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9/11/03 - DEFENDING AFGHANISTAN - 2003-09-11

In Afghanistan, the United States-led coalition acted against the Muslim extremist Taleban regime that harbored al-Qaida terrorists. As President George W. Bush says, the coalition “sent a message that is understood throughout the world”:

“If you harbor a terrorist, if you support a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, you’re just as guilty as the terrorists, and the Taleban found out what we meant.”

Today, Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists. NATO has taken over the security role in and around Kabul, the Afghan capital. Yet Taleban and al-Qaida remnants continue to attack coalition forces, as well as civilian facilities such as schools for girls. President Bush says that Afghanistan “faces challenges”:

“Our coalition forces there still face dangers. Yet, we’re working every day to make sure that Afghanistan finds its future as a free and stable and peaceful nation.”

One sign of progress is the new Afghan national army. The army reports to the Afghan interim government headed by President Hamid Karzi. The army will take over security functions that have been carried out by provincial militias. These militias owe their loyalty not to the national government but to local governors. Some answer only to a particular warlord. Their training is sporadic. Some are well-disciplined, others resemble gangs of thugs.

President Bush points out that the five-thousand man Afghan national army has already seen action:

“America and the new Afghan army are working together in a major operation, called Warrior Sweep, which is hunting down terrorists one by one.”

Earlier this month, coalition forces, along with units of the Afghan national army, reportedly killed between one-hundred-fifty and two-hundred Taleban. As President Bush puts it: “Our purpose is firm. No act of terrorists will weaken our resolve or alter their fate.”