Obama: The 'Light of a New Day' is Visible in Afghanistan
In a speech delivered from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, President Obama said that after more than 10 years of war in the country, the U.S. is on a path toward peace.
"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," President Obama said. "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-Qaida."
President Obama gave the speech backed by military vehicles and just hours after signing a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The agreement lays out the nations' relationship after the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops in 2014.
Obama used the prime-time, televised address to the country to make the case that he would fulfill his promise to end the Afghan war responsibly.
"Our goal is to destroy al-Qaida, and we are on a path to do exactly that," the president said.
"This time of war began in Afghanistan," Obama concluded, "and this is where it will end."
We live blogged the president's speech, so keep reading if you want a detailed look at his speech.
Update at 8:16 p.m. ET. The President's Full Remarks:
Update at 7:51 p.m. ET. First Speech Abroad:
Mark Knoller, who keeps track of many facts about the presidency, tweets:
"It was 4:01AM in Afghanistan as Pres Obama dellivered his Address to the Nation. His 8th since taking office, 1st from abroad."
Update at 7:46 p.m. ET. A Campaign Promise:
On our live coverage, NPR's Mara Liasson says this was a president telling the country that he has kept his promise. This is a president, said Mara, that is trying to give the "American people what they want" and that's an end to war.
NPR's Scott Horsley said the president set out a best-case scenario in his speech. But whether Obama is able to draw down the war quickly is up to how things go on the ground in Afghanistan.
Update at 7:44 p.m. ET. Time To Renew America:
Ending his speech, President Obama said:
"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."
"This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end."
"Let's finish the work at hand and forge a just and lasting peace," he said.
Update at 7:40 p.m. ET. Winding Down The War:
President Obama makes it clear that he is set on winding down the war, saying "our goal is not to build a county in the image of the U.S. ... our goal is to destroy al-Qaida" and that goal is near, he said.
Obama added that he would not keep troops in Afghanistan "a single day longer than necessary for our national security."
"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-Qaida," President Obama said.
Update at 7:37 p.m. ET. Responsible for Their Country:
"By the end of 2014, the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country," says Obama.
That said Obama says that the U.S. will stand by Afghanistan. "As you stand up, you will not stand alone," Obama said.
Update at 7:33 p.m. ET. A Support Role:
President Obama says our "goal to defeat Al-Qaida is within reach."
"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."
Update at 7:32 p.m. ET. A Historic Agreement:
President Obama says the agreement signed by him today means "war ends and new chapters begin."
Update at 7:29 p.m. ET. Watch, Listen Live:
Just a quick note that you can listen to our special coverage here. And you can watch PBS' feed of Obama's speech by clicking play in the player above.
Update at 7:24 p.m. ET. Purple Hearts:
While we wait for the president, Mark Knoller, CBS News White House correspondent, tweets that during his visit Obama also visited the hospital to bestow "10 Purple Heart Medals on wounded personnel."
Update at 7:04 p.m. ET. On The Agreement:
Just to provide a bit of background: The agreement signed today is rather vague. It's not clear how many American troops will stay in Afghanistan after 2014 or how much the United States and other coalition members will contribute to the Afghan government.
As we reported last month, the one thing that is clear in the agreement is that the United States does not plan to maintain permanent military bases in the country.
Update at 6:58 p.m. ET. Osama Bin Laden:
It's important to note that this speech also comes a year to the day when President Obama told the country that Osama bin Laden had been killed during a U.S. raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
This speech, reports The New York Times, "will give Mr. Obama a new opportunity to make an election-year case that he has wound down two costly and now unpopular wars [in Afghanistan] and in Iraq."
Update at 6:43 p.m. ET. 'A New Day On The Horizon':
The White House has released a few excerpts from the president's speech tonight. As expected, the president will take the opportunity to talk about the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"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 president will say. "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."
The president will also praise the country's troops, saying that "in their faces, we see what is best in ourselves and our country."