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PostSubject: Obama to Accelerate Handover to Afghan Army   Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:12 pm

Washington - President Barack Obama announced Friday that U.S. forces will accelerate the transfer of primary security responsibilities to their Afghan counterparts and take on an exclusively support and training role beginning this spring.

The announcement, which came after several days of meetings between visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai and top U.S. officials here, suggested that Washington may draw down its remaining 66,000-troop force in Afghanistan more quickly than previously planned.

But he also stressed that the pace of such a drawdown will be decided after more consultation with his field commanders over the coming months.

“Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission: training, advising and assisting Afghan forces,” he said in a joint White House press conference with Karzai. “It will be a historic moment.”

Obama also implicitly admitted that the more-ambitious “national-building” counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy that he had advocated four years ago in hopes of improving governance and spurring economic development had fallen short.

“(H)ave we achieved everything that some might have imagined us achieving in the best of scenarios?” he asked. “Probably not. This is a human enterprise, and you fall short of the ideal.”

But he insisted that Washington had achieved “our central goal” which he defined as shaping a “strong relationship with a responsible Afghan government that is willing to cooperate with us to make sure that it is not a launching pad for future attacks against the United States.”

He also stressed that Washington supports a reconciliation process between the Karzai government and the Taliban insurgency and the long-delayed opening of a Taliban office in Qatar to facilitate it.

While he insisted that such a process must be “Afghan led”, he also said Washington believed reconciliation would not be possible “without the Taliban renouncing terrorism” and recognising the existing constitution, including those provisions that protect the rights of women.

In meetings with representatives of the Karzai government in France last month, the Taliban delegates stressed that they were prepared to make compromises, including permitting, for example, girls and women to attend school, albeit in “an Islamic way.”

Analysts here and in the region, however, have said the movement remains deeply split between hard-line and more moderate factions.

While Obama’s remarks left many key questions unanswered – notably how many, if any, and under what conditions U.S. forces may remain in Afghanistan after the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of all NATO combat forces – they made clear that his main focus was to prevent Al-Qaeda and its affiliates from regaining a safe haven in the country from which they had launched the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

read more: http://truth-out.org/news/item/13867-obama-to-accelerate-handover-to-afghan-army

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