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Exit a part of Obama's Afghanistan plan

Associated Press / March 23, 2009
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WASHINGTON - A comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan - including an exit plan - is key to America's "number one mission" of preventing an attack on the United States, its interests or its allies, President Obama said in an interview broadcast yesterday.

"What we can't do is think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to be able to solve our problems," the president said on CBS's "60 Minutes." "So what we're looking for is a comprehensive strategy. And there's got to be an exit strategy. There's got to be a sense that this is not perpetual drift."

Obama's comments were a prelude to a revamped plan for fighting insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is expected to be announced this week. On Friday, a military official said the overhauled US strategy would call for new garrisons in far-flung Afghan communities to better hold off the Taliban.

Obama's plan covers the next three to five years, with the goals of containing the insurgency and providing enough security for Afghan citizens that they reject the insurgents of their own accord, the official said Friday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the review was not complete.

In the CBS interview, Obama warned that Afghanistan would be "a tough nut to crack," citing difficult terrain, poor infrastructure, and destabilizing border issues with Pakistan.

In the interview, Obama said the most difficult decision he has had to make in his two-month-old presidency was to send more troops to Afghanistan, which he decided before completion of a strategic review on the region.

"When I make a decision to send 17,000 young Americans to Afghanistan, you can understand that intellectually, but understanding what that means for those families, for those young people when you end up sitting at your desk, signing a condolence letter to one of the family members of a fallen hero, you're reminded each and every day at every moment that the decisions you make count."

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