Bush Announces New Steps to Aid Afghanistan


This is Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

President Bush this week announced more steps to help Afghanistan. He met at the White House Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. At a news conference, they spoke of progress toward democracy. Mister Bush said Afghanistan is no longer, in his words, "a terrorist factory sending thousands of killers into the world."

He offered American training for Afghan politicians. Other steps include more schools for Afghan children, as well as training and aid for businesswomen. And Mister Bush said the two countries plan to seek a trade agreement and expand an education exchange program.

Afghanistan was formerly ruled by the Taliban group which provided refuge for al-Qaida. After al-Qaida attacked the United States on September eleventh, two-thousand-one, American-led forces ousted the Taliban.

Since then, international efforts have helped improve schools, health care and roads. Afghanistan has a new constitution. Women have more rights. And the country is preparing for elections in September.

But officials are worried about violence in the provinces and threats from the Taliban and allied Islamic groups. This week, Al Jazeera television showed what it said were new images of al-Qaida members training in Afghanistan. But the American commander there and a terrorism expert said the tape was likely made somewhere else.

The Afghan government has limited control outside Kabul. Parts of the country are still controlled by local leaders and militants. President Karzai has promised to disarm the groups.

Late this week, local commanders took control of the capital of Ghor province. Officials said ten men died in fighting. The governor fled.

The United States has about twenty-thousand troops in Afghanistan. They face almost daily attacks blamed on fighters loyal to the Taliban and al-Qaida.

In Washington, members of Congress have expressed concern about progress toward an Afghan National Army and police force. Opposition Democrats have said the invasion of Iraq last year took away resources from Afghanistan.

President Karzai spoke to a joint meeting of Congress. He thanked the United States for its support. He also honored American soldiers killed or injured in Afghanistan.

Mister Karzai noted strong economic growth in his country. But he said there is still "a long road ahead." He said Afghanistan needs more investment to help its economic recovery. And he called for NATO to do more. NATO's current duties include commanding the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul.

President Karzai also appealed for American help to stop the spread of drug crops in Afghanistan. He said profits from the illegal trade threaten his government and finance terrorism and extremism.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.