President George Bush recently met with President Hamid Karzai and American troops in Afghanistan. He noted what a dramatically different country Afghanistan is today than it was 8 years ago.
In 2001, the Taliban regime was brutally repressing the Afghan people. Girls were denied access to school. People who did not submit to the regime's radical beliefs were beaten in public, or executed in soccer stadiums. And it was in Afghanistan that terrorists planned the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
After that date, America gave the Taliban a choice: either turn over the leaders of Al Qaida or share their fate. When they refused, the United States military drove the Taliban from power and closed the Al Qaida training camps.
Removing the Taliban was a landmark achievement, said President Bush, but it was only the beginning. "America set an ambitious goal," said Mr. Bush, "to help Afghanistan's young democracy grow and thrive, and emerge as an alternative to the ideology of hate and extremism and terror. This is a difficult and long effort," said Mr. Bush.
But progress is being made. Afghan girls are back in school. Health care clinics are being set up across the country. Roads and bridges are being constructed. The economy has more than doubled in size, and security forces have grown stronger.
Nevertheless, the enemies of freedom in Afghanistan are determined, with insurgent violence on the rise in recent months. "As a sign of our commitment," said Mr. Bush, "we've increased American troop levels in Afghanistan. Our NATO allies have done the same." And so have the Afghan army and police. This troop surge sends an unmistakable message, said President Bush: "The Taliban has gone from power, and it's not coming back. Al Qaida has lost their safe haven in Afghanistan, and they're not going to get it back. Afghanistan will be a successful society and a hopeful society and a free society. And Afghanistan," said Mr. Bush, "will never again be a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States."