- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

NEW DELHI — President Bush arrived here last night and was greeted by thousands of Muslim protesters chanting “Death to Bush,” hours after the president’s surprise visit to Afghanistan, where he said Osama bin Laden will eventually be “brought to justice.”

During his four-hour stop in Afghanistan, which once supported bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist group, Mr. Bush asserted that the U.S. military will succeed in its mission.

“It’s not a matter of if they’re captured and brought to justice, it’s when they’re brought to justice,” said the president, who has vowed that the September 11 mastermind would be caught “dead or alive.” “We’re making progress of dismantling al Qaeda. Slowly but surely, we’re bringing the people to justice, and the world is better for it, as a result of our steady progress.”

In India, a crowd estimated at 100,000 Muslim men gathered early in the day in the heart of the New Delhi shouting anti-Bush slogans, as hundreds of police in riot gear kept watch.

Mr. Bush’s two-day stay in India is expected to focus on a stalled nuclear deal that would force India to separate its military and civilian atomic plants to prevent proliferation.

Both sides have played down chances for an agreement on a deal tentatively struck in July, and although Indians leaders in recent days have expressed optimism, Mr. Bush said yesterday that negotiations are not finalized.

“It’s a difficult issue for the Indian government; it’s a difficult issue for the American government. And so we’ll continue to dialogue and work, and hopefully we can reach an agreement. If not, we’ll continue to work on it until we do,” the president said.

The president took off from Washington on Tuesday, and after a refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland, headed to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. The president’s destination was not officially announced until Air Force One landed at the base, in order to thwart any attempt on his life.

The president and his entourage boarded heavily armed military helicopters — with Mr. Bush in a Black Hawk — and flew at low altitude for about 20 minutes to Kabul. Troops wielding automatic weapons accompanied Mr. Bush on the trip, which experienced a burst of machine-gun fire that was later explained by the U.S. military as a “test fire.”

In Kabul, Mr. Bush expressed solidarity with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s U.S.-backed government and held bilateral talks with the president and other leaders during a working lunch.

“People all over the world are watching the experience here in Afghanistan,” Mr. Bush said, praising Mr. Karzai, who took power after U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban regime, as “a friend and an ally.” For his part, the Afghan leader greeted Mr. Bush as “our great friend, our great supporter, a man who helped us liberate.”

The president attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and later returned to Bagram, where he addressed about 500 of the 19,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

“I want you to understand that you’re on the frontier of freedom, that you’re involved with doing two important things,” he told the troops packed into a base “clam shell.”

“One is finding an enemy and bringing them to justice so they don’t hurt our fellow citizens again. … The other thing you’re doing is to help this new democracy not only survive, but to flourish.”

The president, making his first visit to Afghanistan since the United States drove the Taliban from power, told U.S. troops that America will not “cut and run” as he urged them to continue on a mission that requires “steadfast determination.”

“The enemy cannot defeat us militarily,” Mr. Bush said, adding that the terrorists “don’t understand the United States of America. We will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. We will defeat the enemy and win the war on terror.”

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