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President promises conditions-based Afghanistan transition

WASHINGTON -- Any changes in U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan when security responsibility starts to transfer to the Afghans in July 2011 will be considered in light of the situation on the ground at that time, President Barack Obama said Dec. 10 in Oslo, Norway.

With Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg by his side, President Obama, who was in Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, told reporters that "it's very important to understand that we're not going to see some sharp 'cliff,' some precipitous drawdown" of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July 2011.

President Obama has directed the deployment of 30,000 extra U.S. troops to Afghanistan over the next several months to combat and neutralize Taliban insurgents who threaten to destabilize the Afghan government. Some of those troops will be employed in training additional Afghan soldiers and police.

Deployments will flow into the summer and will boost the total U.S. military strength in Afghanistan to about 100,000 troops.

The troop deployments will occur in conjunction with a surge of civilian experts in agriculture, infrastructure and governance. The operation is designed to provide time for Afghan authorities to bolster their security forces and improve the quality of government so they can assume security duties and gain added public support.

"We believe we've got the right strategy, (and) we believe we can execute the strategy," President Obama said. The plan is to build Afghan capacity, protect population centers, and blunt and degrade the Taliban capacity, he said, and to begin transferring responsibility to the Afghan people and Afghan security forces In July 2011.

An evaluation of the results of the Afghanistan surge will be conducted around this time next year. Meanwhile, President Obama said, U.S. forces will continue to train and partner with the growing Afghan security forces, and conditions in Afghanistan will determine how the transition will proceed.

"The pace at which that takes place, the slope of a drawdown, how it occurs tactically, those are all going to be conditions-based," the president said.

And the Afghan government will still require support for its security forces, President Obama said, years after U.S. and NATO troop strength is substantially reduced in the region.

"We are still going to have an interest in partnering with Afghans and Pakistanis and others in dealing with the remnants of terrorist activity there," President Obama said.

President Obama praised fellow NATO member Norway as a close friend and ally of the United States. Norway has deployed nearly 600 troops to Afghanistan.

"Norway is committed to continuing our military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan," President Obama said, noting Norway has increased its financial contribution to the Afghan national army and police to a total of $110 million for the period 2010 to 2014.

"We must enable Afghans to take responsibility for their own security," President Obama said.