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American Forces Press Service

Rice Assures Afghanistan, Pakistan of U.S. Support

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2005 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised Afghanistan for "inspiring the world with its march toward democracy," then assured the people of Pakistan that the United States will support it not just in its immediate hour of need, but for the long term.

Rice spoke to reporters Oct. 12 in both Kabul, Afghanistan, and Islamabad, Pakistan, during a whirlwind trip through the region that also included visits to Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

The focus of the visits, to conclude today, is on advancing bilateral and regional cooperation on security issues, promoting freedom through democratic and market-oriented reform, and strengthening security in the region, including cooperation on counterterrorism, State Department officials said.

In Pakistan, struggling to recover from a devastating Oct. 8 earthquake, Rice said the United States is providing cash and helicopter and other logistical support to deliver relief supplies to victims and will do more as more needs emerge.

"I just want the people of Pakistan to know that our thoughts are with you, that we will be with you in your hour of need and that we will be with you not just today, but also tomorrow as you try to rebuild," she said during a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Miam Khurshid Mahood Kasuri.

In Afghanistan, Rice met with President Hamid Karzai to discuss U.S.-Afghan relations, Afghanistan's progress toward democracy and the challenges ahead.

Among those challenges is the drug trade, the secretary noted during a joint media availability with Karzai. The United States and Afghanistan's lead partner in drug eradication, Great Britain, will continue stay the course in helping fight this scourge, Rice promised.

"We will redouble our efforts with you to help educate the Afghan people, to help to eradicate, to help to bring alternative livelihoods to those who choose a legal path, and also to support your efforts at criminal justice for those who continue in those activities," she said.

Rice assured Karzai that the United States won't desert Afghanistan as it continues its forward progress. "The Afghan people have a long-term partner in the United States," she said.

She told the Afghan leader that his country can count on "our long-term partnership, a relationship in terms of security cooperation and the fight to bring peace and stability to this region that will be enduring."

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