Good evening from Bagram Air Base. This outpost is more than seven
thousand miles from home, but for over a decade it has been close to
our hearts. Because here, in Afghanistan, more than half a million of
our sons and daughters have sacrificed to protect our country.
Today, I signed an historic agreement between the
United States and Afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship
between our countries - a future in which Afghans are responsible for
the security of their nation, and we build an equal partnership between
two sovereign states; a future in which the war ends, and a new
Tonight, I'd like to speak to you about this transition. But first,
let us remember why we came here. It was here, in Afghanistan, where
Osama bin Laden established a safe-haven for his terrorist
organization. It was here, in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda brought new
recruits, trained them, and plotted acts of terror. It was here, from
within these borders, that al Qaeda launched the attacks that killed
nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children.
And so, ten years ago, the United States and our allies went to war
to make sure that al Qaeda could never again use this country to launch
attacks against us. Despite initial success, for a number of reasons,
this war has taken longer than most anticipated. In 2002, bin Laden
and his lieutenants escaped across the border and established
safe-havens in Pakistan. America spent nearly eight years fighting a
different war in Iraq. And al Qaeda's extremist allies within the
Taliban have waged a brutal insurgency.
But over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the
Taliban's momentum. We've built strong Afghan Security Forces. We
devastated al Qaeda's leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30
leaders. 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 within
Still, there will be difficult days ahead. The enormous sacrifices
of our men and women are not over. But tonight, I'd like to tell you
how we will complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan.
First, we have begun a transition to Afghan responsibility for
security. 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.
Second, we are training Afghan Security Forces to get the job done.
Those forces have surged, and will peak at 352,000 this year. The
Afghans will sustain that level for three years, and then reduce the
size of their military. And in Chicago, we will endorse a proposal to
support a strong and sustainable long-term Afghan force.
Third, we are building an enduring partnership. The agreement we
signed today sends a clear message to the Afghan people: as you stand
up, you will not stand alone. It establishes the basis of our
cooperation over the next decade, including shared commitments to
combat terrorism and strengthen democratic institutions. It supports
Afghan efforts to advance development and dignity for their people. And
it includes Afghan commitments to transparency and accountability, and
to protect the human rights of all Afghans - men and women, boys and
Within this framework, we will work with the Afghans to determine
what support they need to accomplish two narrow security missions
beyond 2014: counter-terrorism and continued training. But we will not
build permanent bases in this country, nor will we be patrolling its
cities and mountains. That will be the job of the Afghan people.
Fourth, we are pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the
Afghan government, my Administration has been in direct discussions
with the Taliban. We have made it clear that they can be a part of
this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide
by Afghan laws. Many members of the Taliban - from foot soldiers to
leaders - have indicated an interest in reconciliation. A path to peace
is now set before them. Those who refuse to walk it will face strong
Afghan Security Forces, backed by the United States and our allies.
Fifth, we are building a global consensus to support peace and
stability in South Asia. In Chicago, the international community will
express support for this plan, and for Afghanistan's future. I have
made it clear to Afghanistan's neighbor - Pakistan - that it can and
should be an equal partner in this process in a way that respects
Pakistan's sovereignty, interests, and democratic institutions. In
pursuit of a durable peace, America has no designs beyond an end to al
Qaeda safe-havens, and respect for Afghan sovereignty.
As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm
timeline. The answer is clear: our goal is not to build a country in
America's image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These
objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and many
more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a
path to do exactly that. Afghans want to fully assert their sovereignty
and build a lasting peace. That requires a clear timeline to wind down
Others will ask why we don't leave immediately. That answer is also
clear: 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
I recognize that many Americans are tired of war. As President,
nothing is more wrenching than signing a letter to a family of the
fallen, or looking in 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
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
fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al
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.
Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, coast guardsmen and
civilians in Afghanistan have done their duty. Now, we must summon that
same sense of common purpose. We must give our veterans and military
families the support they deserve, and the opportunities they have
earned. And we must redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of
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.
Here, in Afghanistan, Americans answered the call to defend their
fellow citizens and uphold human dignity. Today, we recall the fallen,
and those who suffer wounds seen and unseen. But through dark days we
have drawn strength from their example, and the ideals that have guided
our nation and lit the world: a belief that all people are created
equal, and deserve the freedom to determine their destiny.
That is the light that guides us still. This time of war began in
Afghanistan, and this is where it will end. With faith in each other and
our eyes fixed on the future, let us finish the work at hand, and
forge a just and lasting peace. May God bless our troops. And may God
bless the United States of America.