Barack Obama warns troops will be in Afghanistan for years,00.html

Matthew Franklin in Washington | March 25, 2009

BARACK Obama has warned the war in Afghanistan will continue for years, vowing the free world must not back down in the face of "vicious killers".

And the US President has also promised to end the “shenanigans” in the finance sector that triggered the global recession and to regulate to return to a state of responsible economic growth.

Mr Obama's comments came early this morning after a 70-minute meeting with Kevin Rudd at the White House.

The first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders was dominated by the economy and Afghanistan amid widespread expectations Mr Obama will ask Australia to increase its military involvement in the troubled nation beyond its current troop strength of 1100.

Mr Obama, who is awaiting a comprehensive review of the US engagement against Taliban insurgents, did not say whether he had asked Mr Rudd for more troops.

But he said that despite the mounting death toll in the seven-year-old war, the involvement of the US and its Allies had failed to eliminate the threat of terrorism from Al-Qaida and its affiliates.

“I think the American and the Australian people also recognise that in order for us to keep our homelands safe, in order to maintain our way of life in order to ensure order on the international scene, that we can't allow vicious killers to have their way,” Mr Obama told reporters in the Oval Office.

“We're going to do what's required to ensure that does not happen.”

Mr Obama said he understood the public frustration over the need to send troops overseas, some never to return to their families.

But he said Americans and Australians also understood terror.

“What's been burned into our memory is the events of 9-11,” he said.

“I think the Australian people remember what happened in Bali. That's not something that we will forget.

“As a consequence it's important for us to stay on the offensive and to dismantle these terrorist organisations wherever they are.”

While refusing to pre-empt his review into the US strategy in Afghanistan, Mr Obama said there was need for greater focus and a recognition that the war must be accompanied by greater diplomatic efforts and material aid to Afghanistan.

“My expectation would be that over the next couple of years you are going to see a more comprehensive strategy, a more focussed strategy, a more disciplined strategy to achieve our common goal,”he said.

Mr Rudd also said he was confident concerted action by governments would be able to stabilise the global financial system.

But he said the new challenge facing the world was to replace dependence on speculative investment bubbles with new and safer drivers of economic growth.

“One area where we agree there is enormous potential is in the area of clean energy,” he said.

“Both Australia and the United States have vast coal reserves but we are also very interested in figuring out how do we reduce the greenhouse gases that are causing global warming.”

It was vital to develop technologies to capture and store carbon emissions to avoid the collapse of existing industries while also reducing emissions, he said.

“That's an example of something that can create jobs, also deal with a potential environmental crisis,” Mr Obama said.

“That's the kind of economic growth that I think we are going to be looking for.”

Mr Rudd said Mr Obama had indicated the US would join his initiative of the creation of a Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute aimed at generating jobs through clean coal technologies.

“That's going to be welcome around the world,” the Prime Minister said.

“Generating jobs through clean coal and carbon sequestration tecnologies is critical. It's also critical in bringing down greenhouse gas emissions.”