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Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Sept. 16, 2009. (Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Sept. 16, 2009. (Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press)


A transcript of the Harper-Obama presser Add to ...

And finally, as I said, we would discuss international peace and security. And as the President mentioned, we discussed the great challenge the world has in Iran. But we also did discuss, of course, Afghanistan. We have a joint mission there and we certainly have very much welcomed the renewed engagement of the United States in that country and always -- particularly in our sector of the country. And of course we always value joint cooperation with the United States on defense and security matters. And our two militaries and our civilian people are working tremendously in southern Afghanistan and we look forward to some of that work continuing.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay. All right, Ben Feller.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to ask both of you: At this point are U.S. and NATO forces winning the war in Afghanistan?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I think that what is clear is that had lacked as clear of a strategy and a mission as is necessary in order to meet our overriding objective, which is to dismantle and disrupt and destroy al Qaeda and prevent it from being able to project violence against the United States, allies like Canada, our bases and operations around the world. So that has not yet occurred.

When I came in I had to make a series of immediate decisions about sending additional troops to ensure that the election could take place during the fighting season. But I was crystal clear at the time that post-election we were going to need to do an additional assessment. General McChrystal has carried out his own assessment on the military strategy, but it's important that we also do an assessment on the civilian side, the diplomatic side, the development side; that we analyze the results of the election and then make further decisions moving forward.

My determination is to get this right. And that means broad consultation not only inside the U.S. government, but also with our ISAF partners and our NATO allies. And I'm going to take a very deliberate process in making those decisions. So I just want to be absolutely clear, because there's been a lot of discussion in the press about this, that there is no immediate decision pending on resources, because one of the things that I'm absolutely clear about is you have to get the strategy right and then make determinations about resources. You don't make determinations about resources, and certainly you don't make determinations about sending young men and women into battle without having absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be.

So we are going to proceed and make sure that we don't put the cart before the horse.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER: Just very quickly, to try and answer that question directly. I certainly don't think, notwithstanding the continued problems in many parts of the country, the fierce efforts of the insurgency, I don't think the Taliban in any way constitutes an alternative government or any immediate threat to replacing the government of Afghanistan. So I think in that sense, you know, we can see the progress that's been made. Obviously, though, we are concerned about the strength of the insurgency. We, as I say, welcome the renewed American effort and effort of some NATO countries.

Our emphasis in Canada for some time now, particularly since we extended our mission, has been really the necessity of seeing the Afghan government accept and be able to handle greater responsibility for the day-to-day security of that country as we move forward.

Afghanistan is a very difficult country, I think. All of our military -- Canadian, American, British, those who have been highly engaged -- I think have done a tremendous job moving the ball forward. But in the end, we have to be clear that the security and sovereignty of Afghanistan can in the long term only be done by Afghans themselves. So I think whatever we do on both sides of the border and with our NATO partners has to have that as its long-term objective.

Q: Mr. President, Prime Minister, in contrast to that smart, brief question I have a double-barreled question under the umbrella of security.

Canada and other NATO allies have set deadlines to leave Afghanistan. Mr. President, are you worried that the U.S. will be left to carry the burden in Afghanistan? What role would you like to see for Canada beyond 2011? Prime Minister, do you have any advice for the President, exit strategy or otherwise?

And then on economic security, Mr. President, despite assurances not to worry, U.S. protectionism is hurting Canadian businesses, according to Canadian businesses. And I just -- we wonder if there is anything more you feel you can or that you should do about that?

And Mr. Prime Minister, your views at this stage now that we've seen "Buy American" play itself out?

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