On February 15, President George W. Bush addressed AEI on the global War on Terror. The central theme of the speech was the U.S. strategy to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and consolidate democracy there. In the following excerpt, President Bush outlines five strategic priorities for the war.
President George W. Bush
Our goal in Afghanistan is to help its people defeat the terrorists and establish a stable, moderate, and democratic state that respects the rights of its citizens, governs its territory effectively, and is a reliable ally in this war against extremists and terrorists. For some that may seem like an impossible task. But it’s not impossible if you believe what Jeane Kirkpatrick said: that freedom is universal, that we believe all human beings [ought] to live in freedom and peace.
We’re focused on five key goals that I want to share with you. First, the United States and our allies will help President Hamid Karzai increase the size and capabilities of the Afghan security forces. The United States and our allies will also work with Afghanistan’s leaders to improve human intelligence networks.
The second part of our strategy is to work with our allies to strengthen the NATO force in Afghanistan. For NATO to succeed, member nations must provide commanders on the ground with the troops and the equipment they need to do their jobs. NATO forces . . . must have the flexibility and rules of engagement necessary to do their jobs.
Third, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai improve provincial governance and develop Afghanistan’s rural economy. The best way to dry up Taliban recruits is to help Afghanistan’s government create jobs and opportunity. So NATO is operating twenty-five provincial reconstruction teams across the country. These teams will help build irrigation systems, improve power production, and provide access to microcredit, encouraging entrepreneurship, job formation, and enterprise.
Fourth, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai reverse the increase in poppy cultivation that is aiding the Taliban. After a decline in 2005, Afghanistan saw a marked increase in poppy cultivation last year. This is a direct threat to a free future for Afghanistan.
Finally, we’re going to help President Karzai fight corruption. Afghans too often see their courts run by crooked judges. It’s important to have the confidence of the people in a free society. Crooked judges make it hard to earn that confidence. The international community is helping this new government build a justice system to replace the rule of the Taliban with the rule of law.
Success in Afghanistan is important for our security. We are engaged in a long ideological struggle between the forces of moderation and liberty [and] the forces of destruction and extremism. It’s in our national interest that we succeed, and that we help President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan succeed.
The biggest source for success is the Afghan people themselves. They want their freedom. Jeane Kirkpatrick was right: people around the world, regardless of their faith, their background, or their gender, want to be free.
For a full transcript of President Bush’s speech, visit www.aei.org/publication25630/. For a related National Security Outlook on Afghanistan by AEI resident fellow Thomas Donnelly, visit www.aei.org/publication25613/.