Bush said he strongly disagrees with those who consider extremists simply “a bunch of disgruntled folks who occasionally come and hurt us” rather than a very real long-term threat to the United States and its interests.
“That’s not the way I feel about it,” he said. “This is an ongoing, constant struggle to defend our own security and, at the same time, help people realize the blessings of liberty.”
Bush said he intends to discuss operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan at the G8 summit and to ask participants to continue to help.
The president conceded that U.S. casualty rates in Afghanistan are up, but insisted coalition and Afghan security forces are making important headway. “It’s been a tough month in Afghanistan, but it has also been a tough month for the Taliban,” he said. “One reason why there have been more deaths is because our troops are taking the fight to a tough enemy.”
Extremists don’t like the fact that the United States is denying them the safe haven they once enjoyed in Afghanistan, he said. “America is pressing an ideology that is opposite of theirs, and so of course there is going to be resistance,” he said.
Bush expressed confidence that the strategy in Afghanistan, which includes not only confronting the Taliban and al-Qaida, but also promoting the growth of a free society with good economic, education and health policy, will succeed.
“We are constantly reassessing to see if we need to change tactics in order to achieve our objective,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bush noted that the number of Afghan and coalition troops there has doubled over the last two years. The United States is “constantly reviewing troop levels” to ensure they’re adequate, he said.
The president expressed condolences to families who have lost loved ones in the fight in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. “I am so appreciative that in a time of danger, Americans are willing to step up and volunteer and sacrifice,” he said.
Asked about Iran’s continued interest in securing nuclear weapons, Bush insisted that that world community must stick together and continue applying pressure to discourage Iran’s efforts.
While “all options are on the table,” Bush said, the best way to deal with the issue is through diplomacy. Together, the world community needs to send Iran the message that it will be isolated and suffer economic hardship if it continued trying to enrich uranium, he said.
“I’ve also made it clear that you can’t solve a problem diplomatically unless there are other people at the table with you,” Bush said. “And that is why we have been pursuing multilateral diplomacy when it comes to convincing the Iranians that the free world is sincere about insisting that they not have the technologies necessary to develop a nuclear weapon.”
Bush said progress is being made, and he added that he’s encouraged to see world leaders “stand up and speak out about the need to keep the coalition active and keep the pressure on.”