CNN Wire Staff
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama asserted Thursday that the United States is making significant progress in the nine-year war in Afghanistan, but warned that the conflict "continues to be a very difficult endeavor."
We are "on track to achieve our goals" of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda and eroding "its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future," he said. The gains, however, are fragile.
The president noted, among other things, that there has been a "successful increase" in the recruitment and training of Afghan forces due partly to the July 2011 deadline set by the administration to start withdrawing the U.S. military.
A "sense of urgency" is galvanizing other allies as well, he claimed.
Obama was joined for the announcement by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James Cartwright.
To further U.S. goals in the region, Obama announced he will travel to Pakistan next year. While Islamabad increasingly recognizes the danger of confronting militants along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, "progress has not come fast enough," he said.
"Terrorist safe havens within (Pakistan's) borders must be dealt with," he said.
Obama's remarks came as the White House released a long-awaited report on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ground has been gained in halting the momentum of militants thanks in large part to the administration's acceleration of resources to the war effort, the report concluded.
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