Photo: The White House, Flickr
President Barack Obama will address the country from Afghanistan tonight, marking the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death with a speech that is expected to focus mostly on winding down U.S. combat operations in that country. “My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war,” Obama will say, according to excerpts of the speech. “Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfil our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda.”
Interestingly, there is no mention of bin Laden in the advance excerpts, although the President is expected to mention the former Al Qaeda leader. Republicans have accused Obama of politicizing bin Laden’s death in recent days, and some have suggested that his surprise trip to Afghanistan is merely a cheap political stunt.
Senior administration officials dismissed those criticisms today, claiming that the timing of the trip was based on the completion of the U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, which Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed earlier today. According to the officials, both presidents mutually agreed that the agreement should be signed on Afghan soil sometime before the NATO Summit in Chicago this July.
But one senior administration official did admit that the exact date of the visit did have something to do with bin Laden’s death anniversary.
“It is certainly a resonant day for both of our countries,” the official said. “His actions brought great suffering to the Afghan people for many years.”
The official added that Obama had always planned to “spend this anniversary with our troops.”
Read the full text of the excerpts below:
“Already, nearly half 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.
As we do, our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”
“My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfil our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda.
This future is only within reach because of our men and women in uniform. Time and again, they have answered the call to serve in distant and dangerous places. In an age when so many institutions have come up short, these Americans stood tall. They met their responsibilities to one another, and the flag they serve under. I just met with some of them, and told them that as Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder. In their faces, we see what is best in ourselves and our country.”
“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.”
“This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.”
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