In his speech, Obama began to do so, saying that “the goal that we seek is achievable and can be expressed simply: no safe haven from which al-Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies. We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. . . . Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.”
While numerous international terrorist plots have emerged from Pakistan in recent years, “we haven’t seen a terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan for the past seven or eight years,” a senior administration official said.
President Obama announced plans Wednesday night to remove 33,000 'surge' troops from Afghanistan and discussed a more strategic, focused American foreign policy.
“There has been clearly fighting and threats inside of Afghanistan, but the assessment of anywhere between 50, 75 or so al-Qaeda types that are embedded in Haqqani [insurgent] units . . . are focused inside Afghanistan, with no indication at all that there is any effort . . . to use Afghanistan as a launching pad to carry out attacks outside of Afghan borders,” the official said.
U.S. forces in the southern Afghan provinces of Kandahar and Helmand have been fighting Taliban members loyal to Mohammad Omar, the leader of the former Taliban government that fled into Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. The separate Haqqani network of Afghan militants is based in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal regions, along Afghanistan’s eastern border.
Haqqani sanctuaries — from which attacks are launched throughout eastern Afghanistan — are most closely intertwined with those belonging to al-Qaeda; together, they have been the primary targets of drone-launched CIA missiles in Pakistan.
The current estrangement between the United States and Pakistan — including Pakistani demands that the CIA withdraw from the base where many of the drones are based — has also helped convince administration officials of the importance of expanding the U.S. military presence in eastern Afghanistan.
“We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism,” Obama said, “and we will insist that it keep its commitments.”