President Obama said Wednesday he is "confident" his administration will meet its self-imposed deadline to start a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011. "We are not suddenly, as of July 2011, finished with Afghanistan," he said after a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "This is a long-term partnership."
Obama welcomed Karzai to the White House on Wednesday for a second day of a series of high-level discussions regarding the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Karzai huddled on Tuesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Karzai also will meet with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other House leaders later in the day.
Below are some highlights from their news conference on Wednesday:
Obama 'confident' U.S. can start withdrawing troops in July 2011
Obama said Wednesday he is "confident" his administration will meet its self-imposed deadline to start a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July of 2011.
But there's "going to be some hard fighting" over the next few months, he warned. Taliban and other extremist forces are "tough," he said.
He also stressed that the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan will continue long after the deadline.
"We are not suddenly, as of July 2011, finished with Afghanistan," he said during a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House. "This is a long-term partnership."
Obama reaffirms U.S. partnership with Afghan government
Obama said that the United States is committed to a "stable, strong, and prosperous" Afghanistan. He said there is "no denying the progress that the Afghan people have made in recent years," but also said the country still faces major challenges, including "a brutal insurgency."
The U.S. and Afghan governments have reaffirmed their intention to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat" al Qaeda and its allies, the president said, and noted that U.S. military forces have regained the momentum in Afghanistan.
Karzai praises Obama for stronger U.S. efforts in Afghanistan
Karzai thanked Obama for adding "considerable resources" to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
Speaking after a meeting at the White House, Karzai said the two leaders had "a very frank and productive" discussion about, among other things, the protection of Afghan civilians in light of the stronger U.S. military campaign.
He also said the transfer of local detention centers to the Afghan government was a "major point of progress" in the discussions.
Obama, Karzai dismiss reports of heightened tensions
Obama said that many recent reports of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Afghan governments "were simply overstated."
There will be tensions in "such a complicated and difficult environment," he said in the joint appearance with Karzai at the White House. But "our job is to be a good friend and to be frank with President Karzai."
Karzai's role, in turn, is partly to ensure Afghan sovereignty is respected, he said.
"I am very comfortable with the strong effort that President Karzai has made so far," Obama said. "There are going to be setbacks" and disagreements, but "we share a broad strategy" that can hopefully be set out "in a declaration by the end of this year."
Karzai, in turn, said that the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship is "strong and well-rooted" and has endured. "There are moments ... we speak frankly to each other," he conceded. But those exchanges only add to relationship, he said.
Karzai defends recent meeting with Iranian leader
Karzai defended his recent meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, telling reporters at the White House on Wednesday that while Afghanistan is "a partner and friend" of the United States, it also wants to "remain friendly" with its neighbors.
Alluding to tensions between the United States and Iran, Karzai said he wishes "both countries the best."