Obama West Point Afghanistan Speech Transcript: Breaking down Obama West Point Speech

This was a very strange speech, especially as the President was speaking to an audience of West Point cadets. The usual pundits seem to think our President is acknowledging that what we have here, is not a man-made disaster, but rather a real war on terror. He did not say that. I don’t think he meant that. Obama had to acknowledge a threat to justify increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. Then he dismissed it all, with a date for withdrawal.

West Point

Here’s more that I find odd:

He reminded us that Islam is one of the world’s greatest religions, And that we have
forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World – one that
recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict… I don’t think so. What is that explanation, Mr. President, of how you have done this. Nothing has changed in the Muslim world. Most Americans are infidels. Radical Islam is planning our deaths. We saw that at Fort Hood, and our President would not call it what it was – 14 murders at the hand of a radical Islamiscist. It is known as jihad. He has done nothing…nothing to quell radical Islam, just as no Islamic country has done anything to quell radical Islam.

He said combat troops will be gone from Iraq by summer 2010 and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011. He said that he will send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, and they will begin to return from Afghanistan in 18 months. He said he is giving the troops what they need to “seize the initiative.” You and I know, that he doesn’t know this to be true. He has set a definite timeline and radical Islam is nothing if not patient.

After telling the enemy when we will leave, he outlined the battle we are facing, and he got this right, at least in part:

“no idle danger, no hypothetical threat.”

“This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda
can operate with impunity.”

Since 9/11, al Qaeda’s safe-havens have been the source
of attacks against London and Amman and Bali.

We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda. …we know
that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have
every reason to believe that they would use them.

I make this decision
because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and

The security of the U.S. and the American people is at stake.

 He said the struggle against
violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well
beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said that the dangers to a free
society “involve disorderly regions and diffuse enemies. He is loathe
to speak it – that the disorderly regions and diffuse extremism comes only from Muslim countries.

President Obama ignored that 9-11-01 changed everything, forever. The battle with radical Islam will not end, and it will not be over in 18 months – and especially not in Afghanistan or Pakistan.  This is an unending battle and we ignore it at our peril.

Obama talked to this young group of cadets about the economic problems we face and the burden of the cost of the war…”we
simply cannot afford to ignore the price of these wars.”
That is a real confidence builder. We are facing “no idle danger and he is “convinced” our security is at state, but “we simply cannot afford to ignore the price of these wars.” In my opinion, this conversation had no place in this speech – it was inappropriate conversation on a night when he speaks of the importance of this war, and the risks if it is not won.

He talked about his quest to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction, and his goal to achieve a world without them – yet, he cannot stand up to Iran. His diplomacy cannot convince Russia and China to stand up to Iran. Obama believes that “true security” will come for those who will reject WMD. And who will that be? Those days are gone. Terrible weapons are a reality, and I pray that ours our “more terrible” than theirs. I pray that we have the courage to use them, if it is absolutely necessary – and that we have the wisdom to know that time.

So, the question to President Obama is – what happens when you realize that not only can you not tamp down the aggression in 18 months, but what happens when you realize that we will never again be without the threat of attack from radical Islam.


President Barack Obama

The Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan
United States Military Academy at West Point
December 1, 2009

Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and
women of our armed services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to
speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan – the nature of
our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that
my Administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful
conclusion. It is an honor for me to do so here – at West Point – where
so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and
to represent what is finest about our country.

To address these issues, it is important to recall why America and
our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first
place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, nineteen
men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000
people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They
took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to
their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of
the passengers on board one of those flights, they could have also
struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and
killed many more.

As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda – a group of extremists
who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great
religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of
operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban
– a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of
that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and
civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had
turned elsewhere.

Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against
al Qaeda and those who harbored them – an authorization that continues
to this day. The vote in the Senate was 98 to 0. The vote in the House
was 420 to 1. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization invoked Article 5 – the commitment that says an
attack on one member nation is an attack on all. And the United Nations
Security Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to
the 9/11 attacks. America, our allies and the world were acting as one
to destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist network, and to protect our common

Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy
– and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden – we
sent our troops into Afghanistan. Within a matter of months, al Qaeda
was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. The Taliban was
driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known
decades of fear now had reason to hope. At a conference convened by the
UN, a provisional government was established under President Hamid
Karzai. And an International Security Assistance Force was established
to help bring a lasting peace to a war-torn country.

Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war in
Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq War is well-known and need not
be repeated here. It is enough to say that for the next six years, the
Iraq War drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our
diplomacy, and our national attention – and that the decision to go
into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the

Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a
responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the
end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we
are doing so is a testament to the character of our men and women in
uniform. Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance , we have given
Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving
Iraq to its people.

