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Obama seeks 'deeper engagement' with Afghanistan, Pakistan

Lalit K Jha in Washington | January 23, 2009 10:50 IST

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United States President Barack Obama [Images] on Friday said Afghanistan and Pakistan are the central front in America's war against terrorism and the deteriorating situation in the region poses grave threat to global security.

"This is the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism," Obama said, reiterating that the Afghan-Pak problem can't be resolved in isolation.

There has to be regional approach to it, he argued.

Addressing the officials of the State Department after Richard Holbrooke was appointed Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama said, "There, as in the Middle East, we must understand that we cannot deal with our problems in isolation."

Obama said his administration is committed to refocusing attention and resources on Afghanistan and Pakistan and to spending those resources wisely. "That's why we are pursuing a careful review of our policy," he said.

Terming it as an international challenge of the 'highest order, he said, "There is no answer in Afghanistan that does not confront the Al Qaeda [Images] and Taliban [Images] bases along the border, and there will be no lasting peace unless we expand spheres of opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan."

However, Obama said the situation can't be resolved so quickly in the region.

"The American people and the international community must understand that the situation is perilous and progress will take time. Violence is up dramatically in Afghanistan. A deadly insurgency has taken deep root. The opium trade is far and away the largest in the world," he observed.

Obama alleged that the Afghan government had been unable to deliver basic services. "Al Qaeda and the Taliban strike from bases embedded in rugged tribal terrain along the Pakistani border. And while we have yet to see another attack on our soil since 9/11, Al-Qaeda [Images] terrorists remain at large and remain plotting," he said.

Giving an inkling of his yet to be Afghan policy, Obama said, "We will seek stronger partnerships with the governments of the region, sustain cooperation with our NATO allies, deeper engagement with the Afghan and Pakistani people, and a comprehensive strategy to combat terror and extremism."

He said, "We will provide the strategic guidance to meet our objectives, and we pledge to support the extraordinary Americans serving in Afghanistan, both military and civilian, with the resources that they need."

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