WASHINGTON – President Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai met at the White House on Tuesday and held a news conference in the Rose Garden. Following is a transcript of their introductory remarks:
BUSH: Good day. Laura and I are pleased to welcome President Karzai back to the White House.
Really glad you're here.
KARZAI: Thank you very much.
BUSH: Thanks for the good visit. And I'm looking forward to having a good lunch with you and your delegation.
KARZAI: Well, I'm looking forward to that.
BUSH: President Karzai recently visited Fort Drum and thanked American troops on behalf of the Afghan people...
BUSH: ... for their service and sacrifice.
And, Mr. President, that was a sign of a true friend. I want to thank you for doing that.
KARZAI: Thank you very much.
BUSH: I also appreciate your honor, your courage and your skill in helping to build a new and democratic Afghanistan. You've been instrumental in lifting your country from the ashes of two decades of war and oppression. Under your leadership, Afghanistan's progress has been dramatic.
Three years ago, the Taliban had granted Usama bin Laden and his terrorist Al Qaeda organization a safe refuge. Today the Taliban has been deposed, Al Qaeda is in hiding, and coalition forces continue to hunt down the remnants and holdouts.
Coalition forces, including many brave Afghans, have brought America, Afghanistan and the free world its first victory in the war on terror. Afghanistan is no longer a terrorist factory sending thousands of killers into the world.
Three years ago, 70 percent of Afghans were malnourished, and one in four Afghan children never saw their fifth birthday.
BUSH: Today, clean water is being provided throughout the country, hospitals and clinics have been rehabilitated, and millions of children have been vaccinated against measles and polio.
Three years ago, women were viciously oppressed and forbidden to work outside the home, and even denied what little medical treatment was available. Today, women are going to school and their rights are protected in Afghanistan's constitution.
BUSH: That document sets aside a certain number of seats for women in the national assembly, and women will soon compete for those seats in open elections this September.
Three years ago, the smallest displays of joy were outlawed. Women were beaten for wearing brightly colored shoes.
BUSH: Even the playing of music and flying of kites were outlawed.
Today we witness the rebirth of a vibrant Afghan culture. Music fills the marketplaces and people are free to come together to celebrate in open.
Afghanistan's journey to democracy and peace deserves the support and respect of every nation, because free nations do not breed the ideology of terror.
Last week at the G-8 summit, President Karzai talked with world leaders about the challenges of building a secure and stable country. My government reaffirms its ironclad commitment to help Afghanistan succeed and prosper.
Security is essential for steady progress and growth. The forces of many nations are working hard with Afghans to find and defeat Taliban remnants and eliminate Al Qaeda terrorists. We're helping to build the new Afghan national army and to train new Afghan police and border patrol.
Together we will maintain the peace, secure Afghanistan's borders and deny terrorists any foothold in that country.
I'm proud to call President Karzai a strong ally in the war on terror.
The United States is also joining with Afghanistan to announce five new initiatives that will help the Afghan people achieve the peace, stability and prosperity they deserve.
First, the United States pledges its full support as Afghans continue to build the institutions of democracy. America will launch an ambitious training program for newly elected Afghan politicians and help newly elected assembly members better serve those who elected them.
Second, Afghanistan and America are working together to print millions of new textbooks and to build modern schools in every Afghan province.
Girls as well as boys are going to school, and they are studying under a new curriculum that promotes religious and ethnic tolerance.
We pledge to continue this progress through a new $4 million women's teacher training institute in Kabul. Graduates of this innovative program will return to their provinces and rural districts to train other teachers in the crusade against illiteracy.
Education can be nurtured in other ways, as well.
Cultural exchange programs help to foster understanding and respect as well as accelerate progress. Last year, close to 100 Afghans studied here in various training programs. More want to come to learn and to share their experiences, so our third initiative will expand these opportunities to include more than 250 qualified Afghans who will participate in Humphrey, Fulbright, Cochran and other exchange programs.
Fourth, to promote bilateral economic ties, the United States and Afghanistan announced our intent to pursue a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement.
Years of war and tyranny have eroded Afghanistan's economy and infrastructure, yet a revival is under way. Afghans are busy starting their own businesses. Some 15,000 licenses have already been issued for foreign businesses and investors to explore economic opportunities in Afghanistan.
Working with Japan, we have rebuilt the Kandahar-Kabul highway, a vital commercial and transportation link between Afghanistan's two largest cities.
A bilateral trade agreement will add new fuel to the economic revival.
And finally, we pledge to continue our efforts to create opportunities for women. The United States is dedicating $5 million to fund training programs and grants for small businesses.
Under the Taliban women were oppressed. Their potential was ignored.
Under President Karzai's leadership that has changed dramatically. A number of innovative programs designed in collaboration with the Afghan government are increasing the role of women in the private sector. The additional funding we announce today will provide Afghan women with small-business grants and training in business management skills.
As my wife Laura has said, no society can prosper when half of its population is not allowed to contribute to its progress.
The road ahead for Afghanistan is still long and difficult, yet the Afghan people can know that their country will never be abandoned to terrorists and killers. The world and the United States stands with them as partners in their quest for peace and prosperity and stability and democracy.
Welcome, President. Glad you're here.
KARZAI: Thank you very much. Thank you.
Mr. President, it's a tremendous privilege and honor for us to be invited again by you and the first lady to the White House.
It was a great honor for me today to be speaking to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. I will cherish that memory of talking to the representatives of the American people.
There today I thanked America for the help that it gave us to liberate ourselves and rebuild ourselves and prosper. That help has been the source of our growth in the past two years.
Our economy in the year 2002 grew by 30 percent; in the year 2003, by 25 percent or more; in the year 2004, the growth is estimated to be 20 percent. And we are hoping, as some of the banks have predicted, that the Afghan economy will grow until 2008 by 15 percent, and beyond that for another five years, by 10 percent.
Thank you very much. This could not have been possible without your help, without America's assistance.
We are sending today 5 million children to school. Almost half of those children are girls.
Our universities are open. Our universities are coming up all over the country, in other provinces of the country.
We are building a national army, a vital institution for the defense of our country. You want us to stand on our own feet, you want us to defend our own sovereignty and provide security to our people, and you're helping us do that.
The national army of Afghanistan is popular with the Afghan people. Wherever they go, people receive them with welcome.
In Farah province, where they went some months ago, school girls and boys give them flowers. Thank you very much for that.
We are also building our police forces.
We have a constitution that we have today which is the most enlightened in that part of the world. And that constitution has been made possible because of the liberation that you helped us gain and because of the stability that the United States helped us have in Afghanistan.
As a result of that, we have a constitution that sets us as an example of an Islamic democratic state.
Thank you very much, Mr. President, for that.
We are looking forward in this relationship to a stronger relationship and I'm sure the United States will remain committed to Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is, in the month of September, looking forward to elections: presidential elections, elections of parliament and elections of the provincial assemblies and district assemblies.
So far we have registered 3.8 million voters and out of the 3.8 million voters, Mr. President, 35.4 percent are so far women. And as the trend continues, as we move forward to the registration of more voters, the number of women registering will exceed definitely 40 percent.
In central parts of the country, in the central highlands today I learned that the registration of women has exceeded that of men. They are more than 50 percent. This could not have been achieved in Afghanistan without your help and that of the international community.
Afghanistan has problems too. Among the problems is the question of drugs. The Afghan government is adamant, the Afghan people are adamant to fight this menace, to end it in Afghanistan and we seek your help in that.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. It's been nice visiting the United States again. One likes to stay here and not go it's such a good country.
Thank you very much.
Transcript provided by the Federal Document Clearing House.