Obama Warns On Afghanistan, Pakistan Situation

Obama's Prepared Remarks

President Obama warned Friday that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is "increasingly perilous."

He acknowledged that after seven years of fighting, "the war rages on" and that "2008 was the deadliest year of the war for American troops." He said intelligence reports indicate that terrorists are actively plotting to harm Americans from their safe havens in Pakistan.

In his speech, the president outlined his strategy to revive the war that his commanders in Afghanistan say they're not winning. The key pillars include more troops and training for Afghanistan and more treasure for Pakistan.

He called on Congress to pass a measure co-sponsored by Sens. John Kerry and Richard Lugar that would triple the amount of U.S. aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion per year, provided Pakistan shows that it is willing to go after militants on its own territory.

The president noted that he has already ordered 17,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan, but he said he also wants to provide more resources for training Afghan security forces and will send 4,000 more troops to serve as advisers and trainers. He said the object is to build Afghanistan's army to a force of 134,000 and its police to 82,000 members by 2011.

The president said that his plan calls for more than military action, including "a dramatic increase in our civilian effort." He noted that Afghanistan's government has been undermined by corruption and has failed to deliver basic services to its people. He promised not to ignore that corruption but to "seek a new compact with the Afghan government that cracks down on corrupt behavior."

He promised to set benchmarks for the use of international aid, so it is used to meet the needs of the Afghan people.

Obama said the civilian effort will include agricultural specialists, educators, engineers and lawyers to help develop an economy "that isn't dominated by illicit drugs." He noted that Afghanistan's trade in opium poppies has encouraged government corruption and that the proceeds from opium trafficking are funding the insurgency.

Noting that waste and corruption have also tainted U.S. aid efforts, the president said he will increase funding for government watchdog agencies, including the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

The president said the strategy in Afghanistan will be flexible and that it will be carried out with constant reviews to make sure it was meeting U.S. goals. And he called for more civilian support from U.S. partners and allies as well.

Obama stressed that dealing with the issues in the region is "not simply an American problem." He called it an "international security challenge of the highest order" and said the U.S. will call on its NATO allies to increase their commitment.

The president said Secretary of State Hilary Clinton will appeal to the United Nations and international aid groups at next week's meeting in The Hague.

And the president pledged to work with international institutions, joining with the U.N. to form a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings NATO allies together with Central Asian countries, the Persian Gulf states, Iran, Russia, India and China.

He closed by stressing that the war in Afghanistan was not a war of choice but a response to the Sept. 11 attacks, which were planned by al-Qaida leaders given refuge by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He promised to use "all elements of our national power to defeat al-Qaida and to defend America."

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