Opportunity with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan
The Oval Office
The White House
February 27, 2003
11:41 A.M. EST
PRESIDENT BUSH: A couple of opening statements; we'll answer questions today.
Mr. President, welcome back to the Oval Office.
The President has just brought me and members of my administration up to date
on the progress being made in Afghanistan. I guess the best way to summarize
the discussion is that I'm welcoming a courageous leader, who's got a clear
vision about the future of a country he loves, back to the Oval Office.
I was deeply impressed by some of the statistics that he talked about. Over
2 million refugees have returned back to Afghanistan since he was last here
in the Oval Office. As the President pointed out, those are people who are expressing
their opinion about the future of Afghanistan by making a decision to return
He also told me that there are now 3 million children going to school in Afghanistan.
Right after and during the period of the Taliban and right after the war, the
number of children going to school was negligible.
This is tremendous progress, and I want the American people to know that we're
proud of the progress which is being made. I want to continue to thank the American
people for their support of the -- of Afghanistan and our desire for the --
human life to improve there.
And, Mr. President, we appreciate your leadership, your determination. And we
continue to look forward to working with you to bring not only peace to that
part of the world, but a hopeful future for the citizens. So welcome back to
the Oval Office.
PRESIDENT KARZAI: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. It's an honor for
me to be here with you in the White House. The United States and yourself have
helped tremendously in the past year to rebuild Afghanistan, to help us in all
aspects of life, including the 3 million children that now go to school have
been receiving help from the United States. You have helped us with the roads,
with the building of the National Army of Afghanistan.
I'm here to thank you and the American people. And I'm also here to ask you
to do more for us in making the life of the Afghan people better, more stable,
more peaceful. I'm also here to tell you that the war against terrorism is going
on. We have defeated them, but some elements are still there. And we should
go on strong and tough to get them all and free the world from that menace.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir.
Q Mr. President, following up on your speech last night, if the United States
had expanded its mission beyond the liberation of Kuwait and removed Saddam
Hussein from power in the 1990s, would the Middle East be more peaceful now?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The mission in early 1990s was to liberate Kuwait, and the United
States achieved that mission. The mission now is to disarm Saddam Hussein, in
the name of peace. And we will disarm Saddam Hussein.
I noticed today there is some talk about the illegal rockets in Iraq. He --
this is part of his -- the discussion about these rockets is part of his campaign
of deception. See, he'll say, I'm not going to destroy the rockets, and then
he'll have a change of mind this weekend and destroy the rockets, and say, I've
disarmed. The rockets are just the tip of the iceberg. The only question at
hand is total, complete disarmament, which he is refusing to do.
Q If I could just follow up, though, on your rationale from yesterday. If we
could have peace in the Middle East by removing Saddam now, couldn't we have
had it if we had removed him 10 years ago? Or is that a --
PRESIDENT BUSH: The mission -- just remember what the mission was. When you
commit troops to war, you must have a clear mission. Should we be forced to
commit our troops because of his failure to disarm, the mission will be complete
disarmament, which will mean regime change. That was not the mission in 1991.
Q You talked last night about the Middle East road map. What's holding that
up? When can we see that?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We have been working on the Middle East every day. We will continue
to work to bring peace to the Middle East. And my fervent desire is for the
-- is to achieve peace, and to improve the plight of the Palestinian citizen
and, at the same time, improve the security for not only the Palestinians, but
the Israelis. We work the peace issue constantly.
Q Mr. President, consumer confidence numbers hit their lowest levels in, I think,
nine years yesterday. And many of those surveyed say that they're more concerned
about the economy than they are about Iraq. Money managers on Wall Street say
that even when the uncertainty over what is happening in Iraq is resolved, there
remain many obstacles of a purely business nature that leave them less than
confident looking forward. Are you frustrated by the sense that perhaps perception
could become reality here, that the lack of confidence seems to be becoming
PRESIDENT BUSH: I've got confidence in the future of our economy. There's strong
signals that this economy will improve. But I understand we need to have a stimulus
package to make sure that the forecasts and the predictions become true. A lot
of the experts are projecting growth at 3.3 percent. Inherent in their projections
is that Congress pass a stimulus package, fiscal stimulus package. I proposed
the one that I think will work.
And so that is one of the reasons why you're seeing this administration on a
regular basis pursue a stimulus package that will have a positive effect for
job creation, a stimulus package directed to small business owners in America,
a stimulus package which will encourage investment, a stimulus package which
will ultimately help seniors because their dividends might be taxed twice. So
this is a stimulus package that is very positive.
But I'm very optimistic about the future of this country
-- the economic future, and I'm optimistic about our chances to achieve peace.