Bush, Musharraf Discuss Anti-Terrorism Efforts
SUSAN STAMBERG, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm Susan Stamberg.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Pakistan has captured or killed hundreds of al-Qaida terrorists. Pakistan has lost brave citizens in this fight. We're grateful to all who have given their lives in this vital cause. We honor the Pakistanis who continue to risk their lives to confront the terrorists.
STAMBERG: President George Bush speaking in Islamabad, Pakistan earlier today. Mr. Bush is wrapping up a five-day trip to South Asia. He flew into Pakistan last night under cover of darkness, with no lights on his plane. It was an indication of the very real security concerns about the President traveling to a nation where terrorist groups like al-Qaida are very active and where it's believed Osama bin Laden may be hiding out.
NPR's Don Gonyea joins us now from Islamabad. Hi, Don.
DON GONYEA reporting:
STAMBERG: Tell us some more about the way the President arrived in Pakistan last evening. Not the usual fanfares and crowds and welcoming committees.
GONYEA: No military band, none of that stuff. Things, as you said, are very different in Pakistan. Pakistan is dangerous. So they brought Air Force One in in the dark, no running lights, all the window shades were pulled, all that sort of thing. I can tell you, though, that when the President did land, there was that strange moment on the tarmac. There were a half a dozen or so Pakistani TV crews with all of their lights turned on capturing the landing. And there was a giant banner that said, President George W. Bush: A Friend of Pakistan.
So suddenly it didn't feel all that secret. But then the choreography started again, and the President headed over to his motorcade. Agents moved a car to block the view of reporters. And it's not clear if the President got into his usual limo or if he climbed aboard one of two Black Hawk helicopters that were parked really close by there. One way or another, he got safely to the heavily protected U.S. Embassy where he spent the night
And just quickly, Susan, I can tell you that in the year 2000, when Bill Clinton as President flew into Pakistan, same kind of thing, different tricks. In that case they used a decoy plane, and Clinton came in, Mr. Clinton came in in a small, unmarked executive jet.
STAMBERG: So they know how to do it, I guess.
STAMBERG: Tell us what you can about the meeting between the two presidents, the Pakistani President Musharraf and Mr. Bush.
GONYEA: It did seem to go well. They spent most of the time talking about terrorism, no surprise there. But with all of the al-Qaida activity here and all of the political pressure on Musharraf for supporting U.S. policies fighting terrorism, that's not a popular position he has taken.
President Bush, during a news conference, acknowledged that part of his mission on this trip was to determine, as he put it, whether or not Musharraf is as committed as he has been in the past to bringing terrorists to justice. The President said, though, that he had heard what he wanted from Musharraf.
Musharraf, meanwhile, said that if there has been any, he used the word slippage, in the past in terms of cracking down on terrorists, that it was because it was just gaps in implementing strategy, that it was not because of a lack of resolve.
STAMBERG: Don, what about the protests that have been taking place across Pakistan before the President got there? What we see in the newspapers and on television, seems that they are very crowded, lots of people showing up, and extremely impassioned.
GONYEA: Exactly. And they have been going on for some time now. And there are some going on today as well. We're in kind of a crowded, noisy, press center in Islamabad, but we're getting video feeds of some of the protests outside. And in some ways it's like the protests of recent weeks over anger Muslims felt over those published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, that they morphed into protests over President Bush. Again, he is very unpopular among Muslims here.
STAMBERG: Thank you very much. NPR's Don Gonyea speaking with us from Islamabad, Pakistan. Thank you, Don.
GONYEAH: It's a pleasure.
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