By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
March 13, 2008 - President Bush today praised the work of provisional reconstruction teams in Afghanistan, calling them key to a counterinsurgency strategy that requires more than just military action. Speaking during a video teleconference with PRT leaders and brigade combat commanders in Afghanistan, the president said PRTs are making big strides in helping the Afghans recover from Taliban brutality and build a society capable of meeting their peoples' needs.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. James Cartwright also participated in the teleconference. They spoke with U.S. military officers and civilians at U.S.-led PRTs in Afghanistan's Ghazni, Paktika and Farah provinces. PRT members from two NATO International Security Assistance Force teams also participated: the New Zealand-led team in Bamian province and the British-led team in Helmand province.
The coalition strategy in Afghanistan begins with providing enough security so civil society can move forward, but requires other elements, too, Bush said following the session. "It requires a military-civilian interface," he said, pointing to a television screen of military members and civilians who work together in Afghanistan through PRTs.
These PRT members are helping Afghans fight corruption at the local level so citizens have faith in their government, he said. They're also helping to improve Afghans' quality of life through education, road-building projects, health care and other assistance.
"And our fellow citizens are there on the ground in some difficult circumstances, all aiming to help this young democracy survive and thrive," Bush said.
Bush thanked the "brave and compassionate citizens willing to serve," as well as the families who support their efforts. He said he benefitted greatly today by hearing their experiences and learning about the issues they confront.
"There are difficulties," Bush conceded, "but we're also making progress."
That progress is possible thanks to "brave and compassionate citizens willing to serve" and because their ideology of liberty "stands in stark contrast to the ideology of the thugs and murderers called the Taliban," Bush said.
"The job at hand is to help these folks recover, help the Afghans realize there's a better future for them," he said. "It's hard work, but it's necessary work for the security of our country."
Twenty-six PRTs are operating in Afghanistan and working in partnership with communities around the country. Twelve are led by the United States, and 14 are led by NATO allies and coalition partners.