After Iraq, outgoing US President George W. Bush has been paying a farewell visit to Afghanistan. As he prepares to hand over power to Barack Obama, Bush told his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai: “You can count on the United States.” But he said there would be a “long struggle” before the Taliban is defeated.
Speaking at a joint news conference in Kabul, Bush said: “The Taliban was brutalising the people of Afghanistan. And they are not in power. And I just cited the progress that is undeniable. Now is there more work to be done? You bet! I never said the Taliban was eliminated. I said they were removed from power.” Bush, who has already ordered a troop increase in Afghanistan, appeared to lend tacit support to President-elect Obama’s pledge to raise troop numbers still further after he takes office next month. The US leader was meeting soldiers in one war zone, having just left another where he, himself, was in the firing line. Calling Bush a “dog”, an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at the visiting president at an earlier news conference in Baghdad, in what he called a “goodbye kiss.” Throwing shoes at someone is a supreme insult in the Middle East.