But while we have achieved hard-earned milestones in Iraq, the
situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. After escaping across the
border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda’s leadership
established a safe-haven there. Although a legitimate government was
elected by the Afghan people, it has been hampered by corruption, the
drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient Security
Forces. Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common
cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan
government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to take control over
swaths of Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and
devastating acts of terrorism against the Pakistani people.

Throughout this period, our troop levels in Afghanistan remained a
fraction of what they were in Iraq. When I took office, we had just
over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan, compared to 160,000 in
Iraq at the peak of the war. Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked
for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these
reinforcements did not arrive. That’s why, shortly after taking office,
I approved a long-standing request for more troops. After consultations
with our allies, I then announced a strategy recognizing the
fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan, and the
extremist safe-havens in Pakistan. I set a goal that was narrowly
defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its
extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and
civilian effort.

Since then, we have made progress on some important objectives.
High-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and we have
stepped up the pressure on al Qaeda world-wide. In Pakistan, that
nation’s Army has gone on its largest offensive in years. In
Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a
presidential election, and – although it was marred by fraud – that
election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan’s
laws and Constitution.

Yet huge challenges remain. Afghanistan is not lost, but for several
years it has moved backwards. There is no imminent threat of the
government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al
Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before
9/11, but they retain their safe-havens along the border. And our
forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner
with Afghan Security Forces and better secure the population. Our new
Commander in Afghanistan – General McChrystal – has reported that the
security situation is more serious than he anticipated. In short: the
status quo is not sustainable.

As cadets, you volunteered for service during this time of danger.
Some of you have fought in Afghanistan. Many will deploy there. As your
Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and
worthy of your service. That is why, after the Afghan voting was
completed, I insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. Let me be
clear: there has never been an option before me that called for troop
deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of
resources necessary for the conduct of the war. Instead, the review has
allowed me ask the hard questions, and to explore all of the different
options along with my national security team, our military and civilian
leadership in Afghanistan, and with our key partners. Given the stakes
involved, I owed the American people – and our troops – no less.

This review is now complete. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have
determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an
additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our
troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to
seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow
for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.

I do not make this decision lightly. I opposed the war in Iraq
precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use
of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of
our actions. We have been at war for eight years, at enormous cost in
lives and resources. Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left
our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly
polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having just
experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the
American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy
and putting people to work here at home.

Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you – a
military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest
of all burdens. As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to
the family of each American who gives their life in these wars. I have
read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I
have visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I have
travelled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans
returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the
terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the
United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in
Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home

So no – I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision
because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and
Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by
al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from
here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle
danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have
apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the
border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror.
This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda
can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and
to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners
in the region.

Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just
America’s war. Since 9/11, al Qaeda’s safe-havens have been the source
of attacks against London and Amman and Bali. The people and
governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered. And the
stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know
that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have
every reason to believe that they would use them.

These facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies. Our
overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al
Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to
threaten America and our allies in the future.

To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within
Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe-haven. We must reverse the
Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government.
And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s Security Forces
and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for
Afghanistan’s future.

We will meet these objectives in three ways. First, we will pursue a
military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase
Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months.

The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will
deploy in the first part of 2010 – the fastest pace possible – so that
they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They
will increase our ability to train competent Afghan Security Forces,
and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight.
And they will help create the conditions for the United States to
transfer responsibility to the Afghans.

Because this is an international effort, I have asked that our
commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have
already provided additional troops, and we are confident that there
will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Our friends
have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. Now, we must
come together to end this war successfully. For what’s at stake is not
simply a test of NATO’s credibility – what’s at stake is the security
of our Allies, and the common security of the world.

Taken together, these additional American and international troops
will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan
forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of
Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will
execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on
the ground. We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s
Security Forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But
it will be clear to the Afghan government – and, more importantly, to
the Afghan people – that they will ultimately be responsible for their
own country.

Second, we will work with our partners, the UN, and the Afghan
people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the
government can take advantage of improved security.

This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a
blank check are over. President Karzai’s inauguration speech sent the
right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we
will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our
assistance. We will support Afghan Ministries, Governors, and local
leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect
those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we
will also focus our assistance in areas – such as agriculture – that
can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people.

The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They
have been confronted with occupation – by the Soviet Union, and then by
foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes.
So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand – America seeks an
end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying
your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open
the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human
rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with
Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect – to isolate those who destroy;
to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will
leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your
partner, and never your patron.

Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in
Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.

We are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading
through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the
border region of Pakistan. That is why we need a strategy that works on
both sides of the border.

In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who have argued that
the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is
better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use
violence. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from
Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani
people who are the most endangered by extremism. Public opinion has
turned. The Pakistani Army has waged an offensive in Swat and South
Waziristan. And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan
share a common enemy.

