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By Paula Wolfson
Washington
30 November 2008

U.S. First Lady Laura Bush says the United States must remain engaged in Afghanistan - and she is vowing to remain involved in efforts to help Afghan women long after her husband's term in office ends. We have more from VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson.

First Lady Laura Bush
First Lady Laura Bush (File)
Mrs. Bush has used the White House spotlight to focus attention on the plight of the women and girls of Afghanistan.

She says there has been progress since she took up the cause - not long after the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States.  But she concedes there have been setbacks too, noting the recent attack on a group of Afghan girls in Kandahar who were disfigured with acid as they walked to school.

"The really good news is the people who did it have been arrested. There is an Afghan police force now and an Afghan army that are building up to be able to protect the people of Afghanistan internally like we all want them to. And there are many, many signs of progress," she said.

During an appearance on American television, Mrs. Bush talked at length about her hopes for Afghanistan. She made clear she believes the stakes are high, and stressed America must stay involved.

"Most people in Afghanistan want to be able to build their country, live a decent life and not be afraid of a terrorist attack. And the fact is we just need to keep working with them so they can do it," said Mrs. Bush.

The First Lady told NBC's Meet the Press program that she intends to remain involved in the cause after she leaves the White House, mainly through the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council at Georgetown University, and an institute being established at her husband's presidential library.

Also appearing on Meet the Press was the Afghan Ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad, who echoed the need for long term U.S. support. He was asked about the inroads Taliban militants have been able to make in rural parts of Afghanistan.

"What my government needs is more resources to deliver services to provide protection to our people. In many areas where there is lack of delivery of the services because of the lack of human capital on the part of the Afghan people, or the shortage of resources, the Taliban are making a comeback. They do not provide a vision for the future of the country," said Jawad.

Jawad was then questioned about the possibility of talks between the elected Afghan government and elements of the Taliban.  He said the intent is to stop the cycle of revenge and violence.

"We will not share power with them. We will not compromise on the values of the Afghan constitution. But if they realize there is no future for them in Afghanistan through military operations, they will come to the table and talk to us," he added.

He said there are some members of the Taliban who joined simply out of ignorance, or to escape poverty. He suggested they might be convinced to join the political process. 

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