Full Text Obama Presidency June 19, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Crisis in Iraq and Decision to Send 300 US Troops

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Situation in Iraq

Source: WH, 6-19-14 

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:32 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I just met with my national security team to discuss the situation in Iraq.  We’ve been meeting regularly to review the situation since ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in Iraq and Syria, made advances inside of Iraq.  As I said last week, ISIL poses a threat to the Iraqi people, to the region, and to U.S. interests.  So today I wanted to provide you an update on how we’re responding to the situation.

First, we are working to secure our embassy and personnel operating inside of Iraq.  As President, I have no greater priority than the safety of our men and women serving overseas.  So I’ve taken some steps to relocate some of our embassy personnel, and we’ve sent reinforcements to better secure our facilities.

Second, at my direction, we have significantly increased our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets so that we’ve got a better picture of what’s taking place inside of Iraq.  And this will give us a greater understanding of what ISIL is doing, where it’s located, and how we might support efforts to counter this threat.

Third, the United States will continue to increase our support to Iraqi security forces.  We’re prepared to create joint operation centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the terrorist threat of ISIL.  Through our new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund, we’re prepared to work with Congress to provide additional equipment.  We have had advisors in Iraq through our embassy, and we’re prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisors — up to 300 — to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward.

American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.

Fourth, in recent days, we’ve positioned additional U.S. military assets in the region.  Because of our increased intelligence resources, we’re developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL.  And going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.  If we do, I will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region.

I want to emphasize, though, that the best and most effective response to a threat like ISIL will ultimately involve partnerships where local forces, like Iraqis, take the lead.

Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.  At my direction, Secretary Kerry will depart this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe, where he’ll be able to consult with our allies and partners.  And just as all Iraq’s neighbors must respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, all of Iraq’s neighbors have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists.

Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future.  Shia, Sunni, Kurds — all Iraqis — must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence.  National unity meetings have to go forward to build consensus across Iraq’s different communities.  Now that the results of Iraq’s recent election has been certified, a new parliament should convene as soon as possible.  The formation of a new government will be an opportunity to begin a genuine dialogue and forge a government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis.

Now, it’s not the place for the United States to choose Iraq’s leaders.  It is clear, though, that only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis.  Meanwhile, the United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another.  There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States.  But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process, a more capable Iraqi security force, and counterterrorism efforts that deny groups like ISIL a safe haven.

In closing, recent days have reminded us of the deep scars left by America’s war in Iraq.  Alongside the loss of nearly 4,500 American patriots, many veterans carry the wounds of that war, and will for the rest of their lives.  Here at home, Iraq sparked vigorous debates and intense emotions in the past, and we’ve seen some of those debates resurface.

But what’s clear from the last decade is the need for the United States to ask hard questions before we take action abroad, particularly military action.  The most important question we should all be asking, the issue that we have to keep front and center — the issue that I keep front and center — is what is in the national security interests of the United States of America.  As Commander-in-Chief, that’s what I stay focused on.  As Americans, that’s what all of us should be focused on.

And going forward, we will continue to consult closely with Congress.  We will keep the American people informed.  We will remain vigilant.  And we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the security of the United States and the safety of the American people.

So with that, I’m going to take a couple of questions.  I’ll start with Colleen McCain Nelson of the Wall Street Journal.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Do you have any confidence in Prime Minister Maliki at this point?  And can Maliki bring political stability to Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT:  As I said, it’s not our job to choose Iraq’s leaders.  Part of what our patriots fought for during many years in Iraq was the right and the opportunity for Iraqis to determine their own destiny and choose their own leaders.  But I don’t think there’s any secret that right now at least there is deep divisions between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish leaders.  And as long as those deep divisions continue or worsen, it’s going to be very hard for an Iraqi central government to direct an Iraqi military to deal with these threats.

And so we’ve consulted with Prime Minister Maliki, and we’ve said that to him privately.  We’ve said it publicly that whether he is prime minister, or any other leader aspires to lead the country, that it has to be an agenda in which Sunni, Shia and Kurd all feel that they have the opportunity to advance their interests through the political process.  And we’ve seen over the last two years, actually dating back to 2008, 2009 — but I think worse over the last two years — the sense among Sunnis that their interests were not being served, that legislation that had been promised around, for example, De-Ba’athification had been stalled.

