Bush Cites Progress in Pakistan, Afghanistan

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 30, 2006

President Bush highlighted anti-terrorism efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan yesterday, calling the nations invaluable allies despite a surge of violence in southern Afghanistan that has provoked deep suspicions about their ability -- and appetite -- to battle extremists.

Speaking before a Washington audience that included members of the Reserve Officers Association and both countries' ambassadors to the United States, Bush said that 41,000 American and NATO troops in Afghanistan are making progress toward securing and rebuilding the war-torn nation, although significant hurdles remain. While more than 30,000 newly trained Afghan soldiers are working alongside Western troops to secure the country, Bush said, Afghan police "have faced problems with corruption and substandard leadership."

Those difficulties have undermined confidence in the police, "and we've made our concerns known to our friends in the Afghan government," Bush said, adding that the police now have new leadership.

Bush made his remarks as a resurgent Taliban is leading a spike in violence in southern Afghanistan, a development that has resulted in increasing friction between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused his Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, of tolerating the presence of extremists in Pakistan's remote western regions, from where they launch attacks into southern Afghanistan. Musharraf, in turn, has accused Karzai of being an ineffective leader whose policies create sympathy for the Taliban and other extremists.

Meanwhile, Musharraf has been dogged by accusations that his nation's intelligence service has ties to the Taliban -- something he has forcefully denied.

In his remarks, Bush praised Pakistan's efforts to track down some notorious terrorists, including the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Bush said Pakistan also has been instrumental in preventing terrorism since 2001.

"Were it not for the information gained from the terrorists captured with the help of Pakistan, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland," he said.

Bush has attempted to broker a verbal truce between the two leaders. Wednesday evening, he hosted a White House dinner with the two leaders in an effort to clear the air.

Meanwhile, he said, U.S. and NATO forces have mounted an offensive to clear Taliban fighters from the treacherous mountainous region in southern Afghanistan. Also, he said, the United States is helping Pakistan with development aid and high-tech equipment to help it gain better control of its borders.

After the speech yesterday, Bush met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose government has been criticized for skirting democratic norms by banning opposition parties, harassing advocacy groups and closing newspapers. The Bush administration has offered only mild criticism of that record as it works to gain greater influence with the oil-rich nation. Nazarbayev's visit to the White House -- his third since becoming president of Kazakhstan in 1990 -- followed a visit to the Bush family compound in Maine, where he met with former president George H.W. Bush.

"We discussed our desire to defeat extremism and our mutual desire to support the forces of moderation throughout the world," the current President Bush said after the meeting.

In conjunction with the visit, the Energy Department and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the threat from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, announced an anti-proliferation agreement with Kazakhstan. Among other things, it calls for a Kazakh research reactor that runs on highly enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons, to switch to low-enriched uranium.

"This nonproliferation cooperative project with Kazakhstan is critical to our efforts to eliminate excess amounts of potentially dangerous material around the world," said Linton F. Brooks, administrator of the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration.

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