President Barack Obama says the US will adopt new tactics for defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, including broader diplomatic engagement, the deployment of 4,000 more troops and new reconstruction efforts.
Announcing his much-awaited comprehensive rethink of US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan Friday, US President Barack Obama said emphasis will be placed on training and bolstering the Afghan army so that it can take the lead in securing the war-torn country.
In a televised address from the White House, Obama warned that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan was getting “increasingly perilous” and he called on the international community to work together to try to secure the region.
"The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al Qaeda operates unchecked," he said.
Flanked by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Obama said he is sending another 4,000 troops to Afghanistan - in addition to the 17,000 extra troops he announced earlier this year. The US was also boosting the number of civilian specialists it was sending to the region, Obama said.
The focus of the US personnel in Afghanistan would be to train and expand the Afghan army so that it could “eventually take the lead in securing their country,” he said.
‘The most dangerous place in the world’
Amid growing signs that the Obama administration is focused on a comprehensive regional strategy to address the growing Taliban and al Qaeda insurgency, Obama called on Congress to authorise $1.5 billion in “direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years.”
With the growing radicalisation in the border areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan’s eastern neighbour is being placed at the centre of Washington’s strategy to secure the region.
Calling the tribal border regions the "most dangerous place in the world" for Americans, Obama warned that if Pakistan did not act on intelligence on the whereabouts of terrorists, Washington would.
Obama’s speech came hours after a suicide bomber attacked a packed mosque in Pakistan’s restive Khyber region during the Friday noon prayers, killing 48 people and wounding dozens.
‘Al Qaeda has simply moved from one address to another’
The new US administration’s policy on the region is fundamentally different from that of the previous Bush administration, said FRANCE 24’s International Affairs Editor Armen Georgian.
“The main difference is the focus on Pakistan,” said Georgian. “Obama says the leadership of al Qaeda has simply moved from one address to another across the border.”
While the US is considering boosting its aid to its longtime ally, Pakistan, Georgian said this time there would be “benchmarks” added to aid packages: “In other words, if Pakistan performs better in its fight against the insurgents, then the Americans will offer more aid. Quite what the Americans will do if Pakistan does not perform is still unclear.”
Afghanistan and Pakistan welcome new approach
Regional reaction to Obama’s speech was swift. Welcoming the new policy initiatives, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Kabul "particularly welcomed the recognition of the regional aspect of the problem in Afghanistan and specifically recognition that the al Qaeda threat is mainly emanating from Pakistan."
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also welcomed Obama’s announcements.
"I think the new Obama administration's approach is a very positive approach,” Qureshi told reporters during his trip to Moscow. “They are looking towards a regional approach to the situation."
Date created : 2009-03-27