Obama sees U.S. assisting Afghanistan 'for a long time to come'

As Republican critics assail President Barack Obama's proposed date to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, Obama said Sunday that the U.S. intends "to be a partner for Afghanistan for the long term."

Obama, speaking at a press conference at the close of the G-20 summit in Toronto, also said that "it's too early to tell" whether efforts by Pakistan and Afghanistan to reintegrate Taliban are a good idea.

"I think we have to view these efforts with skepticism, but also with openness," Obama said.

The president said the Taliban is "a blend of hardcore idealogues, tribal leaders, kids that basically sign up" for the income, and he said "we're going to have to sort through how these talks take place."

Obama sought to shelve what he sees as a false choice between "either we get up and leave immediately because there's no chance for a positive outcome or we stay indefinitely."

The president and his aides have stressed that the July 2011 drawdown date is only a beginning and not an end and will be based on conditions on the ground.

Still, Obama said, "We're going to need to provide assistance to Afghanistan for a long time to come."

The president said that he will conduct a review of his new strategy in December, fix what is not working and then begin the transition next year.

"That doesn't mean that we suddenly turn off the lights and let the door close behind us," Obama said.

He added: "We intend to be a partner for Afghanistan for the long term, but that is different than us having troops on the ground."

The president acknowledged that "there has been a lot of obsession around this issue of when do we leave."

But the president said he is more interested in implementing his strategy and seeing results, and he will review whether or not the strategy is working after the December review.

"I've signaled very clearly that we're not just going to keep on doing things if they're not working," Obama said.