Calling the situation in Afghanistan increasingly perilous, President Barack Obama outlined a stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy to deal with escalating problems in the country and neighboring Pakistan. Speaking in Washington D.C. on Friday, Obama pledged to send an additional 4,000 troops to help stabilize the region.
Obama also issued a dire warning that al Qaeda is planning attacks on the United States from Pakistan. Allowing al Qaeda to go unchallenged in Afghanistan would open up that country as a terrorist base once again, he said in prepared remarks.
In order to prevent that, Obama said that his administration has a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.
That is the goal that must be achieved, Obama said. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you.
Achieving this goal involves sending additional combat troops to the region. The Obama administration has already approved sending an additional 17,000 additional combat troops to the region, and will add up to 4,000 more.
Later this spring, we will deploy approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan Security Forces, Obama said. We will accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan Army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000 so that we can meet these goals by 2011 - and increases in Afghan forces may very well be needed as our plans to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans go forward.
The president stressed that al Qaeda's presence in Pakistan is not only a threat to the United States, but also to the Pakistani people.
Make no mistake: al Qaeda and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within, he said.
However, Obama stressed the importance of Pakistan taking responsibility, noting that after years of mixed results, we will not provide a blank check.
Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders, he said.
Obama stressed that the steps in Pakistan are also indispensable to our effort in Afghanistan, which will see no end to violence if insurgents move freely back and forth across the border.
As far as a long term plan, Obama stressed that his administration will constantly evaluate progress and make adjustments as necessary.
Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course, he pledged.
Obama added that he plans to work to strengthen international organizations, a message he will voice at next week's Group of 20 Summit in London. Greater international cooperation was a cornerstone of his campaign and Obama asked others to join us in doing their part.
We will use all elements of our national power to defeat al Qaeda, and to defend America, our allies, and all who seek a better future, Obama said.
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