress that’s been made in Afghanistan.

McKiernan’s job in Afghanistan “is to work with, obviously, not only our own troops, but the thousands of troops from NATO countries there to provide security so the progress continues,” Bush said.

Earlier today at the Pentagon, McKiernan told reporters that he is optimistic that the war against radical Islamists in Afghanistan will be won, despite the likelihood of more battles ahead.

Bush acknowledged recent tough fighting in Afghanistan. He also saluted U.S. forces “who’ve sacrificed so that Afghanistan never becomes a safe haven again for extremists who would harm our citizens.”

The president said he has approved the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan to deal with increased insurgent-committed violence there.

“But, we also much make sure there’s a civilian component that runs alongside our military,” Bush said, to assist the Afghan government to provide good governance and to improve its connectivity with the Afghan people by providing community aid projects and infrastructure improvements.

Bush thanked McKiernan, other U.S. servicemembers and their families for their service to the nation.

“I want to thank your family as well as all the other families who are standing by those who wear the uniform as this nation continues to defend our own security and defend young democracies,” Bush said.

During their five-year reign in Afghanistan, the Taliban routinely cut off the heads of people who didn’t agree with their radical Islamic philosophy. The Taliban also cooperated with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist group and allowed it to establish training camps in Afghanistan. The Taliban were kicked out of power in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom that was launched soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

McKiernan and the roughly 32,000 U.S. troops currently serving in Afghanistan are making sacrifices today, Bush said, “so that future generations of Americans don’t have to worry about harm coming from a place like Afghanistan and future generations of Afghans can grow up in a hopeful society.”

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