By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
April 29, 2008 - The United States and its allies are making progress in Afghanistan, but there is a long, tough road ahead, President Bush said during a White House Rose Garden news conference today. The Taliban and its al-Qaida allies continue to fight in Afghanistan and want to re-impose an "incredibly dark" regime in the country, the president said. The recent Taliban assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai is their latest attempt to retrieve their failing campaign, he added.
"It's very important for the American people to remember what life was like in Afghanistan prior to the liberation of the country," Bush said. The Taliban denied basic human rights to the women of the nation. "They didn't believe in women's rights," he said. "They didn't let little girls go to school. And they provided safe haven to al-Qaida."
The liberation of Afghanistan eliminated an al-Qaida safe haven and replaced the repressive, extremist Taliban with an elected government, the president said.
"It's difficult in Afghanistan," he said. "If you know the history of the country, ... it's hard to go from the kind of society in which they had been living to one in which people are now responsible for their own behavior."
Bush said he is pleased with some of the progress in the country. He's pleased with the number of roads that have been built, the number of schools and health clinics now operating and the fact that young women can attend school.
He said he also is impressed with the progress Afghan security forces are making. "I'm pleased with the Afghan army, that when they're in the fight, they're good," Bush said.
Bush said the United States will continue to stand beside its Afghan allies in the fight against extremism.
The bottom line, he said, is that the Afghans, NATO and the United States are making progress in Afghanistan, but still face hard fighting.
"I'm under no illusions that this isn't tough," Bush said. "I know full well we're dealing with a determined enemy. I believe it's in our interest that we defeat that enemy."
The United States and its allies must stand up to an enemy that encourages people to strap bombs on themselves and kill innocent people, the president said.
"Is it in our interest to confront these people now, whether it be in Afghanistan or Iraq or Europe or anywhere else? And the answer is absolutely it's in our interests," he said. "The notion that somehow we can let these people just kind of have their way or, you know, 'Let's don't stir them up,' is naive or disingenuous. And it's not in our nation's interest. We're in a global struggle against thugs and killers, and the United States of America has got to continue to take the lead."