WASHINGTON – President Bush bluntly warned Afghanistan's ruling Taliban on Saturday: "Time is running out."
Directing his weekly radio broadcast to both allies and enemies overseas, Bush emphasized that his war against the Taliban — and suspected terrorists sheltered by the Taliban regime — has nothing to do with Afghan civilians.
"We're offering help and friendship to the Afghan people. It is their Taliban rulers, and the terrorists they harbor, who have much to fear," the president said.
Bush, who authorized $320 million in immediate humanitarian aid to Afghanistan on Thursday, urged Congress on Saturday to set up a longer-term fund for the eventual "reconstruction and development of that troubled nation." He offered no details on such a fund, which White House spokesman Sean McCormack said was still "in the idea stage."
Bush was spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland and planned to hold a teleconference Saturday with members of his National Security Council.
As diplomatic and military planning for strikes against the terrorists continued, Bush sought to shed light on the enemy he intends to attack. He described a brutally repressive Taliban, which all governments of the world, except Pakistan, reject as Afghanistan's legitimate government.
"The Taliban promotes terror abroad and practices terror against its people, oppressing women and persecuting all who dissent," he said in the radio address.
The Taliban militia has given shelter to Usama bin Laden, suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, and refused Bush's demands that bin Laden be turned over to the United States along with his lieutenants in the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
"The Taliban has been given the opportunity to surrender all the terrorists in Afghanistan and to close down their camps and operations," the president said.
"Full warning has been given and time is running out."
Meanwhile, the United States will make exhaustive efforts — by air drop, truck "and even by draft animal'' to get food, seeds, vaccines and medicine to the people in Afghanistan and to the thousands of refugees who have already fled to neighboring states, Bush said.
"Even as we fight evil regimes, we are generous to the people they oppress."