Feb 28, 2009

Time now to refocus on Pakistan, Afghanistan: Obama

A day after announcing a timeline to withdraw US troops from Iraq, President Barack Obama said on Saturday that now was the time to refocus on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Also on Saturday, a senior Pentagon official discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan with Chinese officials in Beijing.
‘It is time now to refocus on Afghanistan and Pakistan,’ said President Obama while acknowledging that after 2001, the US lost focus on its goals in Afghanistan.
US goals in Afghanistan, he said, were not ‘clear enough’ and that’s why he has ordered a ‘head-to-toe, soup-to-nuts’ review of the Afghan policy.
‘Our minimal goal in Afghanistan is that we make sure that it's not a safe haven for al-Qaeda, they are not able to launch attacks of the sort that happened on 9/11 against the American homeland or American interests,’ he said.
Such a goal, he said, was achievable and the US will work with its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to achieve this goal.
In interviews to CNN and PBS televisions, President Obama assured the Afghans that the United States was not interested in a long-term military presence in their country. But he said that his administration must set clear policy objectives before coming up with a plan to bring American troops home from Afghanistan.
Last week, President Obama decided to send additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan and invited two high-level delegations from Afghanistan and Pakistan to participate in an extensive review of US strategy for their region.
The US President has also appointed a special envoy – Richard Holbrooke – for negotiating with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mr Obama said the United States must work with allies to bring economic prosperity and political stability to the Afghan-Pakistan region.
Earlier Saturday, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for East Asia David Sedney met senior Chinese officials in Beijing and discussed the situation in the Afghan-Pakistan region with them.
‘The kinds of discussions we had about Pakistan and Afghanistan, those were where we really had a new level of dialogue that we hadn’t had before,’ he told reporters after the talks.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are ‘areas where we do have shared objectives,’ he added.

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