WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today said he strongly supports President Barack Obama’s decision to maintain a limited U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends there later this year.
“This presence, which is contingent on a signed bilateral security agreement, will help ensure that al-Qaida cannot reconstitute itself in Afghanistan,” the secretary said in a statement, “and it will help us sustain the significant progress we have made in training and equipping the Afghan national security forces.”
The secretary commended Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, “for his exceptional leadership of this mission, which he has kept on a path to success in the face of many challenges.”
The United States also appreciates the continued contributions of its International Security Assistance Force partners, Hagel added, noting that he will meet them with next week at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“And as we bring America’s longest war to a responsible end this year, all Americans are grateful for the sacrifice and service of the men and women who deployed there over the past 13 years,” Hagel said. “Everyone who has served in Afghanistan should be proud of what they accomplished, and the Afghan people should be confident of America’s enduring support for them.”