I think that you hear similar complaints that the government in Baghdad has not sufficiently reached out to some of the tribes and been able to bring them in to a process that gives them a sense of being part of a unity government or a single nation-state.  And that has to be worked through.

Part of the reason why we saw better-equipped Iraqi security forces with larger numbers not be able to hold contested territory against ISIL probably reflects that lack of a sense of commitment on the part of Sunni communities to work with Baghdad.  And that has to be fixed if we’re going to get through this crisis.

Jim Acosta.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Americans may look at this decision that you’re making today as a sneak preview of coming attractions; that the number of advisors that you’re planning to send in may just be the beginning of a boots-on-the-ground scenario down the road.  Why is Iraq’s civil war in the national security interests of the United States?  And are you concerned about the potential for mission creep?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think we always have to guard against mission creep, so let me repeat what I’ve said in the past:  American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.

We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq.  Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis.

It is in our national security interests not to see an all-out civil war inside of Iraq, not just for humanitarian reasons, but because that ultimately can be destabilizing throughout the region.  And in addition to having strong allies there that we are committed to protecting, obviously issues like energy and global energy markets continues to be important.

We also have an interest in making sure that we don’t have a safe haven that continues to grow for ISIL and other extremist jihadist groups who could use that as a base of operations for planning and targeting ourselves, our personnel overseas, and eventually the homeland.  And if they accumulate more money, they accumulate more ammunition, more military capability, larger numbers, that poses great dangers not just to allies of ours like Jordan, which is very close by, but it also poses a great danger potentially to Europe and ultimately the United States.

We have already seen inside of Syria that — or groups like ISIL that right now are fighting with other extremist groups, or an Assad regime that was non-responsive to a Sunni majority there, that that has attracted more and more jihadists or would-be jihadists, some of them from Europe.  They then start traveling back to Europe, and that, over time, can create a cadre of terrorists that could harm us.

So we have humanitarian interests in preventing bloodshed.  We have strategic interests in stability in the region.  We have counterterrorism interests.  All those have to be addressed.

The initial effort for us to get situational awareness through the reconnaissance and surveillance that we’ve already done, coupled with some of our best people on the ground doing assessments of exactly what the situation is — starting, by the way, with the perimeter around Baghdad and making sure that that’s not overrun — that’s a good investment for us to make.  But that does not foreshadow a larger commitment of troops to actually fight in Iraq.  That would not be effective in meeting the core interests that we have.

Q    Just very quickly, do you wish you had left a residual force in Iraq?  Any regrets about that decision in 2011?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me; that was a decision made by the Iraqi government.  We offered a modest residual force to help continue to train and advise Iraqi security forces.  We had a core requirement which we require in any situation where we have U.S. troops overseas, and that is, is that they’re provided immunity since they’re being invited by the sovereign government there, so that if, for example, they end up acting in self-defense if they are attacked and find themselves in a tough situation, that they’re not somehow hauled before a foreign court.  That’s a core requirement that we have for U.S. troop presence anywhere.

The Iraqi government and Prime Minister Maliki declined to provide us that immunity.  And so I think it is important though to recognize that, despite that decision, that we have continued to provide them with very intensive advice and support and have continued throughout this process over the last five years to not only offer them our assistance militarily, but we’ve also continued to urge the kinds of political compromises that we think are ultimately necessary in order for them to have a functioning, multi-sectarian democracy inside the country.

Juliet Eilperin.

Q    Mr. President, you just mentioned Syria a moment ago.  The United States has been slow to provide significant weapons and training directly to the Syrian opposition.  Has the expansion of the Syria war into Iraq changed your mind about the type of weapons and training we’re now willing to give the opposition there?  Is that what prompted Secretary Kerry to say of Syria, “We are augmenting our assistance in significant ways”?  And can you elaborate on what you are you doing now that you weren’t doing before?

THE PRESIDENT:  That assessment about the dangers of what was happening in Syria have existed since the very beginning of the Syrian civil war.  The question has never been whether we thought this was a serious problem.  The question has always been, is there the capacity of moderate opposition on the ground to absorb and counteract extremists that might have been pouring in, as well as an Assad regime supported by Iran and Russia that outmanned them and was ruthless.

