On Wednesday, May 2, President Barack Obama paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan, touching down in the war-torn country one year to the day after al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden died at the hands of elite American troops in neighboring Pakistan.
President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed an agreement that lays out the US role for the ten years that follow the withdrawal of NATO-led combat forces, scheduled to occur by the end of 2014. President Obama addressed the troops at Bagram Air Base and then he addressed the American public.
Remarks by the President to the Troops in Afghanistan
Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan
“All I want to do is just say thank you.
The sacrifices all of you have made, the sacrifices your families make every single day are what make America free and what make America secure. And I know that sometimes, out here, when you’re in theater, it’s not clear whether folks back home fully appreciate what’s going on. And let’s face it, a lot of times it’s easier to get bad news on the news than good news.
But here’s the good news, and here’s part of the reason that I’m here. I just finished signing a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan that signals the transition in which we are going to be turning over responsibility for Afghan security to the Afghans. We’re not going to do it overnight. We’re not going to do it irresponsibly. We’re going to make sure that the gains, the hard-fought gains that have been made are preserved. But the reason we’re able to do that is because of you. The reason that the Afghans have an opportunity for a new tomorrow is because of you. And the reason America is safe is because of you.
We did not choose this war. This war came to us on 9/11. And there are a whole bunch of folks here, I’ll bet, who signed up after 9/11.
We don’t go looking for a fight. But when we see our homeland violated, when we see our fellow citizens killed, then we understand what we have to do. And because of the sacrifices now of a decade, and a new Greatest Generation, not only were we able to blunt the Taliban momentum, not only were we able to drive al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but slowly and systematically we have been able to decimate the ranks of al Qaeda, and a year ago we were able to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.
That could have only happened because each and every one of you, in your own way, were doing your jobs. Each and every one of you — without a lot of fanfare, without a lot of fuss — you did your jobs. No matter how small or how big, you were faithful to the oath that you took to protect this nation. And your families did their job — supporting you and loving you and remembering you and being there for you. “
President Obama 5/3/12 Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan
‘Day of honor’: Afghans take over national security from US-led forces
6/18/13 By Akbar Shinwari and Sohel Uddin, NBC News
KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S.-led troops handed complete control of security to Afghanistan authorities Tuesday – an act of faith in country’s fledgling police and army in the face of near-constant insurgent attacks.
The formal transfer of responsibility is major milestone in the process of withdrawal from the country, 12 years after NATO-led mission ISAF began its mission to end Taliban rule.
However, a botched car bomb that killed at least three civilians just before the official handover ceremony raising renewed questions about how the country’s 352,000-strong security forces will tackle the militant threat.
Most foreign combat troops will leave the country by the end of 2014, but international funding and humanitarian aid will continue – prolonging the political headache for President Barack Obama over America’s involvement in the conflict.
“Today is a day for all Americans to take pride in the hard work our service members and their civilian counterparts are performing every day in Afghanistan,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that called Tuesday’s handover a “critical milestone.
Afghan Forces Take Afghanistan Security Lead
Published on Jun 18, 2013
Afghan forces have taken over the security lead in Afghanistan, following an official handover from the US-led NATO coalition on Tuesday.
May 25, 2014
Remarks by the President to the Troops at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO U.S. TROOPS
Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Bagram! (Applause.) Well, I know it’s a little late, but I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by. (Applause.) First of all, I want everybody to give a huge round of applause to your commander, General Joe Dunford. Please give him an outstanding, rousing acknowledgement. (Applause.) I am grateful to him for his leadership of our coalition here in Afghanistan, and for his lifetime of distinguished service — to the Marine Corps and to America.
And can everybody please give it up to Brad Paisley? (Applause.) Now, I want to say this about Brad. First of all, he’s a great supporter of our troops, a great supporter of your families. Two years ago we had him at the White House to perform for troops and military families during the Fourth of July celebration. Him coming here today was not easy. He had just started a tour and he had to juggle a lot of stuff and had to try to figure out how to explain it to people without explaining it to people, and his wife and two young sons, and promoters and agents — and without going into details, this was a big sacrifice for him. And he did it because he cares so deeply about you. So I’m so grateful to him.
I want to make clear, though, I will not be singing so –
AUDIENCE: Awwww –
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you really want me to sing? (Applause.) No, but I do want to just say to Brad, thank you so much for doing this.
