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US will not tolerate safe havens in Pakistan: Obama

world Updated: Jun 23, 2011 14:27 IST

IANS
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As US President Barack Obama announced a drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan from next month, he served a notice on Islamabad that terrorist safe havens in Pakistan would not be tolerated.

"We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments," Obama said in a nationally televised address Wednesday from the East Room of the White House.

"For there should be no doubt that so long as I am president, the United States will never tolerate a safe-haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve," he said.

While the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan would begin "from a position of strength", Obama said US "efforts must also address terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan".

"No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region," he said.

Announcing that all the 33,000 additional US forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 would be home within the next 15 months, Obama said 10,000 of the so-called "surge" forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012.

Calling the surge "one of the most difficult decisions that I've made as president", Obama said the military campaign was "meeting our goals" in Afghanistan and the drawdown would begin "from a position of strength".

Commenting on the drawdown announcement, the New York Times observed:

"Though the president could not say so directly, one of the constraints on America's retreat from a hard and bloody decade is the recognition that, more than ever, the United States will be relying on Afghanistan's help to deal with the threats emerging from Pakistan."

The essence of Obama's decision is to accelerate what's working - no matter how loudly the Pakistanis protest about drone strikes and violations of their sovereignty, the Times said citing a senior administration official.

The official cited by the daily made clear that the Obama administration's primary focus now was a much larger, and more dangerous, presence of insurgents remaining in Pakistan.