Afghan President Bringing Bush a Gloomy Report on Security: New York Times

Afghan President Bringing Bush a Gloomy Report on Security
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, August 6, 2007, New York Times

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 — On the eve of his Camp David meeting with President Bush, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan painted a bleak picture of life in his country, saying that security had worsened and that the United States and its allies were no closer to catching Osama bin Laden than they were a few years ago.

“The security situation in Afghanistan over the past two years has definitely deteriorated,” Mr. Karzai said on the CNN program “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer,” in an interview that was taped Saturday in Kabul. It was broadcast Sunday while Mr. Karzai was en route to Camp David for a two-day meeting with President Bush.

“The Afghan people have suffered,” Mr. Karzai said. “Terrorists have killed our schoolchildren. They have burned our schools. They have killed international helpers.”

As for catching Mr. bin Laden, Mr. Karzai said: “We are not closer, we are not further away from it. We are where we were a few years ago.”

The White House had hoped to use the meeting to showcase what Gordon D. Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, called both the “progress and challenges” in Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai, though, spotlighted the remaining work more than the progress, in what amounted to a cry for help. He is trying to rebuild his war-torn country and strengthen his fragile government while confronting a resurgent Taliban, a booming opium trade, government corruption and mounting civilian deaths. In Al Qaeda, he also faces a terrorist network that, American intelligence officials say, has reconstituted its leadership in the mountainous border territory shared by Pakistan and Afghanistan.

All of those issues — as well as trying to free 21 South Korean hostages seized by the Taliban last month — will be discussed.

The Afghan ambassador to the United States, Said T. Jawad, said in an interview on Friday afternoon that Mr. Karzai would present Mr. Bush with a request for more financial assistance for the Afghan police, armored vehicles, guns and better airlift capability for the Afghan Army.

In the interview on Sunday, Mr. Karzai avoided saying whether he believed that the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was doing enough to track down terrorist leaders. But he speculated — without exactly saying so — that Mr. bin Laden must be on the Pakistan side of the border.

“I can’t talk about that, whether he is in Afghanistan or in Pakistan,” Mr. Karzai said, “but I definitely know that he cannot be in Afghanistan.”

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