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Obama vows to pursue gradual transition in Afghanistan

03-07-2012 08:38 BJT

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama pledged on Tuesday to pursue a gradual transition in Afghanistan with "benchmarks and steps" in place.

The president told reporters at the White House that the United States and its NATO allies are sticking with the transition plan agreed to at a NATO summit in Lisbon in November 2010, under which the coalition forces will hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014 and end their combat mission.

He said when he hosts a NATO summit in his hometown of Chicago on May 20-21, he and other leaders will make sure that the transition is "not a cliff," but done with "benchmarks and steps" in the same way as the American forces reduced their role in Iraq.

He said he will pursue a gradual transition with a view to building Afghan capacity, establishing an effective partnership with the country's security forces, and putting in place support structures needed for the overall strategy to be effective.

But he acknowledged that the transition will not be smooth. " There are going to be bumps along the road, just as there were in Iraq," he said.

On the Quran burning incident at the U.S.-run Bagram Airbase near Kabul, which has sparked nationwide protests in Afghanistan resulting in 30 deaths including American servicemen, Obama said he was concerned about the situation.

"I think that it is an indication of the challenges in that environment and it's an indication that now is the time for us to transition," he said.

"We're going to be able to find a mechanism whereby Afghans understand their sovereignty is being respected and that they're going to be taking a greater and greater role in their own security," he said. "That, I think, is in the interest of Afghans. It's also in our interests."

Editor:Zhang Jianfeng |Source: Xinhua

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