Obama praises Mideast commitments

May 6, 2009 2:43:19 PM PDT
President Barack Obama said he got the commitments he wanted Wednesday from the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan to more aggressively fight Taliban and al-Qaida militants who are gaining power and sowing violence inside their countries' borders. "I'm pleased that these two men, elected leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, fully appreciate the seriousness of the threats that we face and have reaffirmed their commitment to confronting it," Obama said at the White House. The presidents of the two countries stood at his side after a day of joint meetings.

The high-stakes diplomacy had Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's Asif Ali Zardari meeting with U.S. officials separately and together, first at the State Department and then at the White House. Looming over the sessions was a bombing on Monday in Afghanistan that officials there said killed dozens of civilians and for which the Obama administration apologized.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Karzai that the Obama administration "deeply, deeply" regretted the loss of civilian lives. When Obama went before the cameras, he pledged his administration would "make every effort to avoid civilian casualties" in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, where U.S. airstrikes have stoked anti-American sentiment.

Obama emphasized the progress he said was achieved in the joint meetings taking place thousands of miles from the conflicts.

Gathering the three leaders together at one table, along with lower-level officials from the three countries, "reflects the kind of concrete cooperation and detail that is going to ultimately make a difference in improving opportunity and democracy and stability in Pakistan and in Afghanistan," Obama said.

The stakes couldn't be higher, he said.

"We have learned time and again that our security is shared," the president said. "It is a lesson that we learned most painfully on 9/11, and it is a lesson that we will not forget."


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