Factbox: Obama expresses confidence on Afghan war, Qaeda

(BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that U.S. forces had captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, during the past year and he expressed confidence of success in the Afghan war.

In his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Obama also said he was fulfilling his campaign pledge to end the war in Iraq and that U.S. combat troops would be out of the country by the end of August.

Following are some of his comments, along with background, on the major foreign policy issues he discussed:

AFGHANISTAN

“In the last year, hundreds of al Qaeda’s fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed — far more than in 2008. In Afghanistan, we are increasing our troops and training Afghan Security Forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home.”

Obama unveiled a new Afghanistan war policy early in his administration, saying the primary U.S. goal was to crush al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It called for intensified training of Afghan security forces, and a major civilian component to promote development in the region.

The president named Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a counterinsurgency warfare expert, as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan in May. McChrystal put together a grim assessment of the conflict, warning that Western allies must reverse the insurgency’s momentum or risk being unable to defeat it.

Obama agreed to McChrystal’s request for more troops in December, saying he would deploy another 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan by the summer of 2010. But he also indicated the troops would begin returning home after 18 months.

Obama’s remarks came ahead of a 60-nation conference on Afghanistan in London on Thursday. The meeting is aimed at laying the groundwork for an eventual settlement that could include elements of the Taliban, the Afghan militant group that once sheltered al Qaeda.

IRAQ

“As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president … Make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.”

Obama outlined his vision for winding down the Iraq war back in February 2009, saying the U.S. combat mission in Iraq would end by August 31, 2010.

Between 35,000 and 50,000 would remain in Iraq in non-combat roles after that date, and all troops would be out by December 31, 2011 — the deadline stipulated in a deal signed by the Iraqi government and the Bush administration.

IRAN

“As Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences.”

Obama came to office pushing a new approach toward Iran, but his policy, notable for its different tone and offer of direct talks, has so far failed to convince Tehran to curb its nuclear program.

Iran has not responded to pressure to abandon its nuclear enrichment program, despite warnings of tougher action from the United States and other members of the P5+1 negotiating group, which including China, Britain, France, Russia, the United States and Germany.

Tehran acknowledged the existence of a second, secretly built nuclear enrichment facility in 2009. And it rejected a confidence-building measure that would have enabled it to ship partially enriched uranium out of the country for further enrichment so it could be used in a research reactor. The powers are considering further sanctions against Iran.

NORTH KOREA

“North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions — sanctions that are being vigorously enforced.”

North Korea has repeatedly challenged the Obama administration during its first year, conducting missile launches and its second nuclear test.

Squeezed by sanctions since the nuclear test, Pyongyang has signaled an interest in resuming six-party talks with China, the United States, Japan, Russia and South Korea after a year-long boycott. The talks are aimed at convincing the North to give up its nuclear arms program.

U.S. special envoy Stephen Bosworth visited North Korea in December for talks aimed at coaxing North Korea back to the six-party process. The administration is still waiting for Pyongyang’s response.

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(Reporting by David Alexander, editing by Anthony Boadle)

Factbox: Obama expresses confidence on Afghan war, Qaeda