For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 23, 2005
Remarks by President Bush and Afghan President Karzai in Joint Press Availability
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BUSH AND AFGHAN PRESIDENT KARZAI IN JOINT PRESS
The East Room
11:03 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. Welcome. Mr. President, welcome back
to the White House. I am honored to stand by the first
democratically-elected leader in the five-thousand year history of
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I want to thank you for your friendship and your
commitment to freedom. I especially want to thank you for being such a
wonderful host to my wife, Laura. She came back overwhelmed by the
experience, touched by the people she met, and optimistic about the
future for your country. So thanks for being a good host and thanks
for being such a fine inspiration to not only the people of your
country, but showing the countries in your neighborhood what's
Your leadership has been strong, and it's in our interests that
Afghanistan be free. Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for
terrorists. Afghanistan is a key partner in the global war on terror.
Our troops have fought and will continue to fight side-by-side to
defeat the few who want to stop the ambitions of the many.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Exactly.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Increasing numbers of low-level Taliban are
getting the message that Afghanistan society is peaceful and
optimistic, and I appreciate your efforts to reach out to the low-level
members of the Taliban. I am impressed by the progress that you're
making toward a market economy and a full-fledged democracy. One of
the things that's very important, that is, a shift of opinion is taking
place where now women are equal partners in society; over 40 percent of
the voters in that October day were women voters; girls are now going
to school; women entrepreneurs are opening businesses. The President
was telling me that there's quite a number of candidates who filed for
the upcoming legislative elections who are women. The model, the
example being set by Afghanistan in that part of the world is an
important -- important message, because you can't have a free and
hopeful society unless women are full participants in the society.
And so Mr. President, thank you for your leadership. We're looking
forward to watching and helping make sure these elections go forward in
a peaceful -- peaceful manner. It's a -- the number of candidates that
-- who have filed are -- is quite impressive. I think you maybe told
me over 5,000?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Over 5,000.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, 5,000 people have filed for office. It's a --
it's a -- democracy is -- democracy is flourishing.
We spent a lot of time talking about the challenges we continue to
face. Our objective is to continue to train the Afghan army so that
they're capable of defeating the terrorists. However, today, it's
important for the Afghan people to understand that we have a strategic
vision about our relationship with Afghanistan.
I've signed a strategic partnership with the President. It's a
partnership that we've been working on for quite awhile. It's a
partnership that establishes regular high-level exchanges on political
security and economic interests of -- economic issues of mutual
interests. We will consult with Afghanistan if it perceives its
territorial integrity, independence or security is at risk. We will
help the Afghan people build strong, lasting government and civic
institutions. We'll continue to support reconstruction, economic
development and investments that will help educate and build the skills
of the Afghan people.
I've got great faith in the future in Afghanistan. First, I've got
great faith in the ability of democracy to provide hope. And I've got
faith in this man as a leader. He has shown tremendous courage in the
face of difficult odds. He's been a strong leader, he's a good friend
to our country, and, Mr. President, it's my honor to welcome you back
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you very much. My turn?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Your turn. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Mr. President --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Don't give these an opening, they'll jump in there
at a moment's notice. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Mr. President, it's a great pleasure and
privilege to be visiting the United States again, to be visiting you in
the White House with the usual warmth and hospitality. I was in Boston
yesterday, meeting with all the students on their commencement day. I
was given an honorary degree, which was a great honor for me, and
received tremendous warmth there, as well.
The United States has been the country with whose help we have
rebuilt our country, are in the process of rebuilding our country. And
you have been at the forefront of that effort with us in Afghanistan
and in the rest of the world. I'm here today to thank you, Mr.
President, once again for your leadership in providing Afghanistan the
security, the reconstruction, and the freedoms that the Afghan people
You cannot imagine, Mr. President, and I cannot tell you that in a
few words -- there are so many words, it has to take a much longer time
for me to describe to you what Afghanistan was going through three
years ago. So it's difficult to say, and I'm sometimes -- rather often
-- neither our press, nor your press, nor the press in the rest of the
world will pick up the miseries of the Afghans three years ago and what
has been achieved since then, until today. We have a constitution; we
had a presidential election -- and I'm glad it turned out to be good
for me. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: I know how you feel. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes, well -- (laughter.) I believe we share
that feeling, yes. And we are going to have a parliamentary election
in three months' time. And I just informed the President that we have,
as of yesterday -- as of the day before yesterday, over 5,000
candidates for the national assembly and for the provincial
assemblies. There are women from all the provinces of the country will
be coming to the parliament. So the country is moving forward.
