Obama announces troops cut, warns Pakistan on terror (Second Lead)

June 23rd, 2011 - 9:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Washington, June 23 (IANS) The US will join efforts to spur an Afghan-led reconciliation with the Taliban, President Barack Obama said as he announced the pullout of 10,000 American forces from Afghanistan. He also warned Pakistan on the terrorist havens in the country, a key concern for New Delhi which resumed the foreign secretary-level dialogue with Islamabad Thursday.

“We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps 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.

Obama’s strong warning to Pakistan came hours before the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan met in Islamabad to address issues relating to terror that has strained their ties, specially after 26/11 attack over two years ago.

Afghanistan has emerged as an arena of rivalry between New Delhi and Islamabad, with the US egging on India to resolve the Kashmir issue so that Pakistan can concentrate on combating the Taliban.

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 “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”.

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