Bush Rebuffs Karzai's Request on Troops
By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer 3 minutes
President Bush said Monday that U.S. troops in
Afghanistan will remain under U.S. control despite
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's request for more
authority over them.
"Of course, our troops will respond to U.S.
commanders," Bush said, with Karzai standing at his
side at the White House. At the same time, Bush said
the relationship between Washington and Kabul is "to
cooperate and consult"
Bush also said that Afghan prisoners under U.S.
control in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere, would
be slowly returned to their home countries.
"We will do this over time," he said. "We have to make
sure the facilities are there."
Bush had high praise for Karzai as a valued
anti-terror partner and credited the Afghan leader
with "showing countries in the neighborhood what's
But Karzai came to their meeting with a long list of
grievances. Among them: more control over U.S.
military operations, custody of Afghan prisoners held
by the United States and more assistance in fighting
As for the opium trade, Bush said, "I made it very
clear to the president that we have got to work
together to eradicate the poppy crop."
Karzai said that he hoped Afghanistan would be free of
poppy crops within five to six years and that Afghan
farmers could find alternative crops like honey dew
melons and pomegranates.
There are about 20,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan,
costing about $1 billion a month. That is in addition
to approximately 8,200 troops from
NATO countries in Kabul and elsewhere.
Karzai commented on recent reports of abuse of Afghan
prisoners by their American captors. "We are of course
sad about that," he said, speaking in fluent English.
But, he added, "It does not reflect on the American
Similarly, a report � later retracted � in Newsweek
magazine earlier this month that alleged mistreatment
of the Quran by American prison guards does not
reflect American values, Karzai said.
While claiming the original report was not responsible
journalism, Karzai said, "Newsweek's story is not
Saying that he himself had been to a mosque in
Washington, Karzai noted that "tens of thousands of
Muslims are going on a daily basis to mosques in
America," without incident.
The two leaders addressed reporters in the East Room
of the White House.
Bush and Karzai pledged to work more closely together
amid continued instability and protests in
"It's important for the Afghan people to understand we
have a strategic vision for Afghanistan," Bush said.
He said the United States and Afghanistan had signed a
"strategic partnership" that establishes "regular
high-level exchanges on political security and
economic interests � economic issues of mutual
"We will consult with Afghanistan if it perceives its
territorial integrity, independence or security is at
risk," Bush said.