When Sen. Barack Obama was running for president eight years ago, he did so on a campaign promise that he’d withdraw all troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, near the end of his second term in office, U.S. troops are still maintaining a presence in both countries, and his promises to remove them, like many of his other campaign promises, remain unmet.
On Wednesday President Obama announced that the troops in Afghanistan not only will remain, but their levels have been raised from their planned draw-down.
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Obama held a press conference in Washington where he delivered a statement on the situation in Afghanistan. After providing a history of how the U.S. became involved in Afghanistan and touting his administration’s assassination of Osama bin Laden and the training of Afghan troops, Obama announced he will not be removing all U.S. forces from the country before he leaves office.
“Afghan security forces are still not as strong as they need to be,” the president said, adding the Afghans still need help in areas of “intelligence, logistics, aviation and command and control. At the same time the Taliban remains a threat. They’ve gained ground in some cases, they’ve continued attacks and suicide bombings including in Kabul. … The Taliban remains a threat…because the Taliban deliberately target innocent civilians, more Afghan men, women and children are dying … and many have been fleeing their country.”
FACT: President Obama has a plan to end the war in Afghanistan in 2014—Mitt Romney does not.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 22, 2012
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Former President George W. Bush, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, said the U.S. would “pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism,” which led to the war in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Obama echoed his predecessor when he said, “I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again. … I strongly believe that it is in our national security interests … that we give our Afghan partners the very best opportunity to succeed.”
Obama said he was influenced by the opinions and insights from Marine Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dundord, the national security team, Congress and the Afghan government to reach the conclusion that the planned draw-down of troops was moving too quickly.
“I’m announcing an additional adjustment to our posture. Instead of going down to 5,500 troops by the end of this year, the United States will maintain approximately 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, into next year, through the end of my administration,” the president said.
Obama’s closing comments saw the outgoing two-term commander-in-chief calling on NATO allies and others to commit further troops to the conflict.
The president also signaled he would be willing to negotiate for a peace settlement with the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan prior to 2001.
“I will say it again, the only way to end this conflict and to achieve a full draw-down of foreign forces from Afghanistan is through a lasting political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, that’s the only way. And that is why the United States will continue to strongly support an Afghan-led reconciliation process,” with the Taliban, the president concluded.
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