CHARLES DHARAPAK / ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
CAMP DAVID, Md. President Bush said Monday that with the right intelligence U.S. and Pakistan governments can take out al-Qaeda leaders, and wouldn't say whether he would consult first with Pakistan before ordering U.S. forces to act on their own.
"With real actionable intelligence, we will get the job done," Bush said.
He was asked whether he would wait on permission from Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf before committing the U.S. military to move on "actionable intelligence" on the whereabouts of terrorist leaders in Pakistan. He did not answer directly.
Bush was at the presidential retreat at Camp David for two days of meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The two held talks on a rash of crises confronting Afghanistan: civilian killings, a booming drug trade and the brazen resurgence of the Taliban.
Karzai said that he and Musharraf would discuss how to tackle the problem of lawlessness and extremist hideouts along Pakistan's border area with his country.
Afghanistan has a distrustful relationship with neighboring Pakistan, yet top tribal leaders from both countries are expected to meet this week to try to lessen tensions. Musharraf and Karzai are likely to attend, with Karzai sure to bring up his concern about the flow of foreign fighters into his country from Pakistan.
Bush and Karzai put a positive spin on Afghanistan's progress since the 2001 defeat of the repressive Taliban, but they stressed that serious problems remain.
"There is still work to be done, don't get me wrong," Bush said. "But progress is being made, Mr. President, and we're proud of you."
Karzai acknowledged a resurgent Taliban but said it is not a threat to his government. Karzai is Afghanistan's first democratically elected president.
"We have a long journey ahead of us but what we have traveled so far has given us greater hope for a better future, for a better life," Karzai said at a joint news conference here with Bush.
Bush and Karzai differed noticeably in their views about Iran's influence in Afghanistan.
Karzai had said in advance of his visit to Camp David that Iran is a partner in the fight against terrorism and narcotics. "So far, Iran has been a helper," he said over the weekend.
Bush didn't agree. "I would be very cautious about whether or not the Iranian influence there in Afghanistan is a positive force," he said.
U.S. officials contend that Tehran is fomenting violence in Afghanistan by sending in weaponry such as sophisticated roadside bombs. More broadly, Bush said Iran thumbs its nose at the international community and denies its citizens the rights they deserve.
The issue of a theoretical U.S. military incursion into Pakistan is a sensitive one. Bush has said before that he would order the U.S. to act inside the Muslim-majority country if there were firm intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden or other terrorist leaders.
Bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is believed to be living in the tribal border region of Pakistan. His ability to avoid capture remains a political sore spot for Bush.
Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.