Tonight, President Barack Obama delivered remarks at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
President Obama said, "Today, I signed a historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship between our countries -- a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation, and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states; a future in which war ends, and a new chapter begins.
"Tonight, I'd like to speak to you about this transition. But first, let us remember why we came here. It was here, in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden established a safe haven for his terrorist organization. It was here, in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda brought new recruits, trained them, and plotted acts of terror. It was here, from within these borders, that al Qaeda launched the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children.
"And so, 10 years ago, the United States and our allies went to war to make sure that al Qaeda could never again use this country to launch attacks against us. Despite initial success, for a number of reasons, this war has taken longer than most anticipated. In 2002, bin Laden and his lieutenants escaped across the border and established safe haven in Pakistan. America spent nearly eight years fighting a different war in Iraq. And al Qaeda's extremist allies within the Taliban have waged a brutal insurgency.
"But over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban's momentum. We've built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al Qaeda's leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set -- to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild -- is now within our reach.""...[T]onight, I'd like to tell you how we will complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan.
"First, we've begun a transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Already, nearly half of the Afghan people live in places where Afghan security forces are moving into the lead. This month, at a NATO Summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed. But we will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward.""...Second, we are training Afghan security forces to get the job done. Those forces have surged, and will peak at 352,000 this year. The Afghans will sustain that level for three years, and then reduce the size of their military. And in Chicago, we will endorse a proposal to support a strong and sustainable long-term Afghan force.
"Third, we're building an enduring partnership. The agreement we signed today sends a clear message to the Afghan people: As you stand up, you will not stand alone. It establishes the basis for our cooperation over the next decade, including shared commitments to combat terrorism and strengthen democratic institutions. It supports Afghan efforts to advance development and dignity for their people. And it includes Afghan commitments to transparency and accountability, and to protect the human rights of all Afghans -- men and women, boys and girls.""...Fourth, we're pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We've made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence and abide by Afghan laws. Many members of the Taliban -- from foot soldiers to leaders -- have indicated an interest in reconciliation. The path to peace is now set before them. Those who refuse to walk it will face strong Afghan security forces, backed by the United States and our allies.
"Fifth, we are building a global consensus to support peace and stability in South Asia. In Chicago, the international community will express support for this plan and for Afghanistan's future. And I have made it clear to its neighbor -- Pakistan -- that it can and should be an equal partner in this process in a way that respects Pakistan's sovereignty, interests and democratic institutions. In pursuit of a durable peace, America has no designs beyond an end to al Qaeda safe havens and respect for Afghan sovereignty."
In closing, President Obama said, "Here in Afghanistan, Americans answered the call to defend their fellow citizens and uphold human dignity. Today, we recall the fallen and those who suffered wounds, both seen and unseen. But through dark days, we have drawn strength from their example and the ideals that have guided our nation and led the world -- a belief that all people are treated equal and deserve the freedom to determine their destiny. That is the light that guides us still.
"This time of war began in Afghanistan and this is where it will end. With faith in each other and our eyes fixed on the future, let us finish the work at hand and forge a just and lasting peace."
You can read a complete transcript of the President's remarks here.
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