Early this morning, during a press conference in Kabul with Afghan President Karzai, President Bush attempted to paper over his previous declarations of victory over the now-resurgent Taliban. Bush claimed emphatically, “I never said the Taliban was eliminated.” Watch it:
In fact, Bush used the word “eliminated” to describe the state of the Taliban on several occasions:
September 2002: “The Taliban’s ability to brutalize the Afghan people and to harbor and support terrorists has been virtually eliminated.”
April 2002: “With the Taliban eliminated and al-Qaida badly damaged, we have moved into the second stage of our war on terror.”
At other times, Bush prematurely declared victory using similar language:
September 2004: “And as a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence. And the people of Afghanistan are now free.”
December 2004: “In Afghanistan, America and our allies, with a historically small force and a brilliant strategy, defeated the Taliban in just a few short weeks.”
October 2005: “Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence — the Israeli presence on the West Bank, or the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, or the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago.”
While coalition forces made significant early progress against the Taliban, President Bush allowed the situation to deteriorate after deciding to invade Iraq in 2003. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, troops and resources have been diverted from Afghanistan. Consequently, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated dramatically in recent years. Currently, the Taliban has a “permanent presence” in 75 percent of the country and exercises control over the country’s “political and military dynamic.”
Likewise, the still-classified Afghanistan NIE reportedly paints a “grim” picture of the country. While Bush deserves credit for trying to bring his current rhetoric more in line with reality, he isn’t allowed to pretend that his past rhetoric wasn’t false.
The April 2002 quote previously attributed to Bush was actually from a speech delivered by then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. We apologize for the error.