President Barack Obama is reviewing U.S.
policies in Afghanistan, where he says efforts to build democracy are not going
as well as those in Iraq. Mr. Obama also addressed the al-Qaida and Taliban
threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan, during his first news conference since
President Obama calls the situation in Afghanistan
a "big challenge," and says progress toward democracy there is lagging behind
that in Iraq.
He said, "We just saw an election in Iraq that went relatively peacefully and
you get a sense that the political system is now functioning in a meaningful
way. You do not see that yet in Afghanistan. They have got elections coming up,
but, effectively, the national government seems very detached from what is going
on in the surrounding community."
'Terrorist Safe-Havens Must Go'
In a nationally televised news
conference, the president also said terrorist safe havens along the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border must be eliminated. As part of his review, he says
he will assess American and multinational diplomatic, economic and military
efforts to cooperate toward that end.
The president said, "In addition, you have got the Taliban and al-Qaida
operating in the FATA (Federally Administered Areas of Pakistan) and these
border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and what we have not seen is
the kind of concerted effort to root out those safe havens that would ultimately
make our mission successful."
US Envoy In Region
The United States has an estimated 33,000
troops in Afghanistan and that number is expected to almost double. Mr. Obama
says he does not have a timetable for winning the war in Afghanistan, but he
says defeating al-Qaida and the Taliban is as important for Pakistan as it is
for the United States. "It is not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have
folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children," he
The president has sent his special South Asian envoy, veteran
diplomat Richard Holbrooke, to the region, partly to strengthen the U.S.
alliance with the Pakistani government of President Asif Ali Zardari. At his
news conference, Mr. Obama said the United States must make sure that Pakistan
is "a stalwart ally" in battling the terrorist threat.