Obama says al-Qaeda defeat within reach

Kabul/Washington: Making a sudden and secretive air-dash to war-torn Afghanistan, President Barack Obama today declared that US will "finish the job" in the country and was near its goal to defeat al-Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild.

Slipping into Afghanistan under the cover of darkness, Obama said the "tide of war" in the country had already been turned and pledged that the US will not abandon it as he inked a strategic pact to set out a long term role in the nation.

"We have travelled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon," he said in a telecast live to US from the Bagram air base on the first death anniversary of Osama bin Laden.

But in a blunt reminder of the fragile security situation in Afghanistan, a series of explosions and gun fire erupted in the capital just hours after Obama`s departure leaving at least six dead. Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The new Kabul-Washington Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) signed by Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai provides for American forces to be involved in counter- terrorism and training of the Afghan military after the planned final withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops in 2014.

"This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end. … With faith in each other, and our eyes fixed on the future, let us finish the work at hand and forge a just and lasting peace," Obama said as he assured the Americans, who are "tired of war", that the winding down had begun in Afghanistan, just as it has already ended in Iraq.

"Over the last three years the tide has turned… We have broken Taliban`s momentum. We have built a strong Afghan security force. We devastated al-Qaeda leadership taking out 20 of their top 30 leaders and one year ago from a base here our troops launched the operation that killed bin Laden.

"The goal that I set — to defeat al-Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild — is within our reach," Obama declared.