President Obama Delivers Remarks on the Way Forward in Afghanistan

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
June 23, 2011
President Obama Delivers a Televised Address From East Room

President Barack Obama delivered a televised address on the way forward in Afghanistan at the White House on June 22, 2011. President Obama discussed beginning a drawdown of troops and responsibly ending the war.

President Obama said, "Nearly 10 years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor. This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security -- one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives.

"In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then, our focus shifted. A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there. By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year. But al Qaeda's leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive. Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.

"For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I've made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban's momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.

"Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

"We're starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda's leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. “The message,” he said, “is we don't forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”

"The information that we recovered from bin Laden's compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain. Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda had been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that had been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam -- thereby draining more widespread support. Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks. But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.

"In Afghanistan, we've inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country. Afghan security forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we've already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people. In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.

"Of course, huge challenges remain. This is the beginning -- but not the end -- of our effort to wind down this war. We'll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we've made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government. And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.

"We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement. So as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban. Our position on these talks is clear: They must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution. But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.

"The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply: No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies. We won't try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures -- one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.

"Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region. We'll work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments. For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us. They cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.

"My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country. We've learned anew the profound cost of war -- a cost that's been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan -- men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended. Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the battlefield, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.

"Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm's way. We've ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.

"As they do, we must learn their lessons. Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America's engagement around the world. Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

"We must chart a more centered course. Like generations before, we must embrace America's singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. When threatened, we must respond with force -- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas. When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don't have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we're doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their own destiny.

"In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -- it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We're a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity."

He continued, "...In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care and benefits and opportunity that you deserve.

"I met some of these patriotic Americans at Fort Campbell. A while back, I spoke to the 101st Airborne that has fought to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and to the team that took out Osama bin Laden. Standing in front of a model of bin Laden's compound, the Navy SEAL who led that effort paid tribute to those who had been lost -- brothers and sisters in arms whose names are now written on bases where our troops stand guard overseas, and on headstones in quiet corners of our country where their memory will never be forgotten. This officer -- like so many others I've met on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, and at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital -- spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one, depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril.

"That's a lesson worth remembering -- that we are all a part of one American family. Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish. Now, let us finish the work at hand. Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story. With confidence in our cause, with faith in our fellow citizens, and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America -- for this generation, and the next.

"May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America."

You can read the President's complete remarks here.



Colorado, USA
June 23, 2011

Lawrence in Colorado writes:

Let's remember that Reagan pulled a large number military personel from a conflict toward the end of his first term and it help him politically tremendously. This could possibly do the same for Obama. This is written as a political perspective.

mohiuddin c.
June 23, 2011

Mohiuddin C. writes:

good President Barack Obama
mohiuddin c.

South Korea
June 23, 2011

Palgye in South Korea writes:

"Obama's Afghanistan plan criticized by Dems, GOP"

i reading this article,
i agrees their `s opinion. just opinion. and i question to theirs, what are get a in Afghanistan. If the former administration kill Osama bin Laden, taking advantage of underground resources in place to enable the industry or the region's conflicts do you put down? Still, after issuing the ruling in the Obama administration, I think there were many achievements. They do not have to admit, it's called the Middle East or the Islamic Revolution in with Jasmine, trying to democratize the country, while their investments in Africa, told me that I would like to obtain more profits. Including India and Indochina, the U.S. attempts to maintain military superiority, the deficit should be reduced first, I would like to talk.

To normalize Afghanistan, where residents pay a fixed date specified in the offer from the start to think. Terrorism, rather than eat to live, where a lot of people involved in terrorism in Afghanistan should think. Approach, rather than politics and military approach, where citizens think we should approach the problem is survival.

And, in two to three years in India and Indochina, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America made a lot of consumption and production, U.S. imports of low-cost manufactured goods is likely to come from these countries are suspect.

Rather, I think that Yemen will pay more attention. If you're concerned about terrorism.

West Virginia, USA
June 23, 2011

Dr. G. in West Virginia writes:

Excellent summary

California, USA
June 23, 2011

Cedric in California writes:

of King Barack Obama (:

June 23, 2011

C. writes:

Redirecting financial effort on a global educational program in order to erase each form of Visa...

At least leave it the way you found it

New Mexico, USA
June 23, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Well, Every dog must have his day and every war comes to a close in some manner or another eventually. These things do not live in perpetuality. Nor does our patience as a people.

( obviously if anyone has read anything I've said here lately, you'd think I'd flat run out of it...(chuckle)

Thing is Afghans and Americans are a lot alike, unconquered, unbowed, with very long memories and a "don't tred on me" attitude that just won't quit when a foreign nation gives us $%!t.

It's why we helped them rebuild their country in the first place and showed compassion in the mist of our wrath after 9/11.

The pace of this drawdown over time seems reasonable under current circumstance and the only real hang-up to it is if in the process we fail to keep regional actors with ill intent from turning Afghanistan into their political playground.

As far as dealing with Iran's support and arming of the taliban, and "overextending" advice to this President is the same as to the last one.

"One axis of evil at a time."

Isolationists in this country play an even more dangerous game then they do, for such a strategy would only ensure by our lack of engagement around the world that a major regional war would become inevitable.

And with Iran, unless they change thir evil ways that will happen one way or another.

Our choice is will we meet that threat or not at this point, and ensure that the leading state sponsor of terror never has the capability to give a nuclear weapon to its minions of ill intent.

Their day of recconing awaits, just as surely as bin laden's did for so long.

I give the President's very focused remarks "two thumbs up", with a caveat that there's probably another speach he'll need to give to place all of his strategy in broader context to the war on terrorism before this is all over.

You got your "Powell Doctrine", and folks are lookin' at the "Obama doctrine" as it's being shaped...; EJ's "doctrine" goes like this here, and it hasn't changed over all these years...; When one seeks peace...,

"By employing common logic and gut-instinct together with an open mind, one may anticipate miracles as a result."

I define "miracle" as something good that defies probability and reasonable explanation for occurring.

Never underestimate the power of love for one's fellow human, as a national security asset.


Ashim C.
June 23, 2011

Ashim in India writes:

President's withdrawal plans, however, slow and gradual are welcome. However, when one tries to understand the plans in the backdrop of the facts that there are more than two lack NATO forces and similar large force of Afghan millitia and police force in this brutally battered country, yet extremist continue to defiant, one cannot help thinking that these go to show the country is not ready for regular civilian governance. It is good that withdrawal is limited and is probably calibrated to match the realities of the ground situation in AFPAK region however much President and people of USA may want a total withdrawal as quickly as possible. Having remained engaged for nearly ten years, it makes no sense to beat a then SOVIET type retreat. That would leave a vacuum to be filled by elements, which can be more dangerous and therefore undesirable than PUSHTUN talibani tribes of Afpak region.

West Virginia, USA
June 23, 2011

Pam in West Virginia writes:

Its about time but it really is only 3000 less than last year. When will we really leave.

New Mexico, USA
July 13, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Quote of the Day-

"My message for [the Taliban] is that my countryman, my brother, stop killing your own people," said Mr Karzai. "It's easy to kill and everyone can do it, but the real man is the one who can save people's lives." -Hamid Karzai

I don't know how many times I've stated on this blog that "if the taliban were real men, they'd go home and take care of their mothers".

Guess that's why Karzai's words struck me as being all too familiar.



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