Bush acknowledges problems in Afghanistan; predicts Taliban ultimately will be defeated

Friday, September 29th 2006, 10:23 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush, delivering the latest in a series of speeches on the war on terrorism, admitted to setbacks in Afghanistan on Friday, particularly in the training of police. But he predicted ultimate victory over resurgent Taliban forces there and against terrorists everywhere.

He lashed out anew at critics ``who make a case that, by fighting the terrorists, we're making our people less secure here at home. This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we're provoking them,'' he said.

Bush's speech to the Reserve Officers Association was the latest in a series defending his Iraq policy and the broader war on terrorism.

Bush expressed some disappointment with progress in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has regrouped, especially in the south, and where violence is rising.

``The training of the Afghan police has not gone as smoothly as the army,'' Bush said, citing ``corruption and substandard leadership.''

But, Bush added, ``We've made our concerns known...When we see a problem, we adjust, we change.''

Bush, who met earlier in the week with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, also applauded NATO's decision this week to take over command of all peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan.

Karzai's democratically elected government ``is beginning to win the hearts of the people,'' Bush said. ``The enemy understands what we're doing and they don't like it.''

He also praised efforts by Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, with whom he also met this week, to help track down terrorists who hide in remote areas and move back and forth across the Pakistani-Afghan border.

With just six weeks to go before congressional elections, Bush has been striking back at Democrats who have trumpeted a government intelligence assessment that the Iraq war has helped recruit more terrorists.

In Friday's speech, he was less openly partisan than the day before at a GOP fundraiser in Alabama.

Still, Bush noted that the unauthorized disclosure of that National Intelligence Estimate _ portions of which he has since declassified _ had ``set off a heated debate here in the United States, particularly in Washington.''

Bush said he rejected those who make ``a case that by fighting the terrorists, we're making our people less secure here at home.''

Terrorism ``is not our fault,'' Bush said, paraphrasing recent comments by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. ``You do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism.''

``If that ever becomes the mind-set of the policymakers in Washington, it means we'll go back to the old days of waiting to be attacked - and then respond,'' Bush added.

Bush was greeted warmly by the military audience. ``We're safer because you stand ready to put on the uniform,'' he told the reservists.

Bush did not criticize Democrats directly Friday, although in his remarks the day before he called them obstructionists who will run from the fight in Iraq.

Bush's pointed reproach of the Democrats came Thursday before more than 2,000 Republicans at a Birmingham, Ala., fundraiser for Gov. Bob Riley and the state GOP.

In that address, Bush said Democrats are using the leaked National Intelligence Estimate to ``mislead the American people and justify their policy of withdrawal from Iraq.''

The document, an analysis of terror trends put together by the nation's top intelligence analysts across 16 spy agencies, concluded that Iraq is contributing to a growth in the jihadist movement around the world to hide.