President Obama’s secret jaunt to Afghanistan to ink the Strategic Partnership Agreement with President Hamid Karzai also gave the commander in chief a prime locale from which to address the nation on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death.
“Let us remember why we came here,” he said. “It was here, in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden established a safe haven for his terrorist organization.
“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.”
A senior administration official told reporters on a White House call today that it was “already the president’s intention to spend this anniversary with our troops” before the signing of the agreement with Karzai was nailed down.
The president then turned his focus to the drawdown in his speech from Bagram Air Base, saying that another 23,000 U.S. troops will leave by the end of the summer and “reductions will continue at a steady pace” until Afghan security forces assume full responsibility at the end of 2014.
“I recognize that many Americans are tired of war,” Obama said. “As president, nothing is more wrenching than signing a letter to a family of the fallen, or looking into the eyes of a child who will grow up without a mother or father. I will not keep Americans in harm’s way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly.”
One lawmaker who has cautioned the White House about the “responsibly” part was pleased with the agreement that senior administration officials said took 20 months of negotiations to forge.
“The details of the security agreement have yet to be negotiated, but I envision a follow-on force made up of American military power, transport capability and Special Forces units,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. “This post-2014 force would be substantially smaller than what we have today and would shift the tide in any future engagements involving Afghan security forces.”
“With proper implementation, this agreement will be the end of the Taliban’s dream of retaking Afghanistan,” Graham said.