Wednesday, March 01, 2006
AP: Bush visits Afghanistan, heads to India
By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent -- Wednesday, 4 minutes ago
KABUL, Afghanistan -made a surprise visit to on Wednesday, flying here secretly to support its fledging government in the face of rising violence from al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
President Bush greets U.S. Marines from the 7th Marine Division, right, on their way to Kuwait during Bush's refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland, Wednesday, March 1, 2006. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Bush's entourage flew into the city from Bagram Air Base in a flotilla of heavily armed helicopters. Two door gunners on a press helicopter fired off a short burst of machine gun fire at unknown targets as the aircraft flew low and fast over barren countryside.
Bush arrived safely at the presidential palace where he was greeted by Afghanistan's leader Hamid Karzai. The two men walked down a red carpet past a military honor guard to begin their meetings.
The United States invaded Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, to unseat the Taliban regime that harbored Osma bin-Laden and his terrorist training camps.
Despite intense manhunts and a multimillion dollar reward, bin-Laden remains at large, believed to be in hiding in the rugged border area of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There are about 19,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said the number will be reduced to about 16,000 by summer.
Bush flew into Afghanistan on what was supposed to have been a flight to India, where tens of thousands gathered in New Delhi to protest his visit.
The United States and India were bargaining over the terms of a landmark nuclear agreement even as Bush made his way to New Delhi for the first visit there of his presidency.
Secretary of Statesaid sticking points remained in the way of an agreement and singled out one particularly contentious subject.
"The one thing that is absolutely necessary is that any agreement would assure that once India has decided to put a reactor under safeguard that it remain permanently under safeguard," she said.
Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed an agreement in July that would provide India with nuclear fuel for the country's booming but energy-starved economy. But the pact, which faces some political opposition in both countries, hinges on determining how to separate India's civilian and military nuclear facilities.
Rice said she was uncertain whether there would be an agreement during Bush's trip but said the success or failure of his visit wouldn't be determined by that. "We're still working on it," she said. "Obviously it would be an important breakthrough" for the United States and India.
Rice said that India's neighbor and nuclear rival, Pakistan, would not qualify for the same sort of nuclear treatment as New Delhi. "Pakistan is not in the same place as India," Rice said. "I think everybody understands that."
The United States says India has an unblemished record on nuclear proliferation and has not sold its technology to any outsiders. Pakistan, on the other hand, has acknowledged it has secretly sold nuclear technology to a number of countries.
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