WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2012 – The United States will remain focused on the mission in Afghanistan while working toward ending the war in a responsible way that protects everything its military members have sacrificed for there, President Barack Obama said at Fort Bliss, Texas, Aug. 31.
Obama traveled to the Army installation to honor service members he credited with making a turnaround in Iraq and also helping Afghanistan chart its own new future.
“You left Iraq with honor, your mission complete, your heads high,” the president told the assembly of active, National Guard and reserve troops and their families. “And today Iraq has a chance to forge its own destiny.”
Last visiting Fort Bliss two years ago, Obama recalled reminding the troops there that “we had more work to do, including taking the fight to al-Qaida.”
Flashing forward to today, the president cited progress. “With allies and partners, we’ve taken out more top al-Qaida terrorists than at any time since 9/11,” he said. “And thanks to the courage of our forces, al-Qaida is on the road to defeat, and bin Laden will never again threaten the United States of America.”
Obama recognized Fort Bliss troops who have recently returned from Afghanistan or are currently deployed there, and some scheduled to deploy soon.
“I’ve got to tell you the truth,” he said. “This is still a very tough fight.”
The president recognized the sacrifices made, noting that he met earlier today with Gold Star families who lost loved ones in the conflict. “Your loved ones live on in the soul of the nation. We will honor them always,” he told the family members.
“Because of their sacrifice, because of your service, we pushed the Taliban back,” the president said. “We’re training forces. The transition to Afghan lead is under way. And, as promised, more than 30,000 of our troops will have come home by next month.”
Obama offered assurance that “just as in Iraq, we are going to end this war responsibly.”
The Afghans will take the lead for their own security next year, he noted, and the transition will be complete in 2014.
“And even as this war ends, we will stay vigilant until Afghanistan is never again a source for attacks against America — never again,” Obama said, drawing cheers from the crowd. “So we’re not just ending these wars. We’re doing it in a way that keeps America safe and makes America stronger.”
That, the president said, includes the military. Drawing down forces, he said, will mean fewer deployments, which creates more time to train, improve readiness, prepare for the future and reconnect with families.
“So make no mistake: ending the wars responsibly makes us safer, and it makes our military even stronger,” he said.
Obama emphasized, in drawing down the force in Afghanistan, that the United States must remain ready for the challenges ahead. “In a world of serious threats, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the United States of America or our interests,” he said.
“At the same time, I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary,” he pledged. “And when we do, we will give you the equipment and the clear mission and the smart strategy and the support back home that you need to get the job done. We owe you that.”
The president recognized that the future, post-conflict military will be leaner. He promised, however, that the United States will continue making the investments needed “to keep you the absolute best military in the world, bar none.”
The United States will always maintain its military superiority, he said.
“In you, we’ve got the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in human history. And as commander in chief, I am going to keep it that way,” the president said.
Obama reaffirmed his pledge that the United States will continue to support those who have served and sacrificed on behalf of the nation.
“We may be turning a page on a decade of war, but America’s responsibilities to you have only just begun,” he said.