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LONDON, July 11 U.S. and allied troops have
pushed back Taliban insurgents in a major offensive in
Afghanistan but there is still a long way to go, U.S. President
Barack Obama said on Saturday.
"We knew that this summer was going to be tough fighting ...
They (the Taliban) have, I think, been pushed back but we still
have a long way to go. We've got to get through elections," he
said in an interview with Sky News during his visit to Ghana.
He said the United States and its allies would have to
evaluate the situation after Afghanistan's Aug. 20 presidential
election to see what more they could do. "It may not be on the
military side, it may be on the development side," he said.
U.S. and British forces are both involved in fierce fighting
in the Taliban bastion of Helmand in southern Afghanistan.
Obama praised the "extraordinary role" British soldiers had
played in Afghanistan and said his heart went out to the
families of eight British soldiers killed there in the last few
Asked whether Washington still needed British forces in
Afghanistan now that it was ramping up its forces there, Obama
said: "The contribution of the British is critical."
"This is not an American mission. The mission in Afghanistan
is one that the Europeans have as much if not more of a stake in
than we do ... The likelihood of a terrorist attack in London is
at least as high, if not higher, than it is in the United
States," he said.
Past and present British prime ministers Tony Blair and
Gordon Brown had not committed troops to Afghanistan because
they wanted to "put their young men and women in harm's way," he
"It's because of a recognition that we've got a serious
fight on our hands and we've got to deal with it smartly, but
we've got to deal with it effectively," he said.
The most important thing was for Washington and its allies
to combine their military efforts in Afghanistan with effective
diplomacy and development "so that Afghans feel a greater stake
and have a greater capacity to secure their country," he said.
After next month's election, "we need to start directing our
attention to how do we create an Afghan army, an Afghan police,
how do we work with the Pakistanis effectively so that they are
the ones who are at the forefront of controlling their own
countries?" Obama said.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Jon Boyle)