June 23 - U.S. President Barack Obama -- in an interview with Voice of America -- reflects on the role NATO and Pakistan will play as Afghanistan transitions to sovereignty. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
(ROUGH CUT -- NO REPORTER NARRATION) A day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced a phased pullout of troops to end a costly war in Afghanistan, he reflected on the security climate he expects to see in the country over the next few years. He also discussed the expectations for NATO countries, reiterating that there would be no rush to the exits. The president emphasized the merits of a gradual drawdown of forces. Obama also focused on the role Pakistan will play in this transition, underscoring the threat an active Taliban presents to Islamabad. Most pointedly, he urged Pakistan to develop a constructive relationship with Kabul and not use the Taliban as a "hedge" against Afghanistan. In recent years, many in the intelligence and diplomatic community have questioned the relaxed border between the countries, saying the Taliban were being allowed haven in Pakistan. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. President Barack Obama saying: "What we've seen is 100,000 Afghan forces trained and what we've seen is places like Kandahar and Helmand wrested away from the Taliban so communities can feel more safe and more secure . What we now are doing is removing 10,000 troops by the end of this year, an additional 23,00 by the end of next summer. We will get down tot he numbers we had before the surge and we will continue to transition with the goal of completing this transition by 2014. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. President Barack Obama saying: What we've suggested to Pakistan is that not only does terrorism threaten Pakistan more than any other country and not only does it strain its relations with friends like the United States. If it is having a direct relation with the Afghan government that is constructive, there is no reason for them to see the Taliban as a hedge against Afghanistan but instead see the Afghan government as a partner they can work with. SOUNDBITE: U.S. President Barack Obama saying: "All of the allies that I have talked want to make sure that we are finishing the job, that we are turning over to the Afghans a secure country that they can sustain and we want to do so in a cooperative manner that is respective of Afghan law and security. We also don't want to make sure we abandon a law that we invested very heavily in.