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18 March 2002

Bush: "We've Got A Lot More Fighting to Do in Afghanistan"

(Responds to questions in roundtable discussion in Missouri) (1080)
President Bush, in a roundtable discussion in Missouri March 18, said
"we've got a lot more fighting to do in Afghanistan."
"There are more al Qaeda killers in Afghanistan, perhaps in Pakistan,
willing to come back into Afghanistan," he told small business owners
and employees during a discussion in O'Fallon, Missouri.
"I know for a fact that they were trying to -- in the midst of this
battle, in the midst of the United States military and our coalition
forces being very successful -- they were trying to reinforce. And
these are people that are -- they were willing to reinforce in the
midst of the Shar-i-Kot Mountain range, where they were getting wiped
out, they were willing to come back into Afghanistan to continue to
try to hurt us. These are killers. They hate America, they hate
America's freedom, they hate what America stands for. And they are
relentless," Bush said.
"But so are we, and we will be more relentless than they are. That's
why I've urged the American people to be patient, and the American
people are patient. And that's why I've urged Congress to fund the
U.S. military. And I hope Congress does fund the U.S. military to the
fullest, because we've got a lot more fighting to do in Afghanistan."
Bush also answered questions on the March 17 attack on a Protestant
church in Pakistan and on the Middle East.
Following are his remarks on those subjects:
(begin excerpt)
Q: Mr. President, do you have any sense of who carried out the attack
yesterday in Pakistan at the church; why they did it? Do you think
they're trying to undermine Musharraf and his support for the war on
terrorism?
THE PRESIDENT: Very interesting question. I talked to President
Musharraf this morning, first thing. He is very sympathetic,
obviously. He was deeply concerned about the American loss of life,
and he wanted to share that with me. And I appreciated his phone call.
We both talked about the need to continue fighting people that would
kill for political reasons. And it goes to show that there is still
some -- that that part of the world is a dangerous place at times.
And the tougher President Musharraf is, and the more steadfast the
United States is, the stronger we stand against terrorist activity,
the more lives we'll ultimately save.
Q: Mr. President  -- 
THE PRESIDENT: He doesn't know who it is -- excuse me for a minute. He
doesn't know who it is yet. And when we find him, we'll bring him to
justice.
Q: Sir? Thank you. Vice President Cheney is in the Middle East. Should
he meet with Chairman Arafat? Would you like to see that happen? And
if no, why not?
THE PRESIDENT: I talked to the Vice President today. And he's had a
very good visit in the Middle East. He is -- matter of fact, he was 15
minutes away from going in to see Prime Minister Sharon. He had
General Zinni with him. General Zinni is optimistic that we're making
some progress in the Middle East.
And the answer to who the Vice President ought to meet with or not
meet with depends upon General Zinni's recommendations. He's the man
on the ground. He's in charge of trying to foster an environment such
that we can get into Tenet, and then eventually get into the Mitchell
peace plan. Our government has laid out a pathway to a peaceful
resolution of a very difficult set of problems. And Zinni's over there
working hard to get us into that process.
Q: Mr. President, Operation Anaconda, we've been told, is successful,
and
-- 
THE PRESIDENT: Operation?
Q: Operation Anaconda we're being told is successful, and it's over.
Do you feel the war in Afghanistan -- that part of the war is now
over?
THE PRESIDENT: John, I don't. I feel like we've got a lot more
fighting to do in Afghanistan. First of all, we were successful in
Operation Anaconda. I want to thank our troops, our brave troops, for
fighting in incredibly tough terrain, and against difficult
circumstances. And the difficult circumstances were not only the
terrain, it was the fact that we were fighting against an enemy that
refuses to surrender. These are people that are there to die. And we
accommodated them.
And it's a -- but there are more al Qaeda killers in Afghanistan,
perhaps in Pakistan, willing to come back into Afghanistan. The reason
-- AND I know for a fact that they were trying to -- in the midst of
this battle, in the midst of the United States Military and our
coalition forces being very successful, they were trying to reinforce.
And these are people that are -- they were willing to reinforce in the
midst of the Shar-i-Kot Mountain range, where they were getting wiped
out, they were willing to come back into Afghanistan to continue to
try to hurt us. These are killers. They hate America, they hate
America's freedom, they hate what America stands for. And they are
relentless.
But so are we, and we will be more relentless than they are. That's
why I've urged the American people to be patient, and the American
people are patient. And that's why I've urged Congress to fund the
U.S. military. And I hope Congress does fund the U.S. military to the
fullest, because we've got a lot more fighting to do in Afghanistan.
Q: Many Mideast leaders are saying that the U.S. should be focusing
more on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and less on Iraq. Can you
give a reaction to that?
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate their advice, but we will not allow one of
the world's most dangerous leaders to have the world's most dangerous
weapons, and hold the United States and our friends and allies
hostage. That's just not going to happen. And so I appreciate their
advice. But we will continue working with them. We will continue
dialogue. I have told people that we're a deliberate nation. We'll
talk to our friends and allies. But what I said about the axis of evil
is what I mean. I can't be any more plain about it.
(end except)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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