Bush in Kabul: Afghanistan's Democracy Inspirational

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2006  - The democratic process taking hold in Afghanistan is an inspiration to the cause of freedom, President Bush said in the country's capital, Kabul, today.

"I hope the people of Afghanistan understand that as democracy takes hold, you're inspiring others," Bush said while visiting Afghanistan for the first time. "And that inspiration will cause others to demand their freedom."

Bush said he was "enthralled" to see the progress being made in Afghanistan. As evidence of this progress, he pointed to the growth of an entrepreneurial spirit enabling Afghans to realize their dreams, to young girls going to school for the first time, to the country's free press, and to the standing-up of a well-trained military dedicated to the sovereignty of the nation.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Bush's visit was a wonderful moment for his country and called Bush a friend of Afghanistan and "a man that helped us liberate, a man that helped us rebuild, a man that helped us move toward the future."

Bush said American, Afghan and Pakistani troops continue to hunt for al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and his cohorts and that he was confident bin Laden would be brought to justice.

"We're making progress dismantling al Qaeda," Bush said. "Slowly but surely, we're bringing the people to justice, and the world is better for it as a result of our steady progress."

Bush emphasized that the U.S. is committed to the "universal" value that all humans desire to be free. "And we know that history has taught us that free societies yield the peace," he said. "We want peace for our children, and we want peace for the Afghan children, as well."

Also during his visit, Bush attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new U.S. Embassy in Kabul. "It's a vital mission. It's historic in its nature," he said at the embassy. "This is the kind of mission that someday the secretary of state will be speaking to foreign service officers and relaying the stories and the tales and the toils of those who served in Afghanistan in 2006.

"And so I congratulate you on your hard work, and I thank you on behalf of a grateful nation," he added.

The president's next destinations are India and then Pakistan.

During a news conference, Bush was asked if he thought a nuclear agreement would be reached during his visit to India, which possesses nuclear capabilities but is not a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. "What we're trying to do is have an international consortium that will enable countries to develop nuclear-power industries in safe ways," Bush said, "ways that will prevent proliferation, ways that will enable nations to meet their energy needs without excessive consumption of fossil fuels."