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March 1, 2006
Bush Visits Afghanistan

George Bush made a surprise stop on his tour of South Asia today as he flew into Kabul to meet with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, as well as the American troops stationed in the newly-liberated country:

US President George W. Bush arrived in Afghanistan for his first visit since US-led forces toppled the Taliban regime in 2001.

Bush made the surprise stopover, landing at the US military base at Bagram north of Kabul, as he headed to India to begin a maiden trip to South Asia.

He flew by heavily armed helicopter to the capital where he was given a red-carpet welcome by an honour guard before talks with President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace.

Bush apparently wanted to be present at the opening of the new US embassy in Kabul, taking place today, in addition to paying his first state visit to the nation. The stopover on the way to India had been kept under wraps; the press on Air Force One only found out about it when an announcement was made in the air. Dick Cheney had been in Kabul for the inauguration of its parliament in December.

Once at the presidential palace, Bush reiterated his confidence that Osama bin Laden would be captured:

Asked about the search for bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States, and of the president's call for getting him "dead or alive," Bush said the search for bin Laden and his associates continues.

"It's not a matter of if they're captured and brought to justice, it's when they're brought to justice," Bush said.

He noted that the Pakistanis have committed to the mission, and according to news reports, they have initiated a new round of attacks in the Waziristan region against al-Qaeda positions. Pakistani officials claim that 36 AQ operatives were killed in a raid on a training camp, including a commander in the Chechen Islamist insurgency:

Pakistani security forces struck a militant training camp Wednesday in a tribal region near the Afghan border, killing three dozen fighters, including a Chechen commander linked to al-Qaida, an army official said.

The Chechen — identified only by his code name, Imam — died when a helicopter fired on his vehicle during the raid in the North Waziristan region, the army official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. ...

The militants were attacked after conducting a raid inside Afghanistan and re-entering the Pakistani tribal region, where their camp was located.

My guess is that the last raid by American Predator drones taught Pervez Musharraf a lesson about these raiding parties and Pakistani inertia in general. He seems to have learned the limits of American patience regarding Taliban remnants and AQ operations hiding on the Pakistani side of the border, and has taken action accordingly. Hopefully he will continue to press the attack. After all, these Islamists may enjoy popularity with a good portion of Pakistanis, but it isn't the portion that would support him regardless of his relationship with the US.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 1, 2006 5:42 AM

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