US goal in Afghanistan 'within reach'

Updated 13 January 2013
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US goal in Afghanistan 'within reach'

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama said yesterday that the US goal in Afghanistan was “within reach” as he vowed to move ahead with a timetable to end the 11-year-old military campaign and focus on a broad domestic agenda.
“We’ve pushed the Taleban out of their strongholds,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “And our core objective — the reason we went to war in the first place — is now within reach: ensuring that Al-Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against America.”
The comments came after Obama wrapped up talks with visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai, promising to speed up a transfer of lead security responsibility from NATO to Afghan forces this spring, in a sign that the pace of US troop withdrawal could quicken.
After meeting with Karzai, Obama said NATO forces would have a “very limited” role in the country after 2014 and insisted that Washington had achieved its prime goal of “decapitating” Al-Qaeda.
The leaders met at a crucial moment in the final chapter of a long, bloody war, and as Obama balances the future security of Afghanistan with US combat fatigue and a desire to spend America’s dwindling resources at home.
Obama, planning the withdrawal of most of the 66,000 US troops left in Afghanistan, said that after 2014, American forces would have a “very limited” mission in training Afghan forces and preventing a return of Al-Qaeda.
“This week, we agreed that this spring, Afghan forces will take the lead for security across the entire country, and our troops will shift to a support role,” the US president said. “In the coming months, I’ll announce the next phase of our drawdown. And by the end of next year, America’s war in Afghanistan will be over.”
Obama said that now Americans faced difficult domestic tasks of taking care of returning veterans, growing the economy, shrinking budget deficits, creating new jobs and boosting family incomes.
“We have to fix our infrastructure and our immigration system,” he noted.
“We have to protect our planet from the destructive effects of climate change — and protect our children from the horrors of gun violence. These, too, will be difficult missions for America. But they must be met.”
The White House has ordered the Pentagon to come up with plans for a smaller future Afghan presence than generals had expected, perhaps numbering 3,000, 6,000 or 9,000 US troops.
Obama’s domestic political opponents, however, charge he is in a rush for the exit and warn that a minimal force could squander gains hard won in a war that has killed more than 3,000 coalition troops.
The White House even suggested this week that Obama would not rule out the possibility of leaving no American boots on the ground.
This has compounded Afghan fears that the country could be abandoned again by the international community — as it was after the end of the Soviet occupation in 1989.
The power vacuum led to the rise of the Taleban, and a safe haven for Al-Qaeda to plot the Sept.11 attacks, which drew the United States into an Afghan war in 2001.
Obama said Friday that despite the huge human and financial cost of the 12-year war, it was important to recognize that it had been waged in response to those attacks and had achieved its central goals.


Pakistan vows to fight extremism under the banner of Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Updated 29 min 41 sec ago
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Pakistan vows to fight extremism under the banner of Shanghai Cooperation Organization

  • Pakistan hosts meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) to discuss enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation among the member states.
  • Pakistan should also enhance bilateral relationship with the SCO members as Euro-Asia is going to be an economic hub.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan vowed to eliminate terrorism and extremism in the region by working with Shanghai Cooperation Organization as the three-day meeting got under way in Islamabad.
“Pakistan fully supports and welcomes the efforts of SCO-RATS in the fight against three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism,” Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) meeting.
Legal experts from the eight member states — China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan — as well as representatives of the SCO-RATS executive committee, were taking part in the meeting.
It is the first SCO meeting to be held in Pakistan since it joined the organization in June 2017. The main purpose of the meeting is to discuss terrorist threats facing the region and how to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation between the member states.
“We support the SCO consensus that as we engage in the fight against terrorism, we must respect the norms and principles of international law, UN Charter and shun double standards,” the Foreign Secretary said.
She also emphasized that terrorism cannot and should not be identified with any religion, individual countries or nationalities.
She said: “We have lost thousands of our citizens and law enforcement personnel, with many more injured. We have also suffered economic losses of more than $120 billion.”
But human and financial losses have not dented Pakistan’s determination to fight this menace, she said, adding that comprehensive efforts over the past several years, supported by a firm domestic political consensus, have helped Pakistan to turn the tide against terrorism.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a permanent intergovernmental international organization, which was founded on June 15, 2001 in Shanghai, China.
Former ambassadors, political and security analysts view the first-ever SCO meeting in Islamabad as an opportunity for the government to present its case against terrorism and extremism effectively to the international community.
Former ambassador Mohammed Ayaz Wazir said it was good for Pakistan to be hosting the hold the meeting at a time when some hostile countries have been trying to isolate it in the international community.
“Pakistan should also enhance bilateral relationship with the SCO members as Euro-Asia is going to be an economic hub and peace center of the world,” he told Arab News.
Wazir pointed out that immediate benefit of the SCO platform is that Pakistan and India have been talking to each other despite being reluctant to revive the bilateral talks on several important issues.
“For peace and development in the region, all member states of the SCO should shun their petty differences and devise cogent mechanisms of cooperation and collaboration,” he said.
Tahir Malik, professor at a public-sector university and political analyst, said it has become a global challenge to overcome the menaces of terrorism and extremism, that no country could deal with effectively acting alone.
“All SCO member states should cooperate in the fields of research and technology to promote knowledge-based economy and peace in the region,” he told Arab News.