- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Democrat and Republican congressional leaders met this afternoon at the White House with President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and top Cabinet officials to discuss U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

“We have long said that [Afghanistan] should be the focus of the war on terror, and today we were able to share some ideas with the president on that,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Mr. Cheney briefed the bipartisan group of 20 lawmakers about his nine-day trip to the Middle East, from which he returned this morning. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley were also present.

The meeting was the first of several between the president, his top cabinet officials, and the lawmakers on the topic of the U.S. fight against terrorism.

During the vice-president’s stop at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan yesterday, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up at the front gate, killing 23 people, including one U.S. soldier.

Lawmakers did not describe what Mr. Cheney said about his visit, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, indicated that Mr. Cheney’s briefing helped solidify bipartisan agreement on next steps in Afghanistan.

“We’re not likely to end up in a big partisan fight over what needs to be done in Afghanistan,” Mr. McConnell said.

The Iraq war was not discussed, Mr. McConnell said.

Mrs. Pelosi called it “a good start to a dialogue with the president that had been absent, quite frankly.

She said it was a “stark contrast” to relations over Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he is “concerned about” the spring offensive coming in Afghanistan. Military leaders have said they expect the Taliban and Al Qaeda to launch heightened attacks this spring.

Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi both said they want to see more money spent on reconstruction in Afghanistan.

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