TOPICS > Politics

Taking Questions

January 28, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The United States is committed to building a lasting partnership with Afghanistan. We will help the new Afghan government provide the security that is the foundation for peace. Today peacekeepers from around the world are helping provide security on the streets of Kabul. The United States will continue to work closely with these forces and provide support for their mission. We will also support programs to train new police officers and to help establish and train an Afghanistan national military.

REPORTER: We understand that you do not want to commit American troops to peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan. Why not, sir? And do you have any concerns that there will be enough forces to give Mr. Karzai the kind of security he needs?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We are committing help to the ISIF in the form of logistical help, in the form of a kind of a bailout– if the troops get in trouble, we will stand ready to help; in the form of intelligence. Plus, I have just made in my remarks here a significant change of policy, and that is that we’re going to help Afghanistan develop her own military. That is the most important part of this visit, it seems like to me, besides the fact of welcoming a man who is… stands for freedom, a man who stood for freedom in the face of tyranny. We have made a decision, both of us have made the decision that Afghanistan must, as quickly as possible, develop her own military, and we will help. We’ll help train and we… and Tommy Franks, our General, fully understands this, and is fully committed to this idea. So better yet than peacekeepers– which will be there for a while, with our help– let’s have Afghanistan have her own military.

REPORTER: Mr. President, in holding the detainees in Cuba in the manner in which the United States is, is one of the signals you’re sending that in this new kind of war, as you’ve described it, the Geneva Conventions are outdated and don’t apply in the conflict with al-Qaida?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: No, no, the Geneva Conventions are not outdated, and that’s… It’s a very important principle. First of all, Terry, we are adhering to the spirit of the Geneva Convention. When you say, “you’re holding the prisoners in the manner you are,” we’re giving them medical care. They’re being well treated. There is no allegation… There may be an allegation, but there’s no evidence that we’re treating them outside the spirit of the Geneva Convention. And for those who say we are, they just don’t know what they’re talking about. And so– let me finish– and so, I am looking at the legalities involved with the Geneva Convention. In either case, however, I make my decision, and these detainees will be well treated. We are not going to call them “prisoners of war” in either case, and the reason why is, al-Qaida is not a known military. These are killers. These are terrorists. They know no countries. And the only thing they know about countries is when they find a country that’s been weak, and they want to occupy it like a parasite.

REPORTER: The Saudi interior minister today said that a majority of those being held at Guantanamo– more than a hundred– are Saudi citizens, and asks that they be returned to Saudi Arabia for questioning.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I appreciate his request, and we’ll, of course, we’ll take it under consideration. There are a lot of detainees around the world as a result of this first phase in the war against terror. There’s a lot in Pakistan. There’s a lot in Afghanistan. And there are 179, I believe — or whatever the number is — in Guantanamo Bay. So there’s a lot of Saudi citizens that chose to fight for al-Qaida and/or the Taliban that we want to know more about. And if… And so we’ll make a decision on a case-by-case basis as to whether they go back to Saudi Arabia or not. I appreciate his suggestion.

JIM LEHRER: Mr. Bush also said the U.S. will open a $50 million line of credit to help finance private business projects in Afghanistan. That’s on top of the $297 million the U.S. pledged last week at the International Donors Conference.