By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 17, 2008 - President Bush praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai today following meetings at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Bush and Karzai held a short media opportunity following the meeting and Bush backed up Karzai's strategy for the way forward in Afghanistan. The president is in the midst of a six-day trip to the Middle East that has taken him to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Bush said he supports Karzai's strategy for the Paris Donor Conference for Afghanistan next month. Afghan officials said they need $50 billion to rebuild a nation totally shattered by 30 years of struggle against the Soviet occupation and an internal civil war. Bush said Karzai has taken on "a very tough assignment, which is helping your young democracy survive amidst the threats from the radicals and extremists."
Karzai's strategy stresses the agricultural reality of his nation, Bush said. "His strategy is a smart strategy, and part of his strategy is ... for the world to help Afghanistan's agricultural community grow and prosper, so that they can not only become self-sufficient in (providing their own) food, but become net exporters of crops that people need in order to be able to eat and survive," Bush said.
Bush encouraged the world to respond to Afghanistan's plea, and said the United States will certainly help.
Karzai thanked Bush for his support and the American people for their sacrifices to free Afghanistan.
Karzai, who survived another Taliban assassination attempt in April, said there are unmistakable signs of progress in his country. "For the first time, after 30 years, were able to give diplomas to the graduates of Afghanistan's universities, the medical colleges, economics, law and all that," he said. "That would have not been possible without your help and the help of the rest of the world."
The Afghan president thanked Bush for support at the Paris conference. Hopes are that if Afghans can grow cash crops to feed themselves and others, they will not have to grow opium poppies.
Karzai also said he will be asking at the conference for help on energy resources and irrigation projects.