Pledges 30,000 more troops; vows to end war and begin pullout in 2011

New York: United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced he was pouring 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan, vowing to “seize the initiative” to end the unpopular war and start a pullout in July 2011.

In a major speech unveiling a new fast-track war strategy, Mr. Obama pledged for the first time that U.S. forces would start coming home in 19 months, as he groped for an exit from a conflict many backers see as a Vietnam-style quagmire.

“Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years, it has moved backwards,” Mr. Obama said, placing a bet that more forces could defeat the Al-Qaeda, crush a resurgent Taliban, and pave the way for a withdrawal.

The speech, before cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who will fight Mr. Obama’s war, marked his biggest test yet as President, and the best opportunity to redefine the conflict.

Nuclear threat

Stating that the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were keen on laying their hands on nuclear weapons, Mr. Obama vowed to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists.

The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan were endangered, he said.

“The stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that the Al-Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them,” Mr. Obama said.

Taliban warning

A report from Kandahar said the Taliban vowed to step up resistance and fight the extra 30,000 American troops. “Obama will witness lots of coffins heading to America from Afghanistan,” spokesman Yousuf Ahamdi told AFP by telephone.

“Their hope to control Afghanistan by military means will not become reality,” he said, reading from what he described as a statement issued by the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate.

Pakistan’s appeal

A statement released by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry in Islamabad urged Mr. Obama to work closely with Islamabad to ensure that his new Afghan war strategy did not harm Pakistan.

“We welcome President Obama’s reaffirmation of partnership between the two countries built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual trust,” it said. — Agencies

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