Obama Announces New Strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan
By VOA News
27 March 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama has announced a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that includes sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan and a greater emphasis on regional diplomacy.
At the White House complex Friday, Mr. Obama said the situation is "increasingly perilous." He said insurgents control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan and that attacks against American troops, NATO allies and the Afghan government have risen steadily in the seven years since the Taliban was removed from power.
He said that al-Qaida and its allies are in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that al-Qaida is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan.
He said the goal of the new strategy is to disrupt, dismantle and destroy al-Qaida and its allies, remove their safe havens in Pakistan, and prevent them from regrouping in Afghanistan.
President Obama said 4,000 additional troops will be sent to Afghanistan to train Afghan armed forces, adding to the 17,000 additional troops he wants deployed to the country in the next months.
The president also called on Congress to pass a bill that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years - resources he said will improve infrastructure and strengthen Pakistan's democracy.
Mr. Obama said together with the United Nations, the United States will forge a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together countries with a stake in the region's security, including Iran, Russia, India and China.
The president said Afghanistan will not have peace without reconciliation among former enemies. He said the United States will work with local leaders, the Afghan government and international partners for reconciliation. He said Afghans who have taken up arms because of coercion or for money must have the option to choose a different course.
U.S. officials say for the first time, U.S. diplomacy will be based on the premise that Afghanistan and Pakistan are intertwined, as one official put it: "they are two countries, but one challenge."
By October, the overall U.S. force level, including trainers, should reach 59,000.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.
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