Troops withdrawal from Afghanistan not an exit strategy: US

Sticking to its plan to start pulling out its troops from Afghanistan next year in a phased manner, the US has said the move was not an exit strategy but a transition strategy.

Last Updated: Nov 16, 2010, 00:35 AM IST

Islamabad: Sticking to its plan to start
pulling out its troops from Afghanistan next year in a phased
manner, the US has said the move was not an exit strategy but
a transition strategy.

America`s Special Envoy for Af-Pak region Richard
Holbrooke has said that the process of withdrawing US combat
troops from Afghanistan will begin in July next year and will
be completed in 2014.

"The process of troop withdrawal is not an exit
strategy but a transition strategy," Holbrooke told reporters
at a roundtable discussion here yesterday.

"Year 2014 is not the end of international presence in
Afghanistan... there will be some drawdown (of troops) in July
next year. The size and pace will be decided by the
president," he said.

The US wants to return full sovereignty to the people
and government of Afghanistan, he said.

President Obama has set July 2011 as a target to begin
drawing down US troops from Afghanistan if conditions allow.

A summit of NATO countries to be held next week in
Lisbon, Portugal, will be attended by US President Barack
Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai who will put forth
their plans and policies, Holbrooke said.

The Taliban`s demand for Karzai`s removal is
unacceptable, he said.

"The US and other countries, including Pakistan,
support the government of President Karzai and the Taliban
will have to live with this reality," he added.

Holbrooke said that Pakistan and Afghanistan will have
to cooperate to resolve the issue of terrorism.

"If Pakistan wishes to play a role and support the
process of reconciliation in Afghanistan, it would be
welcomed," he remarked.

Replying to a question, Holbrooke said the launching
of a military operation in North Waziristan tribal region
would be a tactical decision to be made by the Pakistan Army
and the government.

At the moment, the Pakistan Army feels that it does
not have the resources for this purpose, he said.

Asked about the sources of funding for terrorists and
militants, Holbrooke said the funds primarily come from
outside Pakistan and through the extortion of NATO supply
convoys.

"This is a serious issue and we are working on it," he
said.

Asked whether Obama`s endorsement of India`s bid for
permanent membership of the UN Security Council would hamper
efforts to reduce tension between Pakistan and India, he said
the US favours greater understanding between the two nations.

He said the US leadership has repeatedly said that the
two countries should work out their differences. The ability
of the US to talk freely and candidly with Pakistan and India
would be helpful in reducing tension, he contended.

Responding to a question, Holbrooke said the US made a
mistake by abandoning Pakistan and Afghanistan after the
Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan but it would not repeat
this mistake.

PTI