The violent extremism that threatens the people and governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan also undermines the stability of the wider region and threatens the security of our friends, allies and interests around the world. All of us whose shared future is at stake must take responsibility for securing it.
This week, President Barack Obama reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to our core goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and prevent their return to either country. The US is sending an additional 30,000 personnel to Afghanistan, significantly increasing our civilian aid to the Afghan people, and broadening our partnership with Pakistan.
Today in Brussels, I will discuss the way forward with our allies. And I will thank those nations that have pledged additional troops. This is a crucial test for Nato. After September 11, the alliance invoked Article 5 of its charter for the first time, affirming that the terrorist attacks planned in Afghanistan and perpetrated in the US were attacks on every Nato member. The members of the alliance have paid a steep price in lives, but we must remain firm in our resolve.
For countries in the region, the stakes are particularly high. Civilians of every faith have been murdered, but Muslims have paid the highest toll. Troops from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and other Muslim-majority nations are fighting extremism in Afghanistan and their participation is vital to our mission.
Along with the extra American troops, more international forces will help to deny al-Qaeda a safe haven; reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government; and strengthen the capacity of the Afghans to take responsibility for their own security.
President Obama has outlined a time frame for transition to Afghan responsibility, with the additional troops allowing us to accelerate handing over security to Afghan forces, beginning in July 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.
Our approach signals both the urgency and resolve that this mission requires. Our urgency is reflected in the time frame for transition that asks the Afghan government to start taking full ownership of security. Our resolve is reflected in the substantial deployment of troops since the President took office; in our commitment to assist Afghan forces for the long haul; and in the significant civilian commitment that will continue long after our forces leave.
It should be clear to everyone that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past. The US and our partners will have an enduring commitment to the region. Ultimately, we recognise that only the Afghan people can decide what kind of nation they want to build for themselves. And only the Pakistani people can ensure their country’s democratic future. That is why we are working as partners in both countries. The United States has no interest in occupation — we seek partnerships based on mutual respect, mutual interest and mutual trust.
As the President said, our goal is to isolate those who destroy, to strengthen those who build, to hasten the day when our troops will leave, and to forge lasting friendships in which America is a partner, and never a patron.
For the US, for Nato, for Muslim communities, for peace-loving people around the world, and most of all for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, this is a war that must be won. We will do our part. And so must the world.