Defeated by the US-led international forces in Afghanistan, the al-Qaeda leaders have established a safe haven in Pakistan, President Barack Obama has said.

“After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda’s leadership established a safe-haven there,” Mr. Obama said in his Afghan-policy speech at the West Point Military Academy in New York.

Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it has been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient Security Forces, he said.

“Over the last several years, Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to take control over swaths of Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating acts of terrorism against the Pakistani people,” the US President said.

Shortly after taking office, Mr. Obama said he approved a long-standing request for more troops.

“After consultations with our allies, I then announced a strategy recognising the fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan, and the extremist safe-havens in Pakistan.

“I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and civilian effort,” Mr. Obama said, adding since then, the US has made progress on some important objectives.

“High-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and we have stepped up the pressure on al Qaeda world-wide,” he said.

“In Pakistan, that nation’s Army has gone on its largest offensive in years. In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and -- although it was marred by fraud -- that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan’s laws and Constitution,” he said.

After 9/11, Mr. Obama said, within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed.

“The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope,” he said.

Obama promises continued assistance to Pakistan

US President Barack Obama has promised continued assistance to Pakistan in its fight against violent extremism, the White House said.

The message was conveyed by Obama directly to his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, while his briefing about his new Af-Pak policy last morning over telephone.

“The two Presidents agreed that the close partnership between Pakistan and the United States is vital to success, and President Obama promised to continue to assist Pakistan in its efforts against extremists,” the White House said in a statement.

“The President also recognised the profound sacrifices Pakistan has made in its efforts to combat extremists in its northwest and emphasised that our goal is to defeat al—Qaida and to ensure stability in the region,” the White House said.

The two leaders discussed the President’s decision on the way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the statement said.

More In: International | News