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American Forces Press Service

Obama Cites 'Significant' Progress Against al-Qaida

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2010 – The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan is showing significant signs of progress in halting Taliban momentum in Afghanistan and dismantling al-Qaida operations in the region, President Barack Obama said today.

Obama, speaking at the White House on the assessment of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan released today, cited progress in achieving what he called the core goal in Afghanistan.

“It's not to defeat every last threat to the security of Afghanistan, because ultimately it is Afghans who must secure their country,” the president said. “And it's not nation-building, because it is Afghans who must build their nation.”

Obama identified solid evidence that al-Qaida is feeling the pinch as the strategy takes hold.

“Al-Qaida's senior leadership in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan is under more pressure than at any point since they fled Afghanistan nine years ago,” he said. “Senior leaders have been killed. It's harder for them to recruit. It's harder for them to travel. It's harder for them to train. It's harder for them to plot and launch attacks. In short, al-Qaida is hunkered down.”

Obama acknowledged, however, that many of these gains are “still fragile and reversible.”

Ultimately defeating al-Qaida -- which Obama said “remains a ruthless and resilient enemy bent on attacking our country” -- will take time, and will involve difficult days ahead.

“But make no mistake, we are going to remain relentless in disrupting and dismantling that terrorist organization,” the president added. “We're going to have to continue to stand up.”

Obama emphasized that succeeding in Afghanistan requires more than military strength. Equally important as the military works to break the Taliban's momentum, he said, is training Afghan forces so they can take the security lead for their country, promoting effective governance and development and encouraging regional cooperation, especially with Pakistan.

Obama pledged to continue to give U.S. troops and civilians the strategy and resources they need to succeed.

“For the first time in years,” he said, “we've put in place the strategy and the resources that our efforts in Afghanistan demand.”

Obama noted that the drawdown in Iraq has freed up troops and equipment to achieve U.S. goals in Afghanistan, and he cited a new “sense of urgency” that has galvanized the coalition as it continues the mission in Afghanistan.

“We are moving toward a new phase in Afghanistan, a transition to full Afghan lead for security that will begin early next year and will conclude in 2014, even as NATO maintains a long-term commitment to training and advising Afghan forces,” Obama said.

Additionally, the president called on the nation to draw strength from its servicemembers who have been key in the fight against al-Qaida.

“I can report that, thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals,” Obama said. “Despite the tough fight, despite all their sacrifice, they continue to stand up for our security and for our values that we hold so dear.”

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