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Obama: US on track in Afghanistan

The United States will start withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in July as promised, President Barack Obama has said as he declared significant progress in disrupting al Qaida and combating the Taliban.

But he warned the war will remain a "very difficult endeavour".

Heralding a review of his war strategy, Mr Obama said the goal is not to defeat every threat to Afghanistan's security or to build up the nation.

Rather, he said, the United States continues to shed blood in the war - now in its 10th year - to dismantle the al Qaida network and push back the Taliban.

"We are on track to achieve our goals," he said in an address at the White House.

But he added that progress has not come fast enough in Pakistan, where terrorists continue to find safe haven.

The President also warned that the gains over the last year - which have come at the cost of more US troop deaths that at any time during the war - are fragile and reversible.

Obama's words and the report's findings underscore that his war plan is here to stay. The goal is for the US-led coalition of nations to turn over control of Afghan security by the end of 2014, which means that US troops will remain at war there for at least the next four years.

The pace and scope of the US troop withdrawal is unclear. "We don't know at this point," Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters. He said he hoped the pace would accelerate based on local conditions. There are now roughly 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan, as well as 40,000 from Nato allies.

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