And so we have consistently provided that opposition with support.  Oftentimes, the challenge is if you have former farmers or teachers or pharmacists who now are taking up opposition against a battle-hardened regime, with support from external actors that have a lot at stake, how quickly can you get them trained; how effective are you able to mobilize them.  And that continues to be a challenge.  And even before the situation that we saw with ISIL going into Iraq, we had already tried to maximize what we could do to support a moderate opposition that not only can counteract the brutality of Assad, but also can make sure that in the minds of Sunnis they don’t think that their only alternative is either Mr. Assad or extremist groups like ISIL or al Nusra.

Q    And can you speak to what you might be doing differently, as the Secretary of State alluded to?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that the key to both Syria and Iraq is going to be a combination of what happens inside the country working with the moderate Syrian opposition, working with an Iraqi government that is inclusive, and us laying down a more effective counterterrorism platform that gets all the countries in the region pulling in the same direction.  And I alluded to this in the West Point speech.  I talked about it today with respect to the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund.

There is going to be a long-term problem in this region in which we have to build and partner with countries that are committed to our interests, our values.  And at the same time, we have immediate problems with terrorist organizations that may be advancing.  And rather than try to play Whac-a-Mole wherever these terrorist organizations may pop up, what we have to do is to be able to build effective partnerships, make sure that they have capacity.  Some of the assets that have been devoted solely to Afghanistan over the last decade we’ve got to shift to make sure that we have coverage in the Middle East and North Africa.

You look at a country like Yemen — a very impoverished country and one that has its own sectarian or ethnic divisions — there, we do have a committed partner in President Hadi and his government.  And we have been able to help to develop their capacities without putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground at the same time as we’ve got enough CT, or counterterrorism capabilities that we’re able to go after folks that might try to hit our embassy or might be trying to export terrorism into Europe or the United States.

And looking at how we can create more of those models is going to be part of the solution in dealing with both Syria and Iraq.  But in order for us to do that, we still need to have actual governments on the ground that we can partner with and that we’ve got some confidence are going to pursue the political policies of inclusiveness.  In Yemen, for example, a wide-ranging national dialogue that took a long time, but helped to give people a sense that there is a legitimate political outlet for grievances that they may have.

Peter Maer.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Going back to where you see Prime Minister al-Maliki playing a role at this point, you said that it’s a time to rise above differences, that there’s a need for more inclusive government.  Is he a unifier?  And how much clout does the United States ultimately have with any of the leadership in Iraq at this point really?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we still provide them significant assistance.  I think they recognize that, unlike some other players in the region, we don’t have territorial ambitions in their country.  We’re not looking to control their assets or their energy.  We want to make sure that we’re vindicating the enormous effort and sacrifice that was made by our troops in giving them an opportunity to build a stable, inclusive society that can prosper and deliver for the basic needs and aspirations of the Iraqi people.

And at the same time, they are a sovereign country.  They have their own politics.  And what we have tried to do is to give them our best advice about how they can solve their political problems.  Now that they are in crisis, we are indicating to them that there is not going to be a simple military solution to this issue.  If you start seeing the various groups inside of Iraq simply go to their respective corners, then it is almost certain that Baghdad and the central government will not be able to control huge chunks of their own country.  The only way they can do that is if there are credible Sunni leaders, both at the national level and at the local level, who have confidence that a Shia majority, that the Kurds, that all those folks are committed to a fair and just governance of the country.

Right now, that doesn’t exist.  There’s too much suspicion, there’s too much mistrust.  And the good news is that an election took place in which despite all this mistrust, despite all this frustration, despite all this anger, you still had millions of Iraqis turn out — in some cases, in very dangerous circumstances.  You now have a court that has certified those elections, and you have a constitutional process to advance government formation.

So far, at least, the one bit of encouraging news that we’ve seen inside of Iraq is that all the parties have said they continue to be committed to choosing a leadership and a government through the existing constitutional order.

So what you’re seeing I think is, as the prospects of civil war heighten, many Iraq leaders stepping back and saying, let’s not plunge back into the abyss; let’s see if we can resolve this politically.  But they don’t have a lot of time.  And you have a group like ISIL that is doing everything that it can to descend the country back into chaos.

And so one of the messages that we had for Prime Minister Maliki but also for the Speaker of the House and the other leadership inside of Iraq is, get going on this government formation.  It’ll make it a lot easier for them to shape a military strategy.  It’ll also make it possible for us to partner much more effectively than we can currently.

