US goal is to have enduring presence in Afghanistan: Panetta
Washington: Observing that the fundamental American mission in Afghanistan is to help build a strong government that could secure itself and get rid of al Qaeda, the US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said the goal is to have "an enduring presence" in the war-torn country post 2014.
"The fundamental mission in Afghanistan is to establish a nation that can secure and govern itself and ensure that al Qaeda never again finds a safe haven within it from which it could conduct attacks on the United States or any other country," Panetta told reporters at a joint news conference with the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak yesterday.
"The goal here is an enduring presence, therefore, that will direct itself towards, you know, three important missions," he said.
One is counterterrorism, to ensure that the US continues to go after whatever al-Qaeda targets remain in Afghanistan.
"Although we clearly have had an impact on their presence in Afghanistan, the fact is that they continue to show up, and intelligence continues to indicate that they are looking for some kind of capability to be able to go into Afghanistan as well," Panetta said.
The second mission will be to have a train-and-assist mission to help develop the capability of the Afghan Army, he said.
"The third mission will be to continue to provide some enabling capability so that we can provide the support needed for our forces as well," Panetta said when asked about the post-2014 American presence in Afghanistan.