KABUL, Afghanistan — President Bush made a surprise visit to Afghanistan's capital Monday where he rallied troops even as he acknowledged that violence is rising.
"No question violence is up" and it's going to worsen, Bush told reporters traveling with him on Air Force One before landing at Bagram Air Base, where he held a rally for U.S. soldiers and Marines stationed there.
"Afghanistan is a dramatically different country than it was eight years ago," he said. "We are making hopeful gains."
Bush came here directly from Iraq as part of his final tour of the two war zones as president. It is the president's second trip here. In Iraq, Bush signed a status of forces agreement setting the terms for the American withdrawal from that country. During a press conference, the president narrowly avoided being struck by two shoes thrown by an Iraqi journalist.
Bush's airport rally took place at 5:30 a.m. local time. He was to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai later Monday and return to Washington by evening. Bush said he wanted to thank Karzai and "let the people of Afghanistan know that the United States has stood with them and will stand with them."
Gen. David McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan, has asked for 20,000 more troops to combat the Taliban's growing presence here. Throughout the country, violence is rising and Taliban forces are imposing their will on a growing number of communities.
President-elect Barack Obama has promised to shift U.S. military resources from Iraq to Afghanistan .