Obama: US Troops To Leave Afghanistan By 2014
Speaking from Bagram airbase, Obama promised 23,000 troops would leave the country by the end of the summer and a complete withdrawal by 2014. It was a significant step in one of the US's longest and most frustrating wars, which began in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks.
"As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline," Obama said. "The answer is clear: our goal is not to build a country in America’s image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban."
The president made early reference to the Al Qaeda leader assassinated by US forces May 1, 2011. Though he refrained from calling bin Laden's death a complete success in Afghanistan, he implied that with Al Qaeda in disarray and the Taliban destabilized, America's presence in the territory was no longer as vital.
With US presence still under great scrutiny in the wake of Army Sgt. Robert Bale's alleged killing of 17 Afghan women and children, the president batted back ideas that the US should withdraw immediately.
"We must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise, our gains could be lost, and al Qaeda could establish itself once more. And as Commander-in-Chief, I refuse to let that happen."
The speech came directly from Afghanistan and took place early in the morning there, signifying that his remarks were aimed directly at the US audience at home.
In the timeline outlined by the president, Afghan forces would regain complete military control of the country by 2014. Although there would be no US forces in the country by then, America and other allies would maintain a strong advising and peacekeeping role.
Since the war began, 1,957 US troops have been killed in combat while 132,000 Afghans have died.