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Continued: Transcript of Obama news conference

  • Article by: , Associated Press
  • Last update: February 9, 2009 - 8:48 PM

Step number three is going to be housing. Have we stabilized the housing market? Now, you know, the federal government doesn't have complete control over that, but if our plan is effective, working with the Federal Reserve Bank, working with the FDIC, I think what we can do is stem the rate of foreclosure and we can start stabilizing housing values over time.

And the most — the — the biggest measure of success is whether we stop contracting and shedding jobs and we start growing again.

Now, you know, I don't have a crystal ball. And as I said, this is an unprecedented crisis. But my hope is that after a difficult year — and this year is going to be a difficult year — that businesses start investing again, they start making decisions that, you know, in fact, there's money to be made out there, customers or consumers start feeling that their jobs are stable and safe, and they start making purchases again, and, if we get things right, then, starting next year, we can start seeing significant improvement.

Ed Henry. Where's Ed? CNN, there he is.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You've promised to send more troops to Afghanistan. And since you've been very clear about a timetable to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months, I wonder, what's your timetable to withdraw troops eventually from Afghanistan?

And related to that, there's a Pentagon policy that bans media coverage of the flag-draped coffins from coming in to Dover Air Force Base. And back in 2004, then-Senator Joe Biden said that it was shameful for dead soldiers to be, quote, snuck back into the country under the cover of night.

You've promised unprecedented transparency, openness in your government. Will you overturn that policy so the American people can see the full human cost of war?

OBAMA: Your question is timely. We got reports that four American servicemembers have been killed in Iraq today. And, you know, obviously, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families.

I've said before that — you know, people have asked me, when did it hit you that you are now president? And what I told them was the most sobering moment is signing letters to the families of our fallen heroes. It reminds you of the responsibilities that you carry in this office and — and the consequences of the decisions that you make.

Now, with respect to the policy of opening up media to loved ones being brought back home, we are in the process of reviewing those policies in conversations with the Department of Defense, so I don't want to give you an answer now before I've evaluated that review and understand all the implications involved.

With respect to Afghanistan, this is going to be a big challenge. I think, because of the extraordinary work done by our troops and some very good diplomatic work done by Ambassador Crocker in Iraq, we just saw an election in Iraq that went relatively peacefully and you get a sense that the political system is now functioning in a meaningful way.

You do not see that yet in Afghanistan. They've got elections coming up, but effectively the national government seems very detached from what's going on in the surrounding community.

In addition, you've got the Taliban and Al Qaida operating in the FATA and these border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And what we haven't seen is the kind of concerted effort to root out those safe havens that would ultimately make our mission successful.

So we are undergoing a thorough going review. Not only is General Petraeus — now the head of CENTCOM — conducting his own review; he's now working in concert with the special envoy that I've sent over, Richard Holbrooke, one of our top diplomats, to evaluate a regional approach.

We are going to need more effective coordination of our military efforts, with diplomatic efforts, with development efforts, with more effective coordination with our allies in order for us to be successful.

The bottom line though — and I just want to remember the American people, because this is going to be difficult — is this is a situation in which a region served as the base to launch an attack that killed 3,000 Americans.

And this past week, I met with families of those who were lost in 9/11, a reminder of the costs of allowing those safe havens to exist.

My bottom line is that we cannot allow Al Qaida to operate. We cannot have those safe havens in that region. And we're going to have to work both smartly and effectively, but with consistency in order to make sure that those safe havens don't exist.

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