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan
narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a
partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual
interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen
Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries,
and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for
terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear.
America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s
democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter
for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the
Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of
Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen
silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

These are the three core elements of our strategy: a military effort
to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that
reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.

I recognize that there are a range of concerns about our approach.
So let me briefly address a few of the prominent arguments that I have
heard, and which I take very seriously.

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another
Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we are better off
cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. Yet this argument depends
upon a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a
broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our
action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular
insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people
were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those
same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area
now – and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance –
would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al
Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our
homeland and our allies.

Second, there are those who acknowledge that we cannot leave
Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with
the troops that we have. But this would simply maintain a status quo in
which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions
there. It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in
Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions
needed to train Afghan Security Forces and give them the space to take

Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a timeframe for our
transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more
dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort – one that would
commit us to a nation building project of up to a decade. I reject this
course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a
reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests.
Furthermore, the absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us
any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be
clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security,
and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in

As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our
responsibility, our means, our or interests. And I must weigh all of
the challenges that our nation faces. I do not have the luxury of
committing to just one. Indeed, I am mindful of the words of President
Eisenhower, who – in discussing our national security – said, “Each
proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the
need to maintain balance in and among national programs.”

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance, and failed
to appreciate the connection between our national security and our
economy. In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our friends and
neighbors are out of work and struggle to pay the bills, and too many
Americans are worried about the future facing our children. Meanwhile,
competition within the global economy has grown more fierce. So we
simply cannot afford to ignore the price of these wars.

All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars. Going forward, I am
committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. Our new
approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly 30 billion dollars
for the military this year, and I will work closely with Congress to
address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.

But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan
responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our
prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our
military. It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our
people, and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to
compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That is
why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended – because
the nation that I am most interested in building is our own.

Let me be clear: none of this will be easy. The struggle against
violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well
beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will be an enduring test of our
free society, and our leadership in the world. And unlike the great
power conflicts and clear lines of division that defined the 20th
century, our effort will involve disorderly regions and diffuse enemies.

So as a result, America will have to show our strength in the way
that we end wars and prevent conflict. We will have to be nimble and
precise in our use of military power. Where al Qaeda and its allies
attempt to establish a foothold – whether in Somalia or Yemen or
elsewhere – they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong

And we cannot count on military might alone. We have to invest in
our homeland security, because we cannot capture or kill every violent
extremist abroad. We have to improve and better coordinate our
intelligence, so that we stay one step ahead of shadowy networks.

We will have to take away the tools of mass destruction. That is why
I have made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose
nuclear materials from terrorists; to stop the spread of nuclear
weapons; and to pursue the goal of a world without them. Because every
nation must understand that true security will never come from an
endless race for ever-more destructive weapons – true security will
come for those who reject them.

We will have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the
challenges of an interconnected world acting alone. I have spent this
year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have
forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World – one that
recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and
that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated
by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.

Finally, we must draw on the strength of our values – for the
challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we
believe in must not. That is why we must promote our values by living
them at home – which is why I have prohibited torture and will close
the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man,
woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of
tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights,
and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and
respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the
moral source of America’s authority.

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice
of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global
affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple
continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from
rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to
develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to
NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and
prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at
times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States
of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a
time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets
open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress,
and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world
domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do
not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s
resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is
different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to
fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and
we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children
and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

As a country, we are not as young – and perhaps not as innocent – as
we were when Roosevelt was President. Yet we are still heirs to a noble
struggle for freedom. Now we must summon all of our might and moral
suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.

In the end, our security and leadership does not come solely from
the strength of our arms. It derives from our people – from the workers
and businesses who will rebuild our economy; from the entrepreneurs and
researchers who will pioneer new industries; from the teachers that
will educate our children, and the service of those who work in our
communities at home; from the diplomats and Peace Corps volunteers who
spread hope abroad; and from the men and women in uniform who are part
of an unbroken line of sacrifice that has made government of the
people, by the people, and for the people a reality on this Earth.

This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue
– nor should we. But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain
our leadership nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time if we
allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and
partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse.

It is easy to forget that when this war began, we were united –
bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the
determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I
refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. I
believe with every fiber of my being that we – as Americans – can still
come together behind a common purpose. For our values are not simply
words written into parchment – they are a creed that calls us together,
and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation,
one people.

America – we are passing through a time of great trial. And the
message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that
our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the
confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an
America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that
represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes. Thank
you, God Bless you, God Bless our troops, and may God Bless the United
States of America.

End Obama speech


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