- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 7, 2002

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine President Bush vowed yesterday to bring stability to Afghanistan after the assassination of the country's vice president, Abdul Qadir.
The president also offered the services of the FBI if Afghanistan requests help in investigating the slaying of Mr. Qadir, shot in the head as he drove away from his office yesterday.
"Right now, the Afghan government believes they can handle the investigation. There's all kinds of scenarios as to who killed him. But we'll work closely with the government if they want us to," he said.
Mr. Bush also offered his condolences to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and expressed grief over the loss of "a good man."
"The administration and our country mourns the loss of a man who desired freedom and stability for the country he loved. We have been in touch with Chairman Karzai, expressed our deepest condolences to the chairman and the government and people of Afghanistan, who lost a good and valued friend," he said.
The killing took place as Mr. Bush sought to repair the damage to U.S.-Afghan ties left by a U.S. bombing raid Monday in central Afghanistan that Afghans say killed 40 civilians and wounded 100.
After a preliminary investigation, U.S. military officials conceded for the first time yesterday that civilians died in the attack.
Mr. Bush telephoned Mr. Karzai on Friday to express condolences for the raid, which has hurt the U.S. image in Afghanistan in the wake of America's toppling of the Taliban regime from power in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"Any time innocent life is lost, we're sad," Mr. Bush said as he completed a round of golf with his father, former President George Bush, during a long weekend at this ocean resort. "Our country values life, all life. And we'll find out what the facts are and then address it."
The president said the killing of Mr. Qadir only strengthens U.S. resolve to root out terrorism and establish order in Afghanistan.
"We are more resolved than ever to bring stability to the country so that the Afghan people can have peace and hope," Mr. Bush said.
He also said he has confidence the slaying will not destabilize Afghanistan, which just last month elected Mr. Karzai as its new leader.
"I am confident and I believe Chairman Karzai is confident that, with patience and with aid and with a proper strategy, Afghanistan can develop into a peaceful and hopeful nation," he said.
Mr. Bush would not speculate about whether the assassination was the work of terrorists.
"It could be that. It could be drug lords. It could be longtime rivals. Who knows? All we know is a good man is dead, and we mourn his loss," he said.
Mr. Qadir was one of only a few ethnic Pashtuns in the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance that drove the Taliban from power last year as the United States and Afghan troops hunted for members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group.
At the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher issued a statement saying the murder "should not be allowed to divert the government and people of Afghanistan from the path of reconstruction."
Meanwhile, the killing of Mr. Qadir resonated with some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, in an interview yesterday on CNN, called the assassination "very unfortunate but not terribly surprising," given the conditions that exist in Afghanistan.
On CNN's "Saturday Edition," Mr. Bayh said the assassination of Mr. Qadir "should remind all of us of what a tenuous government exists in Afghanistan.
"The country is still awash in weapons. There are still hostile elements. And it's going to take some time to have a stabilized government that doesn't have to endure these kinds of attacks."
The show's host, Jonathan Karl, then asked Mr. Bayh what this incident says about the level of U.S. involvement that will be required in Afghanistan. The Indiana Democrat did not directly answer that question but said he agreed with Mr. Bush's assertion that "more resolve than ever" will be needed.
Mr. Bayh said the assassination is evidence of the "inherent danger in that part of the world" and how rare "stable democracies" are "anywhere on earth but particularly in that part of the world."
He added: "It's going to take resolve and some time to have the kind of government that can provide stability for Afghanistan and not allow it to sink back into the conditions that allowed al Qaeda and the Taliban to put their roots in there and foster the terrorism that eventually came home to hurt us here."
Joyce Howard Price contributed to this report.


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