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