Obama for ‘good’ Taliban, no to safe havens in Pakistan (Lead)

June 23rd, 2011 - 4:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Washington, June 23 (IANS) The US will join efforts to reconcile with the Taliban, President Barack Obama has said, as he announced a pullout of American forces from Afghanistan. But he warned that terrorist havens in Pakistan won’t be tolerated.

“We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments,” Obama said in a nationally televised address Wednesday from the White House.

“For there should be no doubt that so long as I am president, the US will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.

“No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region,” he said.

Announcing that all the 33,000 US forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 would be home in the next 15 months, Obama said 10,000 of the so-called “surge” forces would withdraw by the end of this year.

The other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012.

“Our mission will (then) change from combat to support,” he added. “By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.”

Obama said the military campaign was “meeting our goals” in Afghanistan and the drawdown would begin “from a position of strength”.

The president admitted that peace cannot come to Afghanistan without a political settlement.

“So as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban.

The Taliban has repeatedly refused to make up with the Karzai regime in Kabul and the US.

“Our position on these talks is clear: They must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from Al Qaeda, abandon violence and abide by the Afghan constitution.”

Obama said that when the US routed the Taliban in Afghanistan after the 2001 terror attack, Al Qaeda leaders escaped into Pakistan and plotted new attacks.

But he paid rich compliments to Pakistan for battling Al Qaeda.

“Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of Al Qaeda’s leadership. And … we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader Al Qaeda had ever known.”

He said the information recovered from Osama’s compound in Pakistan showed that Al Qaeda was under enormous strain. It was unable to replace senior terrorists who had been killed.

But “Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks”.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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