I want to acknowledge our outstanding Ambassador, Jim Cunningham, who’s here, with his lovely wife. And Jim leads an incredible team of civilians — at our embassy and across this country. They are also making sacrifices, also away from their families, oftentimes themselves at risk as they serve. I know those of you in uniform couldn’t do your jobs without these Americans as your partners. So we salute the dedicated service of all the civilians who are here, led by Jim Cunningham. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
Now, I guess I also should mention that we’ve got a few folks here as part of the 10th Mountain Division — (applause) — “Climb To Glory.” (Applause.) We got the 455th Airwing in the house. (Applause.) Task Force Muleskinner — (applause) — Task Force Thunder — (applause — Task Force Rugged — (applause.)
To all of you, I’m here on a single mission, and that is to thank you for your extraordinary service. (Applause.) I thank you as your Commander-in-Chief because you inspire me. Your willingness to serve, to step forward at a time of war, and say “send me,” is the reason the United States stays strong and free. Of all the honors that I have serving as President, nothing matches serving as your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)
But I’m also here representing 300 million Americans who want to say thank you as well. (Applause.) I know sometimes when you’re over here, away from home, away from family, you may not truly absorb how much the folks back home are thinking about you. So I just want you to know when it comes to supporting you and your families, the American people stand united. We support you. We are proud of you. We stand in awe of your service.
May 27, 2014
Statement by the President on Afghanistan
2:46 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. As you know, this weekend, I traveled to Afghanistan to thank our men and women in uniform and our deployed civilians, on behalf of a grateful nation, for the extraordinary sacrifices they make on behalf of our security. I was also able to meet with our commanding General and Ambassador to review the progress that we’ve made. And today, I’d like to update the American people on the way forward in Afghanistan and how, this year, we will bring America’s longest war to a responsible end.
The United States did not seek this fight. We went into Afghanistan out of necessity, after our nation was attacked by al Qaeda on September 11th, 2001. We went to war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies with the strong support of the American people and their representatives in Congress; with the international community and our NATO allies; and with the Afghan people, who welcomed the opportunity of a life free from the dark tyranny of extremism.
We have now been in Afghanistan longer than many Americans expected. But make no mistake — thanks to the skill and sacrifice of our troops, diplomats, and intelligence professionals, we have struck significant blows against al Qaeda’s leadership, we have eliminated Osama bin Laden, and we have prevented Afghanistan from being used to launch attacks against our homeland. We have also supported the Afghan people as they continue the hard work of building a democracy. We’ve extended more opportunities to their people, including women and girls. And we’ve helped train and equip their own security forces.
Now we’re finishing the job we started. Over the last several years, we’ve worked to transition security responsibilities to the Afghans. One year ago, Afghan forces assumed the lead for combat operations. Since then, they’ve continued to grow in size and in strength, while making huge sacrifices for their country. This transition has allowed us to steadily draw down our own forces — from a peak of 100,000 U.S. troops, to roughly 32,000 today.
2014, therefore, is a pivotal year. Together with our allies and the Afghan government, we have agreed that this is the year we will conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan. This is also a year of political transition in Afghanistan. Earlier this spring, Afghans turned out in the millions to vote in the first round of their presidential election — defying threats in order to determine their own destiny. And in just over two weeks, they will vote for their next President, and Afghanistan will see its first democratic transfer of power in history.
In the context of this progress, having consulted with Congress and my national security team, I’ve determined the nature of the commitment that America is prepared to make beyond 2014. Our objectives are clear: Disrupting threats posed by al Qaeda; supporting Afghan security forces; and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed as they stand on their own.
Here’s how we will pursue those objectives. First, America’s combat mission will be over by the end of this year. Starting next year, Afghans will be fully responsible for securing their country. American personnel will be in an advisory role. We will no longer patrol Afghan cities or towns, mountains or valleys. That is a task for the Afghan people.
Key Points in President Obama’s 5/27/14 speech:
If the new Afghan government signs the bilateral secuirty agreement that has already been negoiated then:
* America’s combat mission will be over by by the end of 2014
* Starting 2015 America will have 9,800 US service members in different parts of Afghanistan in an advisory role of training Afghan forces and supporting against the remnants of Al Quaida
* All patrolling and securing of Afghanistan wiill be done exclusively by Afghanistans
* By the end of 2015 US service members will be reduced down to approximately 4,900 in Kabul and Bagram Air Field
* By the end of 2016 US service members will be drawn down to a normal embassy presence with a security existance component as in Iraq