Phase down from Afghanistan in next several years: Obama

Last year, US leader had announced that drawdown would start from July 2011.

Last Updated: Sep 30, 2010, 10:48 AM IST

Washington: US President Barack Obama has indicated that the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan would be phased down over several years.

Last December, Obama had announced that the drawdown would start from July 2011.

"What we are seeing is the possibility of training up Afghan forces more effectively, keeping pressure on al Qaeda so they`re not able to launch big attacks, and over the next several years as we start phasing down, those folks start lifting up," Obama said at a public meeting in Des Moines in
Iowa.

“Afghanistan was a war that most people right after 9/11 overwhelmingly understood was important and necessary. We had to go after those who had killed 3,000 Americans. We had to make sure that al Qaeda did not have a safe haven inside Afghanistan to plan more attacks,” he added.

"You can speculate as to whether if we hadn`t gone into Iraq, we had just stayed focused on Afghanistan, whether by now we would have created a stable situation and we would not have a significant presence there. But that`s not what happened," he said.

Obama said when he become President he had a badly deteriorated situation in Afghanistan in last seven years, and the Taliban had started to take over half of the country again

"You had a very weak Afghan government. In the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, you had al Qaeda still plotting to attack the United States," he said.

The US President stressed that when he assumed office, he had put additional troops and money on civilian side to train Afghan forces and make sure that the Afghan government could provide basic services to its people "to make sure that we`re getting Afghanistan right”.

"But what I also said is we`re not going to do it in an open-ended way. We`re going to have a time frame within which Afghans start having to take more responsibility for their own country. And I said that on July of next year, we`re going to begin a transition of shifting from US troops to
Afghan troops in many of these areas," he argued.

Obama said the situation there was very tough. It is the second-poorest country in the world with 70 percent illiteracy rate.

"Afghanistan was much less developed than Iraq and had no significant traditions of a strong central government that could provide services to its people, or a civil service, or the basic infrastructure of a modern nation state," he said.

"So we`re not going to get it perfect there. It is messy, it is hard, and the toughest job I have is when I deploy young men and women into a war theatre because some of them don`t come back, and I`m the one who signs those letters to family members offering condolences for the enormous sacrifice of their loved ones," Obama said.

PTI