Washington: US President Barack Obama declared in an interview that the country was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the US military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq.
Obama pointed to the success in peeling Iraqi insurgents away from more hard core elements of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a strategy that many credit as much as the increase of the US forces with turning the war around in the last two years. “There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and in the Pakistani region," he said, while cautioning that solutions in Afghanistan will be complicated.
In a conversation with ‘The New York Times’ aboard Air Force One on Friday, Obama reviewed the challenges to his administration. The president said he could not assure Americans the economy would begin growing again this year.
Reassuring: A three-picture combo shows Obama with Ohio legislators aboard Air Force One on Friday. Stephen Crowley / NYT
But he pledged that he would "get all the pillars in place for recovery this year" and urged Americans not to "stuff money in their mattresses".
“I don't think that people should be fearful about our future," he said. “I don't think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions."
After the interview, which took place as the president was flying home from Ohio, he called reporters from the Oval Office to assert that his actions have been “entirely consistent with free-market principles" and to point out that large-scale government intervention in the markets and expansion of social welfare programmes began under president George W. Bush.
Obama struck a reassuring tone, saying Americans should not be frightened of the future, and he said he had no trouble sleeping at night.
“Look, I wish I had the luxury of just dealing with a modest recession or just dealing with health care or just dealing with energy or just dealing with Iraq or just dealing with Afghanistan," Obama said. “I don't have that luxury, and I don't think the American people do, either."
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES