President Obama warned today that there will be more violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but added because the security of the two nations and the United States is linked, his administration remains committed to defeating al Qaeda in the region.
"The United States has a stake in the future of these two countries," Obama said after a meeting with Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan. "We have learned time and again that our security is shared. It is a lesson that we learned most painfully on 9/11, and it is a lesson that we will not forget."
The three leaders met this afternoon at the White House amid growing concerns about security in Pakistan in order to discuss how the three nations can work together to stabilize the region.
Obama said the United States must provide "lasting support to democratic institutions" and help support reconstruction efforts in Pakistan while the government there battles an insurgency that threatens the country's security.
"We must do more than stand against those who would destroy Pakistan. We must stand with those who want to build Pakistan," the president said. "I want the Pakistani people to understand that America is not simply against terrorism; we are on the side of their hopes and their aspirations, because we know that the future of Pakistan must be determined by the talent, innovation and intelligence of its people."
Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Said T. Jawad, said in an interview with ABC News that the country is seeking specifically to improve intelligence exchange, security and trade and transit in Afghanistan.
"These talks are about getting very very specific measurable objectives set forward and then working together to achieve them and also measure our accomplishment on how far we are coming... What we are seeking is a very clear objectives -- better mechanism of exchanging information, mechanism to measure deliveries of those objectives being set by Afghanistan with the assistance of the United States," Jawad said.
Early today, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a trade agreement between the two countries by the end of the year, an event dubbed "historic" by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Karzai and Zardari met with Clinton and others at the State Department this morning to discuss how to combat the growing influence of the Taliban and al Qaeda in the two countries.
Clinton stressed the need for open lines of communication and cooperation among the three countries.
"We have made this common cause because we face a common threat," Clinton said. "And we have a common task and a common challenge. We know that each of your countries is struggling with the extremists who would destabilize and undermine democracy.
"Now, we are not perfect. No human being is. We will make mistakes. But we need to have the kind of open dialogue where we express our concerns about those mistakes," she added.
Clinton expressed her "regret" about the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan that killed dozens of civilians Tuesday and said there will be a joint investigation.
Obama said today that he made clear to Karzai that the U.S. will work with the Afghan government and international partners "to avoid civilian casualties as we help the Afghan government combat our common enemy."