Large mly footprint counterproductive: Obama
CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (PAN): Strongly defending his timeline for transition and withdrawal of US-led international forces from Afghanistan, President Barack Obama told his countrymen that a large American footprint in that country could be counterproductive.
“Frankly, the large footprint that we have in Afghanistan over time can be counterproductive,” Obama said at a news conference in Chicago at the conclusion of the two-day NATO summit.
“We have been there 10 years and I think no matter how much good we are doing and how outstanding our troops and our civilians and diplomats are doing on the ground, 10 years in a country that's very different, that's a strain not only on our folks but also on that country, which at a point is going to be very sensitive about its own sovereignty,” he remarked.
Obama believed that the transition and withdrawal timetable that the summit had established was a responsible one.
“Are there risks involved in it? Absolutely. Can I anticipate that over the next two years there are going to be some bad moments along with some good ones? Absolutely,” he said, acknowledging there were challenges ahead.
“I think it is the appropriate strategy whereby we can achieve a stable Afghanistan that won’t be perfect, we can pull back our troops in a responsible way and we can start rebuilding America and making some of the massive investments we have been making in Afghanistan here back home, putting people back to work, retraining workers, rebuilding our schools, investing in science and technology, developing our business climate,” he said.
Obama said US and its coalition partners were making substantial progress against their core objective of defeating Al-Qaeda and denying it safe haven.
“Here in Chicago, we reached agreement on the next milestone in that transition. At the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) meeting this morning, we agreed that Afghan forces will take the lead for combat operations next year in mid-2013,” he said.
“At that time, ISAF forces will have shifted from combat to a support role in all parts of the country. And this will mark a major step towards the goal we agreed to in Lisbon, completing the transition to Afghan lead for security by the end of 2014, so that Afghans can take responsibility for their own country and so our troops can come home,” Obama said.
The president explained NATO would continue to train, advise, assist and support Afghan forces. At the summit, a number of countries announced significant financial commitments to sustain Afghanistan’s progress in the years ahead.
“Today the international community also expressed its strong support for efforts to bring peace and stability to South Asia, including Afghanistan’s neighbours,” he concluded.
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