Obama Afghanistan Speech Transcript with Commentary

General David Petraeus was not mentioned in Obama’s Afghanistan troop withdrawal speech last night (shocking), and apparently Petraeus DID NOT endorse the plan, but wanted only “a few thousand troops” withdrawn this year, keeping the majority of the surge troops until early 2013. There were two glaring issues that stood out to me: 1) the Taliban now has our timeline and 2) “the tide of war is receding.” Where does Libya and Yemen fit into that tide? Please read the comments of our Deputy Secretary of Defense below. See the speech transcript below the news sources.

U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Kennedy focuses his rifle while on security detail during patrol in Katalai village in Khowst province, Afghanistan, June 15, 2011. Kennedy is assigned to the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joseph Watson

The Taliban now has an exact date of U.S. withdrawal, and we leave them not in defeat but in negotiations with the Afghan government (if they choose to do so). I guess it depends on what the definition of “victory” is. I predict the Taliban will not be risking their lives at the hands of our military. They’ll wait us out. Watch them dissolve back into their villages until we exit, and take the gains of the surge with us. He will have a total of 43,000 troops back in the U.S. a couple of months before election day, leaving 66,000 U.S. military there, but to come home by the end of 2014.

Earlier this month, Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III said (paraphrased) the way our military thinks about wars is outmoded, and “this construct” does not fit our current reality.” The bottom line of his comments, as reported in The Washington Times, is that wars of the future will be longer, deadlier and waged against a more diverse variety of enemies than ever before, and we must be ready. He points to the importance of our cyber warfare capabilities. Note that this week we were told the government has put new restrictions, requiring more bureaucratic oversight, on the way we react to cyber threats.

In a 21st-century world transformed by the information technology revolution, a greater range of adversaries – from criminal gangs to terror groups and rogue states – have access to the deadliest of weapons, Mr. Lynn said.

…the U.S. military “must be able to confront both high-end and low-end threats … we will need both fifth-generation [jet] fighters and counter-IED technology,” he said, referring to the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by militants in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We must plan to sustain long-term commitments for a range of plausible conflicts,” which means changing the way “we size, structure and utilize” the National Guard and reserves, he said.

“We need the ability to scale-up force structure for longer conflicts,” he said, meaning the military needs to be able to mobilize larger numbers of troops for longer periods of time.

The New York Times:

The troop reductions, which were decided after a short but fierce internal debate, will be both deeper and faster than the recommendations made by Mr. Obama’s military commanders…

The Daily Caller, Neil Munro:

Already, many Afghans have begun maneuvering for advantage in a post-American Afghanistan. An alliance of groups from Northern Afghanistan — “the Coalition for Change and Hope” — has openly split with Karzai’s government and begun to seek alliances with Southern anti-Taliban tribal leaders.

The U.K.’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague says the Taliban is still working the al-Qaeda. He “refused” to agree that military operations should be halted while preliminary talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government go forward (if they do), saying a “political reconciliation must run alongside our military efforts.” British troops are expected to be in Afghanistan through 2015. However, PM David Cameron was encouraged by Obama’s withdrawal and will add to the 450 returning military to a “second, smaller withdrawal” by the end of 2011, and a larger number in the Fall of 2012. British military commanders want a less hasty withdrawal.

TRANSCRIPT:

Barack Obama, June 22, 2011

Good evening. Nearly 10 years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor. This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security — one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives.

In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al-Qaida and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then our focus shifted. A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there. By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year. But al-Qaida’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive. Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al-Qaida, and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.

For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al-Qaida; reverse the Taliban’s momentum; and train Afghan Security Forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to drawdown our forces this July.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014 this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al-Qaida is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al-Qaida’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al-Qaida had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”

The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al-Qaida under enormous strain. Bin Laden expressed concern that al-Qaida has been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that have been killed, and that al-Qaida has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam — thereby draining more widespread support. Al-Qaida remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks. But we have put al-Qaida on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.

In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country. Afghan Security Forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we have already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people. In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.

Of course, huge challenges remain. This is the beginning — but not the end — of our effort to wind down this war. We will have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we have made, while we drawdown our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government. And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.

We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement. So as we strengthen the Afghan government and Security Forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban. Our position on these talks is clear: They must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al-Qaida, abandon violence and abide by the Afghan Constitution. But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.

The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply: no safe haven from which al-Qaida or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland, or our allies. We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people; and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures — one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.

Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region. We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments. For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.

My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country. We have learned anew the profound cost of war — a cost that has been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan — men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended. Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the field of battle, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.

Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way. We have ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.

As they do, we must learn their lessons. Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world. Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America overextend ourselves, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

We must chart a more centered course. Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. When threatened, we must respond with force — but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas. When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we are doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their destiny.

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource — our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep and no horizon is beyond our reach.

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care, and benefits, and opportunity that you deserve.

I met some of those patriotic Americans at Fort Campbell. A while back, I spoke to the 101st Airborne that has fought to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and to the team that took out Osama bin Laden. Standing in front of a model of bin Laden’s compound, the Navy SEAL who led that effort paid tribute to those who had been lost — brothers and sisters in arms whose names are now written on bases where our troops stand guard overseas, and on headstones in quiet corners of our country where their memory will never be forgotten. This officer — like so many others I have met with on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital — spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one — depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril.

That’s a lesson worth remembering — that we are all a part of one American family. Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish. Now, let us finish the work at hand. Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story. With confidence in our cause; with faith in our fellow citizens; and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America — for this generation, and the next. May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America.

End Obama Transcript

This was a stump speech and a fundraiser. Obama has gone against his Military commanders and ignored his own attorneys on the Libyan and Yemen conflict. I think he is trying to walk a fine line: He will go after those committing human rights violations (Ghaddafi), unless the violations are happening in Saudi Arabia or Syria (and we’ll see other countries added to that list before the so-called Arab Spring is over). Obama has taken the first steps in putting together a world military. That’s the goal, to move battles from NATO to the U.N..

  • Why Are the Mullahs Dancing in the Streets of Tehran?

    We make a strategic rebuttal of the troop withdrawal plan in the piece “There Is No War In Afghanistan”, and explain why the Mullahs are dancing.

    We disagree with the Republican wets – we publish it last night before the WSJ mimmicked our presentation this morning – and expressed our worries of the consequences.

    It is a geo-political lesson well worth considering.

  • Obama needs to get our troops out of Afghanistan so he can send them latter to the Middle East.

    • Jim, I don’t think Obama will use our troops for any so-called Arab Spring in the Middle East. Going against Islam is on his radar.


  • This was a stump speech and a fundraiser

    My thought exactly when I was watching the entire speech last night.

    • AOW, I heard yesterday that Obama has had 30 fundraisers this year. Bush had 3 in the same time span.

  • Gregory

    Barack Obama is the Commander in Chief. He punked Petraus, a hold-over from the odious Bush administration which took us into these wars. Bush (that bastard un-American ignoramus and tool of the oil companies) took us into these wars. Unable to bring the wars to a conclusion, he publicly stated that he was leaving the clean-up to his successor. It’s the Republican way. Deal with it.

    • Gregory, “punked” Petraeus? Does that make you happy? Do you realize how childish it sounds to still talk about being a “tool of the oil companies?” Believe me, I’m dealing with your punk president.

  • Obama is a political hack. The man is an egomaniac who only cares about his political future. He doesn’t care about our troops, just how to appease to his base. He’s drawing down the troops solely for political expediency. Plus, he ignored the Generals’ advice. He is soooo despicable.