Vice President Dick Cheney is trying to strengthen America's alliance with countries on the front lines in the fight against terrorism during visits to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Cheney was embarking Saturday on a five-day trip intended to highlight the Bush administration's successes in fighting terrorism and to improve the United States' image abroad.
The vice president planned to attend the opening session on Monday of Afghanistan's parliament, review U.S. efforts to help earthquake victims in Pakistan and meet with Egyptian and Saudi leaders. Cheney's trip follows successful parliamentary elections in Iraq on Thursday. President George W. Bush, who says the voting was a watershed in Iraqis' path to freedom, was preparing this weekend for an Oval Office speech on Sunday night to promote the progress in Iraq.
It will be his first address from the Oval Office since he announced the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Cheney's appearance at the opening day of the Afghan parliament is designed to call attention to the transition to democracy there, too, developments made possible by Bush foreign policy.
Even though the governments of all four countries on Cheney's itinerary are U.S. allies, anti-American sentiment is high among their people. Steven Cook, a Mideast expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said Cheney's visit could spread some good will.
"The vice president, however people view him, is clearly influential and clearly speaks for the president and that's meaningful," Cook said. Cheney has long relationships in the region, dating to his time as defense secretary under the first President Bush. Cheney previously has visited all four countries on the schedule.
Planning for the trip was guarded because of security concerns. The White House refused to tell even the journalists on board the vice president's plane details of the stops they were making. Cheney and his entourage planned to stay each night in Oman, shuttling to other stops each day aboard Air Force Two, reports the AP. N.U.