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Obama to announce new US strategy to defeat Al-Qaeda

US President Barack Obama will on Friday announce a new strategy to 'disrupt, dismantle and defeat' Al-Qaeda in safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan and deploy an extra 4,000 military trainers.

world Updated: Mar 27, 2009 07:54 IST

President Barack Obama will Friday announce a new strategy to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" Al-Qaeda in safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan and deploy an extra 4,000 military trainers.

The new strategy, the product of a 60-day review in conjunction with US allies, marks one of the boldest foreign policy bets laid so far in Obama's two months in power and defies those who warn he is walking into a quagmire.

The 4,000 US troops will build up the Afghan army and are in addition to 17,000 extra troops already promised by the president.

Obama will also send hundreds more civilian and development workers into Afghanistan, three administration officials said on the eve of his announcement.

"It is a clear, concise, attainable goal, and that goal is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al-Qaeda in its safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan," one of the officials said on condition of anonymity.

The strategy will also establish clear benchmarks to judge the performance of the United States and its allies in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, to enable mid-course corrections, another official said.

The officials accused the Bush administration of leaving US policy "adrift" in the two nations.

"Seven-and-a-half years after September 11, the Al-Qaeda core leadership, Osama bin Laden and others, have moved from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to a location unknown, somewhere in Pakistan," one official said.

"From that location in Pakistan, we know they are plotting new attacks against the United States, against our allies, against our forces in Afghanistan, against our Pakistani friends as well."

The officials discounted the arguments of critics who oppose escalating the US role in the conflict, warning that given a vacuum, the Taliban would return in force to Kabul, and bring Al-Qaeda along.

The officials also said the Taliban had made a "very significant comeback in the last two years," that could not be allowed to take root.

Obama will formally announce the new strategy to members of the military and development workers who will serve in the two nations in coming months, as well as foreign ambassadors at a White House event on Friday.

He will then present it to US NATO allies at the end of next week at the western alliance's annual summit, along the border of France and Germany.

A key ingredient will be benchmarks so that later this year Obama will be able to judge if his policy is working, or if it needs to be adjusted.

"We will develop benchmarks and metrics to measure our performance, and frankly to measure the performance of our partners and our allies," one official said.

"We will periodically revisit those metrics to see how they are doing and to see if we need mid-course corrections."

Another key goal of the strategy is to support Pakistan's besieged Democratic government, and to help Islamabad crack down on Al-Qaeda and Taliban havens on its territory.

"In many ways, Pakistan is the hardest part of the problem," one of the officials said, adding that terror groups had become a "Frankenstein" within the country that threatened the survival of democracy.

Obama will support a bi-partisan Senate bill to triple US aid to Afghanistan to 1.5 billion dollars a year for five years, and would also look at needed military assistance, particularly helicopters to transport troops to war zones.

"We are going from a policy of throwing money at Pakistan and ignoring it, to a policy of consistency and constancy towards Pakistan," the official added.

The officials also said they expected to secure pledges for additional military help for the Afghan war from NATO allies next week.

France, for instance, had expressed an interest in working with the Afghan police force, one of the officials said.

The administration officials argued that the Bush administration had failed to properly finance the development of the national Afghan army.

The review will set a target of expanding the Afghan army to 134,000 men and the police force to 82,000, but the numbers could go higher if needed, the officials said.

As a result of the troop increases, the US force in Afghanistan will reach 61,000-65,000 by mid-September, which officials said would have a significant impact on the war zone.

They also said they would attempt to engage Afghan tribes and foot soldiers, who were not as committed to the fight as Taliban leaders and could be prised away from the force.

First Published: Mar 27, 2009 07:37 IST