We have been talking with your officials in Afghanistan and have
conveyed to you through your embassy and government the desire of the
Afghan people to have a strategic partnership with America, because
after the completion of the parliamentary elections, the Bonn process
will come to an end. From that point onward, we would like the world
to recognize that with the completion of the Bonn process and the
arrival of the Afghan parliament, Afghanistan will not suddenly stand
on its own feet. Politically, we will have done the process --
politically, we will have completed the process, but in terms of the
institutional strength, Afghanistan will continue to need a lot of
And I'm glad that you signed with me today a memorandum of
understanding on the long-term partnership between Afghanistan and the
United States of America, which will make sure that Afghanistan
continues to receive reconstruction assistance, which will make sure
that Afghanistan continues to receive training from the U.S. for its
military and the police, and which will enable Afghanistan to stand on
its own feet eventually and be a good, active member of the region,
contributing to peace and stability in the region, and be a bridge
between various parts of that part of the world for trade and values.
Mr. President, I'm here today to thank you for all that you have
done for Afghanistan. And we are very, very happy. We are grateful.
You sent the Vice President of the United States to come and attend the
inauguration in Afghanistan. It was a tremendous honor for us to
receive him there, to have him there. It was the manifestation of the
commitment of the United States and yourself to the Afghan people to
have that day attended by the Vice President. And we are very, very
happy more importantly to have had the First Lady to visit us in
Afghanistan. We were thrilled. The Afghan women were thrilled. The
Afghan site were thrilled. And now you guess whose turn it is now to
come to Afghanistan. (Laughter.) So we'll be hoping to receive you
there very soon.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you for the invitation. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT KARZAI: The country is much greener than it was in the
past few years. I thank you once again for receiving us here and for
the support you've given to us all along, and will continue to do so.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, Mr. President. Of course, I don't want
to correct my friend, but I must. In thanking me, you're really
thanking the American people.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Of course.
PRESIDENT BUSH: And the American people are most impressed by the
progress you've made, Mr. President, and it's progress that we look
forward to working with you so that you can continue to make progress.
And in the spirit of free press, we'll answer a couple of questions.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes, we all know that, yes. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Hunt.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, will you give the
Karzai government custody of Afghan citizens detained by the United
States? And are you willing to give Afghanistan more say in U.S.
military matters in their country?
And to President Karzai, did you discuss the prisoner abuse at
Bagram issue with the President?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First, in terms of more say over our military, our
relationship is one of cooperate and consult. Of course our troops
will respond to U.S. commanders, but our U.S. commanders and our
diplomatic mission there is in a consultative relationship with the
government. It's a free society. There is a democratically-elected
government. They've invited us in, and we'll consult with them in
terms of how to achieve mutual goals, and that is to rout out the
remnants of al Qaeda, to deal with those folks who would come and like
to create harm to U.S. citizens and/or Afghan citizens.
I must say, the Afghan military is making great progress. It
hadn't been all that long ago that we started a training mission. Now
there's over 25,000 troops who are trained and ready to fight, and they
take the fight to these thugs that are coming across the border to
create havoc. And we've got another, I think, 22,000 to train to get
this army fully stood up. Our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is the
same. I mean, we want these new democracies to be able to defend
themselves. And so we will continue to work with the Afghans to train
them and to cooperate and consult with the government.
The other aspect of the question?
Q The prisoners who --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, the prisoners, yes. Our policy, as you know,
has been to work our way through those who are being held in Guantanamo
and send them back to the host countries, and we will do so over time,
with the Afghan government. Part of the issue is to make sure there is
a place where the prisoners can be held. As I explained to the
President, that our policy is one where we want the people to be sent
home, but, two, we've got to make sure the facilities are there --
facilities where these people can be housed and fed and guarded.
Now, you asked about the prison -- yes, he did bring up the prison
PRESIDENT KARZAI: On the question of the prisoner abuse, we are,
of course, sad about that. But let me make sure that you all know that
that does not reflect on the American people.
Right now in Afghanistan there is an Italian lady that has been
kidnapped by an Afghan man -- while there are hundreds of Afghan women
demonstrating outside in the streets of Kabul demanding the release of
that woman, the Italian lady. So the prisoner abuse thing is not at
all a thing that we attribute to anybody else but those individuals.
