Bush, Blair counsel patience in war
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One month into the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush expressed satisfaction Wednesday about the course of the conflict and confidence about its final outcome after meeting at the White House.
"I think [the military effort] is already having a huge impact," Blair said. "We have destroyed virtually all the terrorist training camps of al Qaeda. We've destroyed an enormous amount of the military infrastructure of the Taliban. ... We therefore have a very, very strong situation from which to move forward."
"This is a struggle that's going to take awhile," Bush said. "But we're patient and our close friends are patient, which is bad news for the Taliban and the people they harbor.
"We're hunting them down as we speak," he said.
Bush and Blair said they discussed a variety of issues, including military strategy, humanitarian relief for the people of Afghanistan and the shape of a post-Taliban government in the country. They also discussed the international coalition to combat terrorism.
"I believe that that coalition, if anything, is even stronger today," Blair said, noting that other European leaders expressed their continued support during a meeting with him earlier this week.
Asked what he would tell those who might be frustrated that a month of bombing has not dislodged the Taliban or resulted in the capture of bin Laden, Bush counseled patience.
"We've got a sound strategy in place that has got Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda thugs on the run," he said. "We will prevail. There's no question in my mind."
Asked if he would be willing to commit large numbers of British ground troops to the effort if airstrikes don't produce progress, Blair said he would not comment on future military options. But he indicated that escalation of the conflict remains on the table.
"I think people know that the strategy has to encompass more than airstrikes alone, although do not underestimate the enormous damage that is now being done to Taliban front-line troops, because that is where the air power is being concentrated," he said.
Blair said other measures are not solely military in nature. They include political and diplomatic efforts and support for the Northern Alliance trying to topple the Taliban, he said.
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