Amid Soaring Deaths, Obama Affirms Afghan Strategy

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Agence France-Presse

Amid Soaring Deaths, Obama Affirms Afghan Strategy

No 'Adjustments' Needed on War Fronts: Obama

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This year's foreign troop death toll is the highest on record since the war began in late 2001. (AFP)

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama has told lawmakers that no
current changes are needed to his Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, as
US forces escalate operations against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Obama
delivered the verdict, which had previously been voiced by senior
members of his national security staff, as he handed over his
administration's latest classified report on the conduct of the war
mandated by Congress.

"We are continuing to implement the policy
as described in December and do not believe further adjustments are
required at this time," Obama wrote in the assessment, delivered Monday.

"As
the Congress continues its deliberations on the way ahead in
Afghanistan and Pakistan, I want to continue to underscore our nation's
interests in the successful implementation of this policy."

At the
end of an exhaustive policy review in December, Obama announced plans
to surge 30,000 troops into Afghanistan to seize the momentum in the
long-running war but warned some soldiers would begin to withdraw by
July 2011.

The president is expected to mount a fresh review of
strategy on Afghanistan by the end of the year, but again, no major
adjustments are expected.

The NATO-led strategy is designed to
push Taliban insurgents out of major towns in the south and east while
building up Afghan government security forces so that American troops
can start withdrawing by July 2011.

Defense Secretary Robert
Gates and top commanders say there are tentative signs of progress in
Afghanistan, where nearly 150,000 US and allied troops are trying to
turn the tide against a resilient Islamist insurgency.

The White
House said late Monday that Obama held a 30-minute videoconference with
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, discussing "a number of topics, including
the strategic vision for long term U.S.-Afghan relations, the recent
Afghan parliamentary elections, and regional relations."

"The two
leaders agreed that they should continue routine engagements to refine a
common vision and to align our efforts to support President Karzai's
goal of completing transition to Afghan lead security responsibility by
2014," the White House said.

Obama released his report Monday amid
fresh evidence of an escalation of US activity in the lawless region
between Pakistan and Afghanistan

A US drone strike on Monday
killed eight militants, including German nationals in Pakistan near the
Afghan border, local security officials said.

The attack came
hours after Japan and Sweden joined Washington and London in issuing an
alert warning of a "possible terrorist attack" by Al-Qaeda and
affiliated groups against their citizens travelling in Europe.

Fresh
bombings, shootings and violence meanwhile underscored the heavy toll
on US and allied forces, as five NATO soldiers died Monday.

The
new deaths took to 561 the number of foreign troops killed in the Afghan
war so far in 2010, according to a tally by independent website icasualties.org, as the toll from the nine-year Taliban-led insurgency worsens.

This
year's toll is the highest on record since the war began in late 2001
with a US-led invasion toppling the Taliban regime after it refused to
hand over Al-Qaeda leaders following the September 11 attacks.

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