The Afghan people are grateful, very, very much to the American
people. They recognize that individual acts do not reflect either on
governments or on societies. These things happen everywhere. As we
are sad, we recognize that the American people, kind as they are to
Afghanistan, have nothing to do with that.
And I'm glad to tell you that I was reading today somewhere that
one of those persons has been given a sentence of prison for three
months and removed from his job, and that's a good thing. We -- I must
repeat strongly -- are fully aware of the tremendously good values of
the American people and of their kind attitude toward us and others in
PRESIDENT BUSH: Somebody from the Afghan press?
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Anybody from the Afghan press? Do we have an
Afghan press? Oh, here he is. (Laughter.)
Q (As translated.) This question is for President Bush,
question was: Besides security and military assistance, Afghanistan
needs more economic assistance. How can the U.S. assist more in
building the economic infrastructure of Afghanistan?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right. As you know, we cooperated early with
Japan and Saudi Arabia in helping them build a very important highway.
I can remember when then-Secretary of State Powell came in and asked
whether or not I thought this made sense, and I did. And I talked -- I
think I talked to you about it in our first visit.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes, yes.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I hope that highway is complete -- if not, being
PRESIDENT KARZAI: It is --
PRESIDENT BUSH: We talked today about electricity. Interestingly
enough, Afghanistan has got natural gas resources, and that those gas
resources can be used to fire electricity plants which will be helpful
for the infrastructure. And as a matter of fact, thanks to the United
States Congress, there is reconstruction money in the supplemental and
the budget. And that's good. And so those are ways we can help.
The truth of the matter -- another way we can help is to diversify
the agricultural sector, which leads to a subject that we spent some
time on, and that is opium and poppies. As you know, there are --
there's too much poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. And I made it very
clear to the President that this is -- that we have got to work
together to eradicate poppy crop. And the President, not only in this
meeting but in other meetings, has been very forthcoming about the
desire to eradicate poppy. And as a matter of fact, according to a
United Nations' report, there is less poppy today than the previous
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Exactly.
PRESIDENT BUSH: The President can give you some statistics on that
if you're interested. One of the interesting issues, however, besides
poppy crop eradication, and frankly, bringing people to justice who are
running drugs is to -- is for crop substitution. And the -- President
Karzai was talking about how the quality of the pomegranate that used
to be grown in Afghanistan, evidently it's quite famous for -- the
country is quite famous for growing pomegranates.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Yes, yes.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Or honeydew melons. In other words, there are
some specialty crops, along with wheat and corn, that can and should be
grown in Afghanistan. We look forward to working -- the President
brought his Agricultural Minister with him, and we look forward to
working on this aspect of economic development. After all, Afghanistan
has had a long history of farming. And we can do -- we can do a lot to
help the farmers get back on their feet and diversify away from
And so there are some areas where we discussed help. The truth of
the matter is, though, that it's very important for your government to
make -- continue to make -- and I'm confident the President will -- but
continue to make the right decisions about rule of law and transparency
and decisions that will encourage an open marketplace so that people
will feel comfortable investing in your country.
I don't know if you want to comment on that -- on the poppy issue.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: On the drugs issue, yes, yes. Mr. President,
indeed, Afghanistan is suffering from the cultivation of poppies, which
is undermining our economy. It's giving us a bad name, worst of all.
Just after the inauguration, a day after
the Vice President and Secretary Rumsfeld left Afghanistan for the
U.S., we called a meeting of the Afghan elders and representatives and
spoke to them about the curse of poppies in Afghanistan. Their
response to that was very positive. A lot of provinces that were the
biggest producers of poppy refrained from producing poppies. Three
years ago I saw a report in the press that the province of Nangarhar,
which used to produce poppies, has now reduced poppies by 80 percent.
The same as in Helmand, the same as in Badakhshan, the same as in other
areas where poppies were grown.
So we are hoping that Afghanistan this year will have something
between 20 to 30 percent reduction in poppies all over the country, and
that is a lot. When I was addressing the Afghan people a few months
ago, I was not expecting the response to be so positive, or that we
will have poppy reduction by so many percentages in a year. Now if
this trend continues, we'll have no poppies, hopefully, in Afghanistan
in another five or six years.
