By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
March 20, 2008 - The 3,200 Marines on their way to help Afghanistan indicate the depth of the U.S. commitment to the country, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said in Kabul yesterday. The United States is proud to have helped liberate Afghanistan and will continue to work with the elected government and NATO allies to build the Afghan security forces and rebuild the nation, Cheney said in a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
U.S. reconstruction aid to Afghanistan also points to that commitment, Cheney said, noting that last year's aid level has tripled.
There has been real progress in Afghanistan, Cheney said, but more needs to be done. "All future success will hinge on the defeat of the extremists and the terrorists who want to pull this country back to the Dark Ages," he said.
The Afghan president said his country's security force is key to combating the extremists, and training the Afghan army and police force is a high priority. "Our Afghan army is many times better now, and they are getting stronger day by day," Karzai said.
That improvement, over time, will lead to less reliance on international forces, Karzai noted. "In my meetings with Afghan people, I found out that the army is more and more seen as a force that brings stability," he said. "So, as the Afghan army gets stronger and stronger, so will lessen the pressure on the international security forces. Until then, the cooperation between Afghanistan and the rest of the international community is a must, both for the war against terrorism and stability in Afghanistan."
The United States will raise the issue of manning for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force at the upcoming NATO Summit in Bucharest, Romania, Cheney said. The force includes more than 40,000 troops from 40 nations. "The ISAF has made a tremendous difference in this country, and America will ask our NATO allies for an even stronger commitment for the future," he said.
All nations have an interest in a free, secure and democratic Afghanistan, the vice president said.
"Our goal is a country that grows in justice and prosperity, a country whose military and police gradually assume more security duties, a free and hopeful Afghanistan that never again suffers the heartless brutality that it had to endure under the Taliban," he said.