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Job not finished yet: Obama on Afghanistan endeavour

Last updated on: January 20, 2012 14:19 IST

Job not finished yet: Obama on Afghanistan endeavour

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Noting that the American counter-terrorism strategy against Al Qaeda has been "extremely successful", United States President Barack Obama has said India and Pakistan have an interest in ensuring Afghanistan is "not engulfed in constant strife".

"From the perspective of our security interests, I think we can accomplish our goal, which is to make sure that Afghanistan is not a safe haven from which to launch attacks against the United States or its allies," Obama said in an interview to the Time magazine.

He said the international community "not just us; the Russians and the Chinese and the Indians and the Pakistanis and the Iranians and others I think all have an interest in making sure that Afghanistan is not engulfed in constant strife, and I think that's an achievable goal".

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Image: US President Barack Obama meets with troops at Bagram Air Base on December 3, 2010
Photographs: Reuters

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'Going to take decades for Afghanistan to fully achieve its potential'

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Obama said while Al Qaeda's capacity has been severely degraded, the "job is not finished." "When it comes to stabilising Afghanistan, that was always going to be a more difficult and messy task, because it's not just military it's economic, it's political, it's dealing with the capacity of an Afghan government that doesn't have a history of projecting itself into all parts of the country, tribal and ethnic conflicts that date back centuries. So we always recognised that was going to be more difficult," he said.

As US forces prepare to leave Afghanistan, Obama said part of the challenge over the next two years would be to continue to work with the Afghan government so that it recognises its responsibilities to provide security for the local populations.

"I never believed that America could essentially deliver peace and prosperity to all of Afghanistan in a three, four, five-year time frame. And I think anybody who believed that didn't know the history and the challenges facing Afghanistan," he said, adding, "its going to take decades for Afghanistan to fully achieve its potential."



Image: A US soldier uses a stick to play swords with a boy during a patrol in Shinwar district in Nangarhar, Afghanistan
Photographs: Reuters

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'America not building a containment policy against China'

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Obama touted his overall foreign policy strategy as one that "has been very successful." On China, he said his administration has over the last three years established a "strong dialogue and working relationship" with Beijing across a whole range of issues.

"And where we have serious differences, we've been able to express those differences without it spiraling into a bad place. I think the Chinese government respects us, respects what we're trying to do, recognises that we're going to be players in the Asia Pacific region for the long term, but I think also recognise that we have in no way inhibited them from continuing their extraordinary growth."

"The only thing we've insisted on, as a principle in that region is, everybody's got to play by the same set of rules, everybody's got to abide by a set of international norms. And that's not unique to China. That's true for all of us," he said.

The US president said it would not be accurate to say that America is building a containment policy against China, going by its recent flurry of diplomatic activity in Asia. "The United States has pivoted to focus on the fastest-growing region of the world, where it has an enormous stake in peace, security, the free flow of commerce and, frankly, an area of the world that we had neglected over the last decade because of our intense focus on Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East."


Image: Obama speaks with China's President Hu Jintao
Photographs: Reuters

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