But equally important is the provision of alternative livelihoods
to the Afghan people. The President mentioned pomegranates, honeydew
melon, lots of other things in Afghanistan that people destroyed in
order to replace with poppies have to be now brought back to the lives
of the Afghan farmers' alternative livelihood. And our adjudication to
the arrest of drug dealers, mafia, the producers of the labs, is going
on. But this trend -- and with proper alternative livelihood,
hopefully in five to six years, Afghanistan should be free of poppies.
That's a promise we have given to the world and to the Afghan people,
and that's a promise that we will deliver on. Hold us accountable on
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir.
Q Mr. President, on judicial nominees, are you willing to risk a
stalling of your domestic agenda in order to get votes on judicial
nominees? And what do you say to critics who said Republicans did
basically the same thing to some of President Clinton's nominees?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve, I have made my position very clear, and
that is my job is to pick people who will interpret the Constitution,
not use the bench from which to write law. That's what I campaigned
on. I said, if I'm the President, I will pick people who do that. I
said, I'll pick people who are -- will bring great credit to the
bench. And that's exactly what I've done, consistent with judicial
philosophy in my picks, as well as the character of the people I pick.
And I expect them to get an up or down vote. That's what I expect.
And I think the American people expect that, as well. People ought to
have a fair hearing and they ought to get an up or down vote on the
Why don't you go with one final question. We've got this lady
reporter here. Yes.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: All right. Lady.
Q Just to follow up on the treatment of the prisoners. Mr.
President, you know, anti-American feeling is running high in the
Muslim world. We've seen it in Afghanistan after the alleged
disintegration of the Koran in Guantanamo. After meeting with the
President, how do you assure the Muslim world and Afghan people that
have seen death as a result of the article, that this incident in
Bagram and other treatment of prisoners is isolated incident, and it's
And if I may ask you, Mr. President, as you know, the casualties of
Iraq is again high today -- 50 more people dying. Do you think that
insurgence is getting harder now to defeat militarily? Thank you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I don't think so. I think they're being
defeated. And that's why they continue to fight. The worst thing for
them is to see democracy. The President can speak to that firsthand.
The worst problem that an ideologue that uses terror to try to get
their way is to see a free society emerge. And I'm confident we're
making great progress in Iraq.
And clearly, it's dangerous and we mourn the loss of life. On the
other hand, the eight-and-a-half million Iraqis who went to the polls
sent a very clear message to the world, that they want to be free.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Ma'am, yes, we discussed those questions on the
-- on the demonstrations, or the so-called demonstrations in part of
the -- parts of Afghanistan. You saw that government buildings were
burned and private property was damaged, broken. Those demonstrations
were, in reality, not related to the Newsweek story. They were more
against the elections in Afghanistan; they were more against the
progress in Afghanistan; they were more against the strategic
partnership with the United States.
We know who did it. We know the guys. We know the people behind
those demonstrations. And if -- unfortunately, you don't hear --
follow the Afghan press, but if you listen to the Voice of America, the
Radio Liberty, and the BBC, the Afghan population condemned that --
those acts of arson in Afghanistan.
Of course, we are as Muslims very much unhappy with Newsweek
bringing a matter so serious in the gossip column. It's really
something that one shouldn't do, that responsible journalism shouldn't
do at all. But Newsweek story is not America's story. That's what --
that's what we understand in Afghanistan. America has over a thousand
mosques. I have gone and prayed in mosques here in America; I've
prayed in Virginia; I've gone and prayed in Maryland; I've been to a
mosque in Washington. And thousands of Afghans have been to mosques
here in town, and as a matter of fact, tens of thousands of Muslims are
going on a daily basis to mosques in America and praying.
So -- and this is what was also reflected in Afghanistan. People
spoke in the mosques -- the clergy, and said, what the hell are you
doing? There is -- there is a respect, there is this freedom in
America for religion, and there are Muslims, on a daily basis praying
in mosques in America. And there are Korans, Holy Korans all over
America in homes and mosques. So it was a political act -- a political
act against Afghanistan's stability, which we have condemned, which the
Afghan people have condemned.
On the issue of prisoners, I spoke earlier, it does not reflect at
all on American people. On the contrary, it's an individual act just
like that bad Afghan kidnapped an Italian lady. And it's not the work
of the Afghan people -- in the same way, we treat this case.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: All right, okay, thanks very much. Bye-bye.
END 11:28 A.M. EDT