Praising Afghan security forces, Obama says Kabul is much safer now
WASHINGTON, DC (PAN): Praising the development of Afghan security forces as they begin gradually taking over security from US-led international troops, US President Barack Obama on Wednesday said that Kabul is much safer today than it was in the past.
He said, however, that incidents like Tuesday night’s insurgent attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul could still take place. He said Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and that the Taliban are still active. But he emphasized that the relevant issue is whether the capacity of Afghan security forces is increasing overall.
“Kabul, for example, which contains a huge proportion of the Afghan population as a whole, has been largely policed by Afghan forces for quite some time. And they’ve done a reasonably good job. Kabul is much safer than it was, and Afghan forces in Kabul are much more capable than they were,” Obama told reporters at a White House news conference.
“That doesn’t mean that there are not going to be events like this potentially taking place, and that will probably go on for some time. Our work is not done. But the tide of war is receding. We have shifted to a transition phase,” Obama said in his first solo press conference in three months.
“And much like we’ve seen in Iraq, where we've drawn down our troops, the remainder of our troops will be coming out by the end of this year, but Iraq has been able to maintain a democratic government and to tamp down violence there. We think a similar approach makes sense in Afghanistan,” he remarked.
Observing that he had not used the word “victory” in either his December 2009 West Point speech or earlier this month, Obama said he had emphasized that the US could succeed in its narrow mission.
“That is to make sure that al Qaeda cannot attack the United States of America or our allies or our interests overseas, and to make sure that we have an Afghan government that can provide for their own security,” he said.
“We are being successful in those missions. And the reason that we’re in a position to draw down 10,000 troops this year and a total of 33,000 troops by the end of next summer is precisely because of the extraordinary work of our men and women in uniform. What they’ve been able to do is to severely cripple al Qaeda’s capacities,” he said.
“Obviously bin Laden got the most attention, but even before the bin Laden operation we had decimated the middle ranks and some of the upper ranks of al Qaeda. They’re having a great deal of difficulty operating, a great deal of difficulty communicating and financing themselves, and we are going to keep the pressure on. In part that's because of the extraordinary sacrifices that have been made by our men and women in uniform in Afghanistan,” he said.
“What we have also been able to do is to ramp up the training of Afghan forces. So we’ve got an additional 100,000 Afghan troops, both Army and police, that have been trained as a consequence of this surge. And that is going to give the Afghans more capacity to defend themselves because it is in our national interest to make sure that you did not have a collapse of Afghanistan in which extremist elements could flood the zone once again, and over time al Qaeda might be in a position to rebuild itself,” Obama said.
“So what I laid out was a plan in which we are going to be drawing down our troops from Afghanistan after 10 very long years and an enormous sacrifice by our troops. But we will draw them down in a responsible way that will allow Afghanistan to defend itself and will give us the operational capacity to continue to put pressure on al Qaeda until that network is entirely defeated,” said the US President.
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