Obama lays out Afghanistan troops drawdown (2)

15:39, June 23, 2011      

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the war in Afghanistan during a televised address from the East Room of the White House in Washington June 22, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)


Obama noted that huge challenges remain in Afghanistan. "This is the beginning -- but not the end -- of our effort to wind down this war," he said. "We will have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we have made," while "al-Qaida remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks."

In order to hold on to the gains, Obama said the U.S. side does "know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement," noting the country will join initiatives of reconciliation that includes the Taliban.

He said the process must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of the process must break from al-Qaida, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan Constitution.

Obama said the U.S. will address "terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan," and "we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region. We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments."

While saying the U.S. is making progress on the military front in Afghanistan, Obama also admitted Washington will not be responsible for future nation building efforts in Afghanistan.

"We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely," he said. "That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people; and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace."

He stressed the goal the U.S. is seeking is "achievable", simply stated, it means "no safe-haven from which al-Qaida or its affiliates can launch attacks against U.S. homeland, or its allies."

"It is time to focus on nation building here at home," said Obama, who is facing mounting pressure from the Republicans on federal deficit and debt.

Source: Xinhua

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