Bush pays farewell visit to Afghanistan
After his stop over to Iraq, President George W. Bush paid a surprised farewell visit to Afghanistan Monday morning amid increasing security incidents in the post-Taliban state.
Bush landed at Bagram Air Base near Kabul with almost all lights on his Air Force One plane turned off as part of a secrecy tactic to ensure his safety.
This is Bush’s second but the last visit to pay farewell to Afghans and Afghanistan. After addressing hundreds of US soldiers at the base, he flew by Blackhawk helicopter to Kabul for a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
During the press confab, Bush expressed satisfaction over progress in Afghanistan, adding he sees more development in Kabul than the past.
“This is going to be a long struggle,” he told a joint news conference with Karzai at the presidential palace. “Ideological struggles take time.”
This year has been the bloodiest for foreign forces here since the Taliban fell, and General David McKiernan, the top commander, has asked for more than 20,000 extra US soldiers to counter rising violence.
Karzai said Afghanistan was grateful for the help, saying its people “don’t want to be a burden on the international community for ever.”
Asked about a possible timetable for a withdrawal of foreign troops, Karzai indicated now was not the time to talk about pulling out.
“Afghanistan will not allow the international community leaving before we are fully on our feet, before we are strong enough to defend our country, before we are powerful enough to have a good economy,” he said, joking “and before we have taken from President Bush and the next administration billions and billions of more dollars. No way!”
Bush left the country shortly after the press conference.