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President Obama's news conference -- full text

(Page 6 of 13)



And there have been no circumstances during the course of this first 100 days in which I have seen information that would make me second guess the decision that I have made. OK?

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Chuck Todd.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to move to Pakistan. Pakistan appears to be at war with the Taliban inside their own country. Can you reassure the American people that if necessary America could secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and keep it from getting into the Taliban's hands or, worst case scenario, even al-Qaida's hands?

OBAMA: I'm confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure. Primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands. We've got strong military-to-military consultation and cooperation.

I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan, not because I think that they're immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan. I'm more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and don't seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services: schools, health care, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of the people.

And so as a consequence, it is very difficult for them to gain the support and the loyalty of their people. So we need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis. And I think that there's a recognition increasingly on the part of both the civilian government there and the army that that is their biggest weakness.

On the military side, you're starting to see some recognition just in the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally. And you're starting to see the Pakistani military take much more seriously the armed threat from militant extremists.

We want to continue to encourage Pakistan to move in that direction. And we will provide them all of the cooperation that we can. We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don't end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.

Q: But in a worst-case scenario...

OBAMA: I'm not going to engage in...

Q: (OFF-MIKE) military could secure this nuclear...

OBAMA: I'm not going to engage in — in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.

OK, Jeff Mason?

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. One of the biggest changes you've made in the first 100 days regarding foreign policy has had to do with Iraq. But do the large-scale — there's large-scale violence there right now. Does that affect the U.S. strategy at all for withdrawal? And could it affect the timetable that you've set out for troops?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think it's important to note that, although you've seen some spectacular bombings in Iraq that are a — a legitimate cause of concern, civilian deaths, incidents of bombings, etc., remain very low relative to what was going on last year, for example.

And so you haven't seen the kinds of huge spikes that you were seeing for a time. The political system is holding and functioning in Iraq.

Part of the reason why I called for a gradual withdrawal as opposed to a precipitous one was precisely because more work needs to be done on the political side to further isolate whatever remnants of al-Qaida in Iraq still exist.

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