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Obama to publicly discuss Af-Pak strategy

Dec. 14, 2010 at 5:03 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- A report on the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan focuses on three areas: the two countries and al-Qaida's senior leadership, the White House said.

"In each area, the president and his team discussed both the progress that has been made, as well as areas for additional focus moving forward," press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday when providing a readout of the meeting between President Obama and his national advisers. "The president directed his team to finalize the report, while also continuing to address the range of issues discussed in the report as we head into 2011."

Obama will provide an update to the American people on Thursday, Gibbs said.

"I think you will see," Gibbs said, "that there has been some important progress in halting the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan. We have seen through counter-terrorism success at degrading senior al-Qaida leaders. And we've seen greater cooperation over the course of the past 18 months with the Pakistani government."

Gibbs said the review also would list the challenges remaining in the region, such as the need to "strengthen capacity inside of Afghanistan and ... safe havens in Pakistan."

The report provides the national security team an opportunity "to evaluate the progress and identify further challenges slightly more than a year after the president laid down a different strategy late last year," Gibbs said.

The report also will demonstrate that the surge of U.S. troops Obama authorized last year allows coalition troops to push back on Taliban insurgents "in important areas of the country, something that wasn't happening until more forces were added."

Challenges remain despite progress, Gibbs said.

"We've got to recruit, train and retain a security force of police and army to be able" to assume responsibility for the country's security, Gibbs offered as one example. "You also have to create the civilian capacity that's necessary to deliver both the basic functions of either a regional or a national government and continue to make progress in doing so in order to hold those regions. All of that is what continues," Gibbs said.

Gibbs earlier said Obama was confident that the United States could "meet our commitment to begin a conditions-based drawdown of our forces next July."

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