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Obama calls Zardari about Afghan war review

December 17, 2010

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President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaks about the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review, at the White House in Washington. –AP Photo/Susan Walsh

ISLAMABAD: US President Barack Obama telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday and informed him of key features of the US review of the Afghan war, Pakistan’s presidency said.

“They also discussed the situation in the region,” it added in a statement.

In a speech Thursday evening to mark the review’s release, Obama called on Pakistan to step up the fight to root out terrorist safe havens inside its borders, saying progress “has not come fast enough”.

Obama told reporters the United States “welcomed” Pakistan’s efforts against extremists, including offensives in its lawless tribal regions close to the Afghan border.

In Islamabad, the presidency said Zardari thanked President Obama for letting him know about substantive elements of the review.

“The two Presidents also agreed to have a face to face meeting soon,” it said.

In his speech, Obama confirmed he would visit Pakistan next year and pledged to support aid to the frontline country. The US Congress last year approved a 7.5 billion-dollar package.

The policy review, the result of a two-month National Security Council assessment, said progress in Afghanistan was evident in gains by Afghan and coalition forces against Taliban bastions in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

But the study was short on details and did not include pointed criticisms of the Pakistani and Afghan governments that have featured in US government documents leaked in recent months.