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American Forces Press Service

Obama Cites Need for Civilian Assistance in Afghanistan

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2009 – As Pentagon officials and U.S. military leaders assess the military strategy in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama today underscored the need to assert a similar evaluation of the civilian approach there.

“It’s important that we also do an assessment on the civilian side, the diplomatic side, the development side -- that we analyze the results of the elections and then make further decisions moving forward,” Obama said.

Following a 90-minute meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the White House, Obama told reporters that success in Afghanistan depends on both strategies through “broad consultation” with coalition and NATO allies.

“You have to get the strategy right and then make determinations about resources,” the president said. “You don’t make determinations about resources -- and certainly you don’t make determinations about sending young men and women into battle -- without having absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be.”

No decisions, as of late, have been made by the United States for additional resources on either front in Afghanistan, but the final decisions will be the outcome of “close consultation with our allies and partners,” Obama said.

Canada’s role in Afghanistan is set to change from a predominantly military mission to a humanitarian-focused civilian effort in 2011. Obama said he’s not worried about what will happen with fewer Canadian combat troops, but that he does want to ensure the Canadian presence in Afghanistan fits into the “coherent whole” to accomplish the overall objective.

“I think it is important to recognize that ultimately Afghan security has to transition onto the shoulders of the Afghan government and Afghan security forces,” Obama said. “That’s something that I’m certain will be part of any long-term strategy, sustainable strategy.”

Harper said Canada’s focus, as development in Afghanistan moves forward, is on getting the Afghan government and its security forces to accept and handle greater responsibility for day-to-day security. Whether it’s through military support or civilian assistance, he said, Canada wants to ensure Afghanistan eventually can stand on its own.

“All of our military -- Canadian, American, British, those who have been highly engaged -- have done a tremendous job moving the ball forward,” Harper said. “But in the end, we have to be clear that the security and sovereignty of Afghanistan can in the long term only be done by Afghans.”

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