Q    Given the Prime Minister’s track record, is he a unifier?  Can he play that role after what we’ve seen play out over the last couple of weeks is brought into play?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think the test is before him and other Iraqi leaders as we speak.  Right now, they can make a series of decisions.  Regardless of what’s happened in the past, right now is a moment where the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance, and the test for all of them is going to be whether they can overcome the mistrust, the deep sectarian divisions, in some cases just political opportunism, and say this is bigger than any one of us and we’ve got to make sure that we do what’s right for the Iraqi people.  And that’s a challenge.

That’s not something that the United States can do for them.  That’s not something, by the way, that the United States Armed Forces can do for them.  We can provide them the space, we can provide them the tools.  But ultimately, they’re going to have to make those decisions.

In the meantime, my job is to make sure that American personnel there are safe; that we are consulting with the Iraqi security forces; that we’re getting a better assessment of what’s on the ground; and that we’re recognizing the dangers of ISIL over the long term, and developing the kinds of comprehensive counterterrorism strategies that we’re going to need to deal with this issue.  And that’s going to involve some short-term responses to make sure that ISIL is not obtaining capacity to endanger us directly or our allies and partners.  But it also is going to require some long-term strategies, as well.

Because part of what we’ve with respect to ISIL is a broader trend that I talked about at West Point — rather than a single network, a discreet network of terrorists, this fluid combination of hardened terrorists, disaffected local leadership.  And where there’s vacuums, they’re filling it and creating the potential for serious danger for all concerned.

Thank you very much.

Q    On Iran, Mr. President, any words on what you’re willing to do, and are you also willing to work with them?

THE PRESIDENT:  Our view is that Iran can play a constructive role if it is helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we’re sending, which is that Iraq only holds together if it’s inclusive and that if the interests of Sunni, Shia and Kurd are all respected.  If Iran is coming in solely as an armed force on behalf of the Shia, and if it is framed in that fashion, then that probably worsens the situation and the prospect for government formation that would actually be constructive over the long term.

Q    What’s your sense of that right now?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that just as Iraq’s leaders have to make decisions, I think Iran has heard from us.  We’ve indicated to them that it is important for them to avoid steps that might encourage the kind of sectarian splits that might lead to civil war.

And the one thing that I think has to be emphasized — we have deep differences with Iran across the board on a whole host of issues.  Obviously, what’s happened in Syria in part is the result of Iran coming in hot and heavy on one side.  And Iran obviously should consider the fact that if its view of the region is solely through sectarian frames, they could find themselves fighting in a whole lot of places.  And that’s probably not good for the Iranian economy or the Iranian people over the long term either.  I suspect there are folks in Iran who recognize that.  A Iraq in chaos on their borders is probably not in their interests.  But old habits die hard, and we’ll have to see whether they can take what I think would be a more promising path over the next several days.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
2:01 P.M. EDT

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Full Text Obama Presidency June 13, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Crisis in Iraq — will not send ground troops

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Iraq

Source: WH, 6-13-14 

South Lawn

12:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I wanted to take some time to give you a quick update about the situation in Iraq.

Yesterday, I convened a meeting with my National Security Council to discuss the situation there, and this morning I received an update from my team.  Over the last several days, we’ve seen significant gains made by ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria.  In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq’s territory.  And this poses a danger to Iraq and its people.  And given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.

Now, this threat is not brand new.  Over the last year, we’ve been steadily ramping up our security assistance to the Iraqi government with increased training, equipping and intelligence.  Now, Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.  We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.

I do want to be clear though, this is not solely or even primarily a military challenge.  Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future.  Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces.

So any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.  We can’t do it for them.  And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed.

So this should be a wake-up call.  Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.  In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies.

Now, Iraq’s neighbors also have some responsibilities to support this process.  Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq, and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos.  So the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.

Indeed, across the region we have redoubled our efforts to help build more capable counterterrorism forces so that groups like ISIL can’t establish a safe haven.  And we’ll continue that effort through our support of the moderate opposition in Syria, our support for Iraq and its security forces, and our partnership with other countries across the region.

We’re also going to pursue intensive diplomacy throughout this period both inside of Iraq and across the region, because there’s never going to be stability in Iraq or the broader region unless there are political outcomes that allow people to resolve their differences peacefully without resorting to war or relying on the United States military.

We’ll be monitoring the situation in Iraq very carefully over the next several days.  Our top priority will remain being vigilant against any threats to our personnel serving overseas.  We will consult closely with Congress as we make determinations about appropriate action, and we’ll continue to keep the American people fully informed as we make decisions about the way forward.

I’ll take a question.

