US interested in Afghan strategic ties: Obama
WASHINGTON (PAN): The unfortunate Quran desecration incident in Afghanistan and subsequent protests and violence showed that it was time for transition in the country, US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday.
“The situation with the Quran burning concerns me. I think it is an indication of the challenges in that environment, and it's an indication that now is the time for us to transition,” Obama told a White House news conference, his first during the current year.
Obama said the violence directed at American people was unacceptable and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai had acknowledged that. “What is also true is President Karzai, I think, is eager for more responsibility on the Afghan side,” he added.
“We're going to be able to find a mechanism whereby Afghans understand their sovereignty is being respected and that they're going to be taking a greater role in their own security...I'm confident we can execute, but it's not going to be a smooth path...”
He believed President Karzai understood that the US was interested in a strategic partnership with the Afghan people and government. However, he explained the Americans were not interested in staying there any longer than necessary.
“We share interests here. It will require negotiations, and there will be time where things don't look as smooth as I'd like. That's kind of the deal internationally on a whole range of these issues,” he said in response to a question.
Obama said the plans for 2014 transition policy were in place and established at the Lisbon meeting. The US had been following the strategy that called for turning over increasing responsibility to Afghans and a full transition so that the US combat role was over by the end of 2014.
“What we are now going to be doing at this NATO meeting and planning for the next two years is to make sure that that transition is not a cliff, but that there are benchmarks and steps that are taken along the way, in the same way that we reduced our role in Iraq, so that it is gradual.”
The strategy was aimed to ensure Afghan capacity was built, the partnering with Afghan security forces was effective and requisite support structures were put in place, Obama concluded.
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