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Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama unveils new Afghan plan, sets goals

Fri, 27 Mar 2009 16:05:38 GMT | PressTV

As the security situation continues to challenge coalition forces, President Obama redefines the Afghan mission in a new "comprehensive" approach to defeat the insurgency.
Warning that the situation is "increasingly perilous", US President Barack Obama unveils a new strategy to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

In an address at the executive office building in Washington on Friday, Obama said he would use all elements in his power to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" the insurgency in the war-ridden country.

"The situation is increasingly perilous. It has been more than seven years since the Taliban was removed from power, yet war rages on, and insurgents control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan," Obama said.

"Attacks against our troops, our NATO allies, and the Afghan government have risen steadily. Most painfully, 2008 was the deadliest year of the war for American forces."

He reminded the American people that the US did not choose to invade Afghanistan but was forced to after the deadly 9/11 attacks carried out by al-Qaeda elements.

Claiming that the safety of the world is at stake in Afghanistan, Obama reached out to American allies and asked for their commitment to get the job done.

Obama said the Afghan-Pakistani border has now become a safe haven for extremists who cannot be defeated by bullets and bombs alone.

Obama said that in spring he is sending 4,000 extra troops to Afghanistan along with hundreds of civilian specialists, who are tasked to "accelerate" the training and building the Afghan army and police force.

"We will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of Afghan security forces, so that they can eventually take the lead in securing their country," he added.

Obama also proposed setting up a new 'contact group' -- including Iran, Russia, China and India -- to tackle the insurgency.

"Together with the United Nations, we will forge a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together all who should have a stake in the security of the region."

US lawmakers welcomed the focus on crushing terrorists while expressing pessimism about the practical aspects of the new strategy.

"The proposed military escalation in Afghanistan, without an adequate strategy in Pakistan, could make the situation worse, not better," Democratic Senator Russell Feingold, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned in a statement, AFP reported.

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Representative John McHugh, urged Congress to back the strategy while urging Obama to win more NATO support.

A Taliban spokesman reacted to the new strategy by warning the US president against increasing the number of troops in the country.

"Obama is repeating the mistakes of (the last leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail) Gorbachev. If more troops were going to win the war, then the Russians would have won the war," the spokesman told al-Jazeera following Obama's speech.

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