President Obama, speaking last night from Kabul, told an American audience that the new Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by him and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will usher in a “future in which war ends, and a new chapter begins.” The speech acknowledged the sacrifices made in the decade long war in Afghanistan which has become increasingly unpopular in recent months and taken the lives of 1,957 Americans.
Obama, speaking from Bagram Air Base, said:
My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda.
The speech emphasized the growing responsibilities shouldered by Afghan Security Forces as 23,000 U.S. soldiers return home this summer. “Nearly half the Afghan people live in places where Afghan Security Forces are moving into the lead,” said the President.
U.S. and other foreign troops will continue to train, advise, assist and, as needed, fight alongside Afghan forces as the U.S. military shifts into a support role. “As we do, our troops will be coming home. [...] And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country,” said Obama.
The speech, while acknowledging the ongoing role to be played by U.S. forces in Afghanistan until 2014, also touched on the domestic challenges facing the U.S. and the toll of a nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan and eight year U.S. presence in Iraq, where the last U.S. troops departed on December 18:
As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.
Watch the full speech:
The Mitt Romney campaign issued a statement welcoming Obama’s comments from Afghanistan. “I am pleased that President Obama has returned to Afghanistan. Our troops and the American people deserve to hear from our President about what is at stake in this war,” said the statement. But former Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, who has since endorsed Romney, told CNN that Obama was putting “arbitrary deadlines” on the Afghan drawdown and that Romney would have “taken a different approach” and “feels it’s important to define the mission ahead in terms of strategic outcomes, not in terms of days or months on the calendar.”