By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 20, 2009 - President Barack Obama pledged today to keep ramping up pressure on insurgents in Afghanistan, citing developments aimed at "squeezing them from both sides" to ultimately "flush them out." Obama spoke primarily about health-care reform during a call-in program with Michael Smerconish from Philadelphia radio station WPHT. But recognizing the significance of today's Afghan national elections, Smerconish pressed the president to assess where things stand in the war on terror.
The president cited what he said appears to have been a successful election despite Taliban efforts to disrupt it. He also pointed to new leadership under Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and additional U.S. and NATO International Security Assistance Force troops who are putting pressure on insurgents operating in the east and south.
In addition, Obama noted, "you've got the Pakistani army for the first time actually fighting in a very aggressive way."
"That's how we took out Baitullah Mehsud, the top Taliban leader in Pakistan, who was also one of [al-Qaida leader Osama] bin Laden's key allies," he said. Mehsud was killed by a missile strike earlier this month.
"We are continuing to ramp up the pressure in Afghanistan," Obama said. "The goal here is essentially to have a pincher, where we are squeezing them on both sides. We're eliminating their allies. It's making it more difficult for them to communicate, making it more difficult for them to operate safe havens. And over time, what we hope to do is to flush them out. We are going to keep on putting pressure on them."
Obama conceded that these efforts come at a great cost. He noted that he signs letters of condolence to families of fallen servicemembers, and recognizes that "a lot more are falling in Afghanistan than in Iraq."
"As a consequence, we've got to make sure that we are really focused on finishing the job in Afghanistan," he said. "But it's going to take some time."