Q    Mr. President, given the recent U.S. history there, are you reluctant to get involved again in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think that we should look at the situation carefully.  We have an interest in making sure that a group like ISIL, which is a vicious organization and has been able to take advantage of the chaos in Syria, that they don’t get a broader foothold.  I think there are dangers of fierce sectarian fighting if, for example, these terrorist organizations try to overrun sacred Shia sites, which could trigger Shia-Sunni conflicts that could be very hard to stamp out.  So we have enormous interests there.

And obviously, our troops and the American people and the American taxpayers made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny.  But ultimately, they’re going to have to seize it.  As I said before, we are not going to be able to do it for them.  And given the very difficult history that we’ve seen in Iraq, I think that any objective observer would recognize that in the absence of accommodation among the various factions inside of Iraq, various military actions by the United States, by any outside nation, are not going to solve those problems over the long term and not going to deliver the kind of stability that we need.

Anybody else?

Q    Mr. President, is the Syrian civil war spilling over the Iraq border?  And what can we do to stop it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that’s been happening for some time.  ISIL has been able to gain a foothold in Syria.  That’s part of the reason why we’ve been so concerned about it.  That’s part of the reason why we’ve been supporting the Syrian opposition there.  But it’s a challenging problem.

In Iraq, the Iraqi government, which was initially resistant to some of our offers of help, has come around now to recognize that cooperation with us on some of these issues can be useful.  Obviously, that’s not the case in Syria where President Assad has no interest in seeing us involved there, and where some of the governments that are supporting Assad have been able to block, for example, U.N. efforts even at humanitarian aid.  But this is a regional problem and it is going to be a long-term problem.

And what we’re going to have to do is combine selective actions by our military to make sure that we’re going after terrorists who could harm our personnel overseas or eventually hit the homeland.  We’re going to have to combine that with what is a very challenging international effort to try to rebuild countries and communities that have been shattered by sectarian war.  And that’s not an easy task.

Q    Mr. President, which foreign countries have you been in touch with?  And what are they willing to do as part of this international effort?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re in contact with them now.  So we’ll have a better sense by the end of the weekend, after those consultations.  And we will be getting a better sense from them of how they might support an effort to bring about the kind of political unity inside of Iraq that bolsters security forces.

Look, the United States has poured a lot of money into these Iraqi security forces, and we devoted a lot of training to Iraqi security forces.  The fact that they are not willing to stand and fight, and defend their posts against admittedly hardened terrorists but not terrorists who are overwhelming in numbers indicates that there’s a problem with morale, there’s a problem in terms of commitment.  And ultimately, that’s rooted in the political problems that have plagued the country for a very long time.

Last question.  Last one.

Q    Thank you.  Can you talk a little bit about U.S. concern of disruption of oil supplies?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, so far at least we have not seen major disruptions in oil supplies.  Obviously if, in fact, ISIL was able to obtain control over major output, significant refineries, that could be a source of concern.  As you might expect, world oil markets react to any kind of instability in the Middle East.  One of our goals should be to make sure that in cooperation with other countries in the region not only are we creating some sort of backstop in terms of what’s happening inside of Iraq, but if there do end up being disruptions inside of Iraq, that some of the other producers in the Gulf are able to pick up the slack.  So that will be part of the consultations that will be taking place during the course of this week.

Just to give people a sense of timing here, although events on the ground in Iraq have been happening very quickly, our ability to plan, whether it’s military action or work with the Iraqi government on some of these political issues, is going to take several days.  So people should not anticipate that this is something that is going to happen overnight.  We want to make sure that we have good eyes on the situation there.  We want to make sure that we’ve gathered all the intelligence that’s necessary so that if, in fact, I do direct and order any actions there, that they’re targeted, they’re precise and they’re going to have an effect.

And as I indicated before — and I want to make sure that everybody understands this message — the United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together.  We’re not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which while we’re there we’re keeping a lid on things, and after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we’re not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conducive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country.

All right, thank you very much, everybody.

END
12:11 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 27, 2013: President Barack Obama Honors Fallen Troops at Arlington National Cemetary — Looks to the War’s End on Memorial Day

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Honors Fallen Troops, Looks to the War’s End on Memorial Day

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-27-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

In a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama today called on Americans to never forget the sacrifice of soldiers who served in harm’s way and died for their fellow countrymen.

