The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan is showing significant signs of progress in halting Taliban momentum in Afghanistan and dismantling al-Qaida operations in the region, President Barack Obama said. Obama, speaking at the White House on the assessment of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, cited progress in achieving what he called the core goal in Afghanistan. “It’s not to defeat every last threat to the security of Afghanistan, because ultimately it is Afghans who must secure their country,” the president said. “And it’s not nation-building, because it is Afghans who must build their nation.” Obama identified solid evidence that al-Qaida is feeling the pinch as the strategy takes hold. “Al-Qaida’s senior leadership in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan is under more pressure than at any point since they fled Afghanistan nine years ago,” he said. “Senior leaders have been killed. It’s harder for them to recruit. It’s harder for them to travel. It’s harder for them to train. It’s harder for them to plot and launch attacks. In short, al-Qaida is hunkered down.” Obama acknowledged, however, that many of these gains are “still fragile and reversible.” Ultimately defeating al-Qaida — which Obama said “remains a ruthless and resilient enemy bent on attacking our country” — will take time, and will involve difficult days ahead. “But make no mistake, we are going to remain relentless in disrupting and dismantling that terrorist organization,” the president added. “We’re going to have to continue to stand up.” Obama emphasized that succeeding in Afghanistan requires more than military strength. Equally important as the military works to break the Taliban’s momentum, he said, is training Afghan forces so they can take the security lead for their country, promoting effective governance and development and encouraging regional cooperation, especially with Pakistan. Obama pledged to continue to give U.S. troops and civilians the strategy and resources they need to succeed. “For the first time in years,” he said, “we’ve put in place the strategy and the resources that our efforts in Afghanistan demand.” Obama noted that the drawdown in Iraq has freed up troops and equipment to achieve U.S. goals in Afghanistan, and he cited a new “sense of urgency” that has galvanized the coalition as it continues the mission in Afghanistan. “We are moving toward a new phase in Afghanistan, a transition to full Afghan lead for security that will begin early next year and will conclude in 2014, even as NATO maintains a long-term commitment to training and advising Afghan forces,” Obama said. Additionally, the president called on the nation to draw strength from its servicemembers who have been key in the fight against al-Qaida. “I can report that, thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals,” Obama said. “Despite the tough fight, despite all their sacrifice, they continue to stand up for our security and for our values that we hold so dear.” By Dialogo December 20, 2010
… Essequibo, Berbice face off in final tomorrow BERBICE bowlers ran through Georgetown-Mahaicony Combined line-up to post an easy 90-run win in the second semifinal in the Combined Phase of the National Secondary Schools cricket tournament yesterday at the Georgetown Cricket Club ground.The win means that Berbice Combined will face Essequibo Combined in the final tomorrow at the same venue.Nigel Deodat (right) and Kelvin Umroa share five wickets.Berbice Combined left-arm spinners Nigel Deodat and Kelvin Umroa were the main architects in the run chase, as the hosts were bowled out for 94 in 33.2 overs.Deodat finished with 3-18 while Umroa had 2-13. Seon Glasgow, Kelvon Anderson and Leon Swammy contributed a wicket each in the run chase of 184 made by Berbice Combined.Earlier, the visitors’ innings was built around opener Jason Sinclair’s 61 and Garfield Benjamin 46. The 16-year-old Sinclair shared in two meaningful partnerships as Berbice made 184 all out in the final over of the innings.Put in to bat, the visitors got off to a relatively slow but steady start, as the new ball proved lively, prompting several close calls against openers Sinclair and Alex Algoo.The pair brought up their 50-run stand off 69 balls, before it was broken by left-arm spinner Daniel Mootoo when he had Algoo stumped for 20.Sinclair was joined by Benjamin and the pair marched on comfortably. Sinclair began to blossom in a more attacking approach, reaching his half-century off 62 balls.The duo got Berbice Combined past the 100-run mark in the 25th over, but their fears of yet again wasting a strong foundation resurfaced when Sinclair’s 76-ball innings came to an end to a top-edge catch off Dwayne Dick, at 105-2. Sinclair hit five fours and a six.Sinclair’s dismissal brought Anderson to the crease, and the third-wicket partnership quickly gained some momentum before Anderson was caught and bowled off left-arm spinner Ashmead Nedd for 15.Junior SinclairThereafter the hosts’ spinners to their credit had been good with their bowling, not allowing the visitors to score freely, and the remaining batsmen failed to build on the solid foundation, as they lost their last seven wickets for just 37 runs, including Benjamin.Nedd and off-spinner Pradesh Balkishun did much of the damage, claiming 3-22 each. Dick and Mootoo had 2-35 and 1-15 respectively.Medium pacer Swammy then set the tone for a tough run chase with a sensational opening spell of bowling in which he had opener Alphius Bookie (0) caught behind off the outside edge, at 3-1.Swammy was unlucky not to remove the other opener Sachin Singh after wicketkeeper Sinclair floored a regulation catch when Singh was on six..However, Singh and Stephon Wilson then added 45 runs for the second wicket before left-arm spinner Umroa made two timely inroads, removing both Wilson (31) and Singh (21).Things went from bad to worse for the hosts, with the last seven wickets falling for 30 runs. Only Balkishun (25) offered some resistance.Tomorrow’s final is scheduled to start at 09:30hrs.