17 Dec 10
The UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, has welcomed a US review published this week of the strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan which, the review says, has weakened Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
A five-page summary of the review was published by the White House yesterday. The review follows US President Barack Obama's direction to his national security team to regularly assess their efforts and to review progress a year after the new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan was launched last December.
Announcing the review yesterday, Mr Obama said:
"I want to be clear; this continues to be a very difficult endeavour, but I can report that thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals.
"It's important to remember why we remain in Afghanistan. It was Afghanistan where Al-Qaeda plotted the 9/11 attacks that murdered 3,000 innocent people. It is the tribal regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border from which terrorists have launched more attacks against our homeland and our allies.
"And if an even wider insurgency were to engulf Afghanistan, that would give Al-Qaeda even more space to plan these attacks.
"And that's why from the start I've been very clear about our core goal. It's not to defeat every last threat to the security of Afghanistan, because ultimately it is Afghans who must secure their country. And it's not nation-building, because it is Afghans who must build their nation.
"Rather, we are focused on disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and preventing its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.
"In pursuit of our core goal, we are seeing significant progress. Today, Al-Qaeda's senior leadership in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan is under more pressure than at any point since they fled Afghanistan nine years ago.
"Senior leaders have been killed. It's harder for them to recruit, it's harder for them to travel, it's harder for them to train, it's harder for them to plot and launch attacks. In short, Al-Qaeda is hunkered down.
"It will take time to ultimately defeat Al-Qaeda, and it remains a ruthless and resilient enemy bent on attacking our country. But make no mistake, we are going to remain relentless in disrupting and dismantling that terrorist organisation."
"We are moving toward a new phase in Afghanistan - a transition to full Afghan lead for security that will begin early next year and will conclude in 2014."
Mr Obama said that in Afghanistan we remain focused on the three areas of our strategy: our military effort to break the Taliban's momentum and train Afghan forces so they can take the lead; our civilian effort to promote effective governance and development; and regional co-operation, especially with Pakistan, because our strategy has to succeed on both sides of the border.
"The additional military and civilian personnel that I ordered in Afghanistan are now in place, along with additional forces from our coalition which has grown to 49 nations.
"Along with our Afghan partners, we've gone on the offensive, targeting the Taliban and its leaders and pushing them out of their strongholds.
"To ensure Afghans can take responsibility, we continue to focus on training. Targets for the growth of Afghan security forces are being met. And because of the contributions of additional trainers from our coalition partners, I'm confident we will continue to meet our goals.
"I would add that much of this progress - the speed with which our troops deployed this year, the increase in recruits … in recruiting and training of Afghan forces, and the additional troops and trainers from other nations; much of this is the result of us having sent a clear signal that we will begin the transition of responsibility to Afghans and start reducing American forces next July.
"This sense of urgency also helped galvanise the coalition around the goals that we agreed to at the recent NATO Summit in Lisbon; that we are moving toward a new phase in Afghanistan - a transition to full Afghan lead for security that will begin early next year and will conclude in 2014, even as NATO maintains a long-term commitment to training and advising Afghan forces."
Welcoming the review, a spokesman for the UK's Prime Minister said:
"We very much welcome President Obama's review of the campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"It is consistent with the British Government's assessment and strategy, and with the agreements made by the international coalition and the Afghan Government at the Lisbon NATO Summit.
"International forces are in Afghanistan because Al-Qaeda must never again be allowed to use the country as a base from which to threaten the UK, the US and our allies.
"It is important to remember that this is why UK forces are there - to protect our national security.
"Like President Obama, we see 2011 as the year in which we have to make progress both lasting and irreversible.
"We also agree that we must use our civilian and military momentum to support a durable and favourable political resolution of the conflict
"Success in the campaign in Afghanistan remains this Government's highest foreign policy priority. We will continue to work hand in glove with the United States and our allies to achieve this."