“America stands at a crossroads, but even as we turn a page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war,” Obama said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 27, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Commemorating Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Delivers Memorial Day Remarks at Arlington National Cemetery

Source: WH, 5-27-13 

Today President Obama traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate Memorial Day, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and delivering remarks.

The President thanked members of the armed forces and veterans for their service to the United States, and paid tribute to our fallen heroes laid to rest at Arlington

President Barack Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying (5/27/13)President Barack Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

READ MORE

Watch the President’s full remarks

Remarks by the President Commemorating Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-27-13 

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:31 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please be seated.  Thank you very much.  Good morning, everybody.  I want to thank Secretary Chuck Hagel, not only for the introduction but, Chuck, for your lifetime of service — from sergeant in the Army to Secretary of Defense, but always a man who carries with you the memory of friends and fallen heroes from Vietnam.  We’re grateful to you.

I want to thank General Dempsey, Major General Linnington, Kathryn Condon, who has served Arlington with extraordinary  dedication and grace and who will be leaving us, but we are so grateful for the work that she’s done; for Chaplain Brainerd, Secretary Shinseki, all our guests.  And most of all, to members of our armed services and our veterans; to the families and friends of the fallen who we honor today; to Americans from all across the country who have come to pay your respects:  I have to say it is always a great honor to spend this Memorial Day with you at this sacred place where we honor our fallen heroes — those who we remember fondly in our memories, and those known only to God.

Beyond these quiet hills, across that special bridge, is a city of monuments dedicated to visionary leaders and singular moments in the life of our Republic.  But it is here, on this hallowed ground, where we choose to build a monument to a constant thread in the American character — the truth that our nation endures because it has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all, and lay down their very lives, to preserve and protect this land that we love.

That character — that selflessness — beats in the hearts of the very first patriots who died for a democracy they had never known and would never see.  It lived on in the men and women who fought to hold our union together, and in those who fought to defend it abroad — from the beaches of Europe to the mountains and jungles of Asia.  This year, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of fighting in Korea, we offer a special salute to all those who served and gave their lives in the Korean War.  And over the last decade, we’ve seen the character of our country again — in the nearly 7,000 Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields and city streets half a world away.

Last Memorial Day, I stood here and spoke about how, for the first time in nine years, Americans were no longer fighting and dying in Iraq.  Today, a transition is underway in Afghanistan, and our troops are coming home.  Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and that’s progress for which we are profoundly grateful.  And this time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan.

And so, as I said last week, America stands at a crossroads.  But even as we turn the page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget, as we gather here today, that our nation is still at war.

It should be self-evident.  And in generations past, it was.  And during World War II, millions of Americans contributed to the war effort — soldiers like my own grandfather; women like my grandmother, who worked the assembly lines.  During the Vietnam War, just about everybody knew somebody — a brother, a son, a friend — who served in harm’s way.

Today, it’s different.  Perhaps it’s a tribute to our remarkable all-volunteer force, made up of men and women who step forward to serve and do so with extraordinary skill and valor.  Perhaps it’s a testament to our advanced technologies, which allow smaller numbers of troops to wield greater and greater power.  But regardless of the reason, this truth cannot be ignored that today most Americans are not directly touched by war.

As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day.  Our troops and our military families understand this, and they mention to me their concern about whether the country fully appreciates what’s happening.  I think about a letter I received from a Naval officer, a reservist who had just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.  And he wrote me, “I’m concerned that our work in Afghanistan is fading from memory.”  And he went on to ask that we do more to keep this conflict “alive and focused in the hearts and minds of our own people.”

And he’s right.  As we gather here today, at this very moment, more than 60,000 of our fellow Americans still serve far from home in Afghanistan.  They’re still going out on patrol, still living in spartan forward operating bases, still risking their lives to carry out their mission.  And when they give their lives, they are still being laid to rest in cemeteries in the quiet corners across our country, including here in Arlington.

Captain Sara Cullen had a smile that could light up a room and a love of country that led her to West Point.  And after graduation, Sara became a Black Hawk pilot — and married a former Black Hawk pilot.  She was just 27 years old when she and four other soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash during a training mission near Kandahar.  This past April, Sara was laid to rest here, in Section 60.  Today, Sara is remembered by her mother, Lynn, who says she is “proud of her daughter’s life, proud of her faith and proud of her service to our country.”  (Applause.)

