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US not winning Afghan war, says Obama

US not winning Afghan war, says Obama

Author:
Publication: The Times of India
Date: March 9, 2009

Sitting at the head of a conference table with his suit coat off, US President Barack Obama exhibited confidence six weeks into his presidency despite the economic turmoil around the globe and the deteriorating situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He struck a reassuring tone about the economy, saying he had no trouble sleeping at night.

"Look, I wish I had the luxury of just dealing with a modest recession or just dealing with health care or just dealing with energy or just dealing with Iraq or just dealing with Afghanistan,'' Obama said. "I don't have that luxury, and I don't think the American people do, either.''

The president spoke at length about the struggle with terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere, staking out positions that at times seemed more comparable to those of his predecessor than many of Obama's more liberal supporters would like. He did not rule out the option of snatching terrorism suspects out of hostile countries.

Asked if the US was winning in Afghanistan, a war he effectively adopted as his own last month by ordering an additional 17,000 troops sent there, Obama replied flatly, "No.''

Obama said on the campaign trail last year that the possibility of breaking away some elements of the Taliban should be explored, an idea also considered by some military leaders. But now he has started a review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan intended to find a new strategy, and he signalled that reconciliation could emerge as an important initiative, mirroring the strategy used by Gen David Petraeus in Iraq.

"If you talk to General Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of Al Qaida,'' Obama said. However, reaching out to some members of the Taliban is fraught with complexities. For one thing, it would be difficult to determine which Taliban members might be within the reach of a reconciliation campaign.


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