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Obama: No Ground Troops Needed In Pakistan

Arguing that the United States had lost its focus in combating the rise in militants in South Asia over the past several years, President Barack Obama said that the U.S. must "refocus attention on al Qaeda" in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

With the president's recent decision to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan and his stated determination to defeat al Qaeda, Mr. Obama was asked by Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer if the war in Afganistan had now become his war.

"I think it's America's war," Mr. Obama replied. "What we want to do is to refocus attention on al Qaeda. We are going to root out their networks, their bases. We are gonna make sure that they cannot attack U.S. citizens, U.S. soil, U.S. interests, and our allies' interests around the world."

When asked if he might order U.S. forces across the border into Pakistan to attack or capture insurgents hiding in safe havens there, President Obama said he is not changing his policy with regard to honoring Pakistan's sovereignty, noting, "If we have a high-value target within our sights, after consulting with Pakistan, we're going after them. But our main thrust has to be to help Pakistan defeat these extremists.

"Our plan does not change the recognition of Pakistan as a sovereign government. We need to work with them and through them to deal with al Qaeda. But we have to hold them much more accountable," Mr. Obama said.

He said U.S. troops would not be sent in on the ground. There was no mention of aerial drones.

Mr. Obama also spoke of the attitude of many Pakistanis who characterize the fight against insurgents in their country as "America's War" in which they have no investment, saying. "That attitude I think has led to a steady creep of extremism in Pakistan that is the greatest threat to the stability of the Pakistan government — and ultimately the greatest threat to the Pakistani people.

"What we want do is say to the Pakistani people, 'You are our friends, you are our allies. We are going to give you the tools to defeat al Qaeda and to root out these safe havens. But we also expect some accountability. And we expect that you understand the severity and the nature of the threat.'"

President Obama also said that, even given the strength of his speech on Friday to increase troop levels in Afghanistan, additional troops is not always the right plan. "What I will not do is to simply assume that more troops always results in an improved situation," he said.

Finally, the president told Schieffer that the U.S. is on the right track in Iraq, but that success in that region does not precipitate a speedier withdrawal schedule.

More from Face The Nation (3.29.09):

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  • Obama Considering Sending U.S. Troops To Mexican Border
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  • Complete Transcript Of Bob Schieffer's Interview

    To watch President Obama discuss the war in Afghanistan and the alarming increase in violence along the U.S.-Mexican border click on the video player below.

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