Bush, Karzai say they are aligned against Taliban

U.S. President George W. Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai vowed on Monday to finish off the Taliban, which Karzai said was a defeated force that attacks civilians but is not a threat to his government.

Bush, Karzai say they are aligned against Taliban
Karzai, visiting the United States amid renewed concern about worsening violence in Afghanistan and the threat from militant hide-outs across the border in Pakistan, said he was building up his army and police with U.S. help.

"Our enemy is still there, defeated but still hiding in the mountains. And our duty is to complete the job, to get them out of their hide-outs in the mountains," he said in the second day of meetings with Bush at the Camp David presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains.

Bush, who has been on the defensive about find al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, said he was confident U.S. and Pakistani forces would track down the militant group's leaders.

But he stopped short of saying whether the United States would seek Pakistan's permission before going after those militants. The subject is a sensitive issue in Islamabad.

"I'm confident, with real, actionable intelligence, we will get the job done," Bush said.

Bin Laden is believed by U.S. intelligence officials to be hiding in the rugged tribal region of Pakistan, an area near the border of Afghanistan that has been a source of concern to Karzai because it is seen as a hotbed of Taliban activity.

The Taliban, driven from power by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, are "a force that is acting in cowardice" by attacking schoolchildren, teachers, clergy, engineers and international aid workers, Karzai said.

He added, however: "They're not posing any threat to the government of Afghanistan. They're not posing any threat to the institutions of Afghanistan or to the buildup of institutions of Afghanistan."

"It's a force that is frustrated," Karzai said.

NO CONCESSIONS ON HOSTAGES

In discussions of Afghanistan's newest crisis, Bush and Karzai agreed that the Taliban should not get concessions for the release of the 21 hostages they seized last month, a White House official said.

"Both leaders agreed that in negotiations for the release, there should be no quid pro quo for the hostages. The Taliban are brutal and should not be emboldened by this," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said after the talks.

The kidnappers have killed two of the 23 initially captured and are demanding the release of Taliban prisoners in exchange. South Korea has appealed to the United States and the Afghan officials to negotiate the release.

Karzai's weak central government faces numerous challenges, including suicide bomb attacks by the Taliban, mounting civilian casualties and a burgeoning opium trade.

With the six-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks approaching, Bush had been eager to assure Karzai -- and the American public -- he is committed to shoring up Afghanistan and combating the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Bush said the two countries' shared Islamic militant foes were "part of an ongoing challenge that the free world faces."

"The real question is whether or not those of us who have the blessings of liberty will continue to pursue policies -- foreign policy, security policy -- aimed at not only protecting our homeland, but aimed at laying a condition for peace to prevail," Bush said.

Bush and his quest differed on Afghanistan's neighbor Iran, an American foe which Karzai on Sunday said was playing a helpful role in his country.

The Iranians are "not a force for good, as far as we can see," Bush said. "They are a destabilizing influence, wherever they are now."

Reuters
Last Mod: 06 Ağustos 2007, 20:59
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