Staff Sergeant Frankie Phillips came from a military family and was as tough as they come.  A combat medic, Frankie was on patrol in Afghanistan three weeks ago when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.  He was so humble that his parents never knew how many lives he had saved until soldiers started showing up at his funeral from thousands of miles away.  And last week, Frankie was laid to rest just a few rows over from Sara.

Staff Sergeant Eric Christian was a born leader.  A member of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Eric had served five tours of duty, but kept going back because he felt responsible for his teammates and was determined to finish the mission.  On May 4th, Eric gave his life after escorting a high-ranking U.S. official to meet with Afghan leaders.  Later, his family got a letter from a Marine who had served two tours with Eric.  In it, the Marine wrote, “There were people who measured their success based on how many enemies they killed or how many missions they led to conquer a foe.  Eric based his success on how many of his friends he brought home, and he brought home many — including me.”  Eric was laid to rest here at Arlington, just six days ago.  (Applause.)

So today, we remember their service.  Today, just steps from where these brave Americans lie in eternal peace, we declare, as a proud and grateful nation, that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.  And just as we honor them, we hold their families close.  Because for the parents who lose a child; for the husbands and wives who lose a partner; for the children who lose a parent, every loss is devastating.  And for those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm’s way, we know the consequences all too well.  I feel it every time I meet a wounded warrior, every time I visit Walter Reed, and every time I grieve with a Gold Star family.

And that’s why, on this day, we remember our sacred obligation to those who laid down their lives so we could live ours:  to finish the job these men and women started by keeping our promise to those who wear America’s uniform — to give our troops the resources they need; to keep faith with our veterans and their families, now and always; to never stop searching for those who have gone missing or who are held as prisoners of war.

But on a more basic level, every American can do something even simpler.  As we go about our daily lives, we must remember that our countrymen are still serving, still fighting, still putting their lives on the line for all of us.

Last fall, I received a letter from Candie Averette, of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Both of her sons are Marines.  Her oldest served two tours in Iraq.  Her youngest was in Afghanistan at the time.  He was, in her words, “100 percent devoted to his deployment and wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Reading Candie’s letter, it was clear she was extraordinarily proud of the life her boys had chosen.  But she also had a request on behalf of all the mothers just like her.  She said, “Please don’t forget about my child and every other Marine and soldier over there who proudly choose to defend their country.”

A mother’s plea — please don’t forget.  On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us be true and meet that promise.  Let it be our task, every single one of us, to honor the strength and the resolve and the love these brave Americans felt for each other and for our country.  Let us never forget to always remember and to be worthy of the sacrifice they make in our name.

May God bless the fallen and all those who serve.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:44 A.M. EDT

Political Buzz November 30, 2011: First Lady Michelle Obama Unveils with First Dog Bo the 2011 White House Christmas Theme Shine, Give, Share Honoring Military Families

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

IN FOCUS: FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA UNVEILS WITH FIRST DOG BO THE 2011 WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS THEME SHINE, GIVE, SHARE HONORING MILITARY FAMILIES

Bo, the Obama family dog, made from plastic garbage bags, is seen in the Library of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, as the Christmas holiday decorations, whose theme is 'Shine, Give, Share' were previewed.

Bo, the Obama family dog, made from plastic garbage bags, is seen in the Library of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, as the Christmas holiday decorations, whose theme is “Shine, Give, Share” were previewed. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

White House Holiday Decoration Preview with the First Lady

Source: WH, 11-30-11

First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the White House today for the first peek at this year’s holiday decorations. After speaking to parents, spouses, and children of service members in the East Room, she invited kids down to the State Dining Room to decorate cookies and make Christmas tree ornaments.

The theme for this year’s holiday is “Shine, Share, Give,” celebrating the countless ways we can lift up those around us, put our best self forward in the spirit of the season, spend time with friends and family, celebrate the joy of giving to others, and share our blessings with all.  The decorations in every room of the house, hung with care by volunteers from 37 states, reflect the theme, using shiny stars, metallic garland, and twinkling lights and also by inviting visitors to give thanks to the military for their service.

Each room of the White House is uniquely decorated for the holidays. After arriving through the East Visitor Entrance, visitors are invited to write thank you notes to service members in the East Landing and view the Gold Star Families Tree, decorated by families whose loved ones gave their lives in service to our nation.  In the Entrance Hall on the State Floor, crystal snowflakes hang from the ceiling above visitors as they walk toward the Blue Room, home to the official White House Christmas Tree, also decorated in honor of military families. The