Obama to give Afghan pullout schedule on 12th
08 February, 2013
ISLAMABAD: US Embassy Spokesperson in Pakistan Ms Rian Harker Harris has stated that President Barrack Hussain Obama during his State of the Union Address on February 12 will announce a comprehensive schedule for withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.
The US will withdraw only combat forces and not all military contingents from Afghanistan. "We would like to underscore that the US relationship with Pakistan is not shaped solely by our commitments and responsibilities in Afghanistan. We are committed to a cooperative and long-term partnership with Pakistan. 2014 is not 1989. The US recognises mistakes of the past and will not disengage from the region. We believe that for the sake of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region, Pakistan's full support to an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process is needed now, and that the US and Pakistan should work together to facilitate a negotiated peace in Afghanistan," she said.
She indicated that International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) will stop its operations by December 31, 2014. Harris made it clear that US is not foe or friend of any political party or any politician in Pakistan. US will support the future democratically elected government of Pakistan.
"We have interest in the strengthening of democracy in this part of the world. Stable, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan is in the best interest of US as well as Afghanistan," she said. She added that the US forces remaining after 2014 will train the Afghan National Army. Harris made it clear that US will not object to the training of Afghan Army and Police in Pakistan's institutions.
"First and foremost, I would like to underscore that we believe that the US assistance to Pakistan in energy, economic development, education, and health is a tangible sign of our long-term investment in Pakistan's future. We also believe that our assistance programmes have delivered real results for the Pakistani people. Since October 2009, the US has disbursed $3.2 billion just in civilian and humanitarian assistance," she said.
On training camps of terrorist in India as disclosed by Indian Interior Minister, she said the US has taken strict notice of these camps. "To culminate the terrorism is the US basic goal. To achieve this goal, Pakistan has supported a lot. We are fully aware of the sacrifices which the Pakistan military and civilians have made in this regard. US people appreciate the sacrifices of thousands of Pakistanis in the war against terrorism," she said. She made it clear that US has not opposed the talks between Pakistan and Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
When asked about the about the severe energy problem being faced by the Pakistan, she replied: "We have already added over 400 megawatts of capacity to the power grid – enough to supply electricity to nearly 900,000 households, or roughly 6 million people, and we're funding large-scale energy projects that will add 900 megawatts to the power grid by 2013. It will be enough power to supply electricity to estimated two million households."
These projects include renovating the power plant at the Tarbela Dam, replacing two aging turbines at Mangla Dam, modernising thermal power plants in Guddu, Jamshoro, and Muzafaragarh and building new Satpara and Gomal Zam Dams.
On Diamer Basha Dam, she said: "We understand that this is a high priority project for the government of Pakistan, and we discuss it regularly with Pakistani officials and other donors and stakeholders. Currently, we are focused on helping identify and fund a financial consultancy for the government that could help develop a viable financial plan for the project.
However, Diamer Basha is a complicated $13 billion-plus project that will take over a decade to complete. It will require the resources of multiple donors, multilateral development banks, commercial financiers, and – most importantly – the government of Pakistan."
She said her government is funding education programs that will help millions of Pakistani children unlock their full potential, building and renovating 800 schools, training teachers at 90 teacher colleges and universities, funding the largestFulbright academic exchange program in the world and helping more than 5,000 low income children learn English.
For boosting the economic growth, Harris said, "We are creating jobs and increasing incomes with programs that boost agricultural output, build roads, and help entrepreneurs grow their businesses."
To support the dairy industry, and create jobs and higher incomes in this sector, we are working with thousands of women and men dairy farmers to adopt better livestock management practices, such as proper feeding and water for their animals, vaccination, treatment of diseases, and animal care; processing and storing of milk to improve its quality§ finding better-paying markets.
In October, she said the US organised the 'U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference' in London to bring together Pakistani businesses with American businesses and bankers to help identify new business and investment opportunities in Pakistan.
She said the US launched the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative – which invests in small- and medium- size business in Pakistan to help them grow their business and create jobs.
Two-way trade between Pakistan and the US was more than $5 billion in 2011. The U.S. is already Pakistan's largest export market and there is a trade surplus between the two countries (more trade flows from Pakistan to the US).
She said the US is investing in innovative health projects to help strengthen the health care system in Pakistan, in order to help Pakistanis lead healthier lives. She further stated that in December, the US inaugurated the construction of a new obstetrics and gynecology ward at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center. This new $4.5 million facility will provide 60 beds for surgery and treatment of obstetrics and gynecological conditions which afflict many poor women in Sindh and Balochistan. About 15,000 women per year will receive life-saving treatment there.
Harris elaborated: "We are building a new training institute that will upgrade the Jinnah Medical Center's capacity as a first-rate center for medical education in Pakistan. This new institute will allow the medical faculty to maintain their skills and make state-of-the-art training available for more than 1,300 medical students."
She said the US is funding construction of a new $10 million public hospital in Jacobabad to improve health services for more than one million people in northern Sindh. The hospital will have 133 beds, as well as a solar energy system and standby generators to make sure the power never goes out on the doctors and patients.
Construction will begin early this year and will be completed within 2 years."We have also rebuilt, renovated, and equipped many health facilities throughout FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and other parts of Pakistan," she said. She said the US has funded construction and rebuilding of over 650 km of roads in KP and FATA. The Peshawar-Torkham highway reconstruction is underway to help revitalise this important trade route.
"There are so many more projects that I could mention, but I will leave it at this for now. We strongly support a democratically elected civilian government in Pakistan. We do not support any particular Pakistani political party and we do not support any individual Pakistani politician. We are backing democracy. The United States looks forward to timely, free, and fair elections that will result in the first civilian democratic transition in Pakistan's history," she said.In the end she disclosed that the US Ambassador will brief a group of editors of the federal capital newspaper on February 8 regarding Pak-Us relationship.