Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States and Afghanistan have partnered together to respond to threats to international peace and security and to help the Afghan people chart a secure, democratic, and prosperous future. Since President Obama took office in 2009, we have pursued a focused strategy, alongside our NATO allies and partners, to strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government to take full responsibility for their country’s future while we have struck significant blows against al-Qa’ida’s leadership and prevented Afghanistan from being used to launch attacks against our homeland.
Today, President Obama announced a plan ending the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in December 2014. At the beginning of 2015, and contingent upon the Afghans signing a Bilateral Security Agreement and a status of forces agreement with NATO, we will have 9,800 U.S. service members in different parts of the country, together with our NATO allies and other partners. By the end of 2015, we would reduce that presence by roughly half, consolidating our troops in Kabul and on Bagram Airfield. One year later, by the end of 2016, we will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, as we have done in Iraq. Beyond 2014, the mission of our troops will be training Afghan forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al-Qa’ida.
In his remarks, President Obama said, "In addition to bringing our troops home, this new chapter in American foreign policy will allow us to redirect some of the resources saved by ending these wars to respond more nimbly to the changing threat of terrorism, while addressing a broader set of priorities around the globe."
"I think Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them. Yet this is how wars end in the 21st century -- not through signing ceremonies, but through decisive blows against our adversaries, transitions to elected governments, security forces who take the lead and ultimately full responsibility. We remain committed to a sovereign, secure, stable, and unified Afghanistan. And toward that end, we will continue to support Afghan-led efforts to promote peace in their country through reconciliation. We have to recognize that Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one. The future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans. But what the United States can do -- what we will do -- is secure our interests and help give the Afghans a chance, an opportunity to seek a long, overdue and hard-earned peace."
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