Small post-2014 force in Afghanistan: Obama
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): US President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he was ready to keep a small force in Afghanistan post 2014, once the negotiated Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was signed.
In his State of the Union Address, Obama did not reveal what that small number of troops would be, but said American troops would be engaged in training and assisting Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations to pursue remnants of Al Qaeda.
“If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of Al Qaeda,” the president said.
“For a while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country,” said Obama, who noted that after 2014, the US would support a unified Afghanistan as it took responsibility for its own future.
Obama said more than 60,000 of its troops had already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces in the lead for their own security, foreign troops had moved to a support role, he continued. Together with its allies, the US would complete its mission there by the end of the year, and America’s longest war would finally be over, he maintained.
Referring to the war on terrorism, Obama said the US was still not safe. “The fact is that danger remains. While we have put Al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved, as Al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks.”
America had to remain vigilant, he said, believing the US leadership and security could not depend on its military alone. “As Commander-in-Chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office,” he continued.
“But I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it’s truly necessary; nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us – large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism,” said the president.
Even as the US aggressively pursued terrorist networks – through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of its foreign partners – America must move off a permanent war footing, he observed.
“That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones – for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence. That’s why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs – because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated,” Obama said.
“And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay – because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world,” he concluded.
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