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    Afghans must meet the 2014 deadline: Jones

    WASHINGTON (PAN): Afghans would have to step up to the task of meeting the 2014 deadline when US forces would complete a gradual withdrawal from their country, a former top Obama aid said Monday.

    “At some point, Afghans, after all these years, are going to have to step up to the task.  The international community, should continue to support them as best we can.  But the decision has generally been made that by 2014 we are all shooting to making President Karzai's desire a reality,” General (rtd) James Jones, the former National Security Advisor, to the US President, Barack Obama, said.

    The Obama Administration has have offered a long-term strategic relationship with Afghanistan, he said.  “We'll see how that plays out.  There are certain things that we would like to see happen, I'm sure.  We would like to see governance and rule of law become more paramount in that country.  We'd like to see corruption decreased,” Jones said.

    “We would like to see some economic renewal.  We'd like to encourage the international community, the business community, to invest in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that this will be a relatively short period of time between now and 2014 when all of these things will have to be put in place.

    “One thing that is positive is the transference to Iraqi control of each province, one at a time, as each province shows itself ready to take over security, economic and governance responsibilities.  It is an exciting program, and it's pretty straightforward.  You can see it on a simple map.  I'm told that effort is under way.  And the progress that we're making is encouraging, just as the security investment that we made over a couple of years ago is now paying good dividends as well,” Jones said in his interaction with reporters at the National Press Club.

    Jones said Pakistan and the fate of Osama Bin Laden are intertwined in the ultimate outcome for Afghanistan and the entire region.  “Bin Laden's fate and the fate of the majority of al- Qaida's leadership over the past few years should serve as a clear warning to those who would lead such movements in the future.  Like no one since perhaps Hitler and Stalin, Bin Laden unified much of the world against his type of threat,” he said.

    The result is now clear.  The world is safer. This is a major achievement which should not be ignored, where human, technological and the need for rapid decision-making now permits them to be more confident that Osama bin Laden and others like him will fail.

    “The fallout with Pakistan over the discovery of bin Laden's now operational headquarters near Islamabad will have important and perhaps long-lasting consequences.  Pakistan has thus far resisted the offer of a long-term strategic relationship with the United States and other countries, which would help bring a better life for its citizens and a more peaceful region to its east and to its west,” Jones said.

    “While Pakistan should be given credit for some incremental progress in rooting out some terrorists within their borders, notably in the Swat Valley and south Waziristan, which were both successful military interventions, the undeniable fact is that since their deeply flawed decision to not put their army along the border with Afghanistan, in this and 2006, thinking that the tribes would, in exchange for the army not being present, would patrol the border and prevent illegal crossings,” he said.

    “Pakistan has become a selective safe haven for terrorists and terrorist leaders, and this fact alone has resulted in prolonging the efforts in Afghanistan and continues to cause us and our allies to suffer many more casualties and to deplete our national treasures at a time when, obviously, we can ill afford to do so,” Jones said.

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