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Obama: Step Up Effort Against Taliban, Al-Qaida

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama said Sunday the United States, NATO and Afghanistan must do more to combat the Taliban and al-Qaida, and he urged stronger steps to prod Pakistan into eliminating cross-border terrorist training camps.

“Our message to the Afghan government is this: We want a strong partnership based on `more for more’ – more resources from the United States and NATO, and more action from the Afghan government to improve the lives of the Afghan people,” Obama and Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. and Jack Reed, D-R.I., said in a written statement after departing Afghanistan.

Separately, in a broadcast interview, Obama suggested the U.S. Link continued military aid to Pakistan to the government’s willingness to combat terrorists in a lawless region astride its border with Afghanistan.

“I think that the U.S. government provides an awful lot of aid to Pakistan, provides a lot of military support to Pakistan. And to send a clear message to Pakistan that this is important, to them as well as to us,” he said. “I think that message has not been sent.”

Security problems in Afghanistan cannot be solved, he said, “without engaging the Pakistan government.”

Obama made his comments while on campaign-season trip to two war zones, in addition to the Middle East and Europe. The Illinois senator is due to accept his party’s presidential nomination next month, and his campaign has turned the journey into a high-profile debut on the international stage.

He departed Afghanistan shortly after the interview, which aired on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” although details of his stop to Iraq were withheld for security reasons.

Obama, Hagel and Reed have called for an end to the U.S. combat role in Iraq. In their statement, they emphasized that Afghanistan is “the central front in the war on terrorism.

“Those who actually attacked us on 9/11 reside in the badlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They have regrouped and they are getting stronger, as we saw yesterday with attacks throughout Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of a NATO soldier and several members of the Afghan police,” they said.

Obama has suggested adding two or three brigades to the U.S. deployment to Afghanistan. A brigade is roughly 3,500 troops.

While he has called Iraq a distraction in the fight against terrorism, Obama also has said recently the government of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has “not gotten out of the bunker” to improve the lives of ordinary residents.

Obama, Hagel and Reed met with Karzai while in Afghanistan. It was not known whether Obama made similar comments in the talks.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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