President Barack Obama just addressed the nation from Afghanistan, on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death — and he wasted no time getting to the good part:
“First, let us remember why we came here: It was here in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden established a safe haven,” Obama said. “It was from here that Al Qaeda launched an attack on our nation.”
So far, however that has been the only mention of the Al Qaeda leader, whose death represents the President’s most significant foreign policy accomplishment to date.
As expected, the rest of Obama’s speech has focused almost entirely on winding down the war in Afghanistan.
“Over the last three years the tide has turned,” Obama said. “The goal I set to defeat Al Qaeda…is now within reach….We will complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan.”
He emphasised that the U.S. has no plans to build permanent bases in Afghanistan, and reiterated his commitment to pulling U.S. combat troops out of the country by 2014:
“In pursuit of a durable peace, America has no designs beyond an end to al Qaeda safe-havens, and respect for Afghan sovereignty,” he said. “Our goal is not to build a country in America’s image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban…Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that.”
But the most interesting part of the speech came at the end. Here’s an excerpt:
As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.
Here, in Afghanistan, Americans answered the call to defend their fellow citizens and uphold human dignity. Today, we recall the fallen, and those who suffer wounds seen and unseen. But through dark days we have drawn strength from their example, and the ideals that have guided our nation and lit the world: a belief that all people are created equal, and deserve the freedom to determine their destiny.
This message — that the U.S. should focus on fixing domestic problems and restoring strength at home — puts Obama on the right side of recent polls, which show Americans are increasingly unhappy with U.S. committments overseas, and concerned about a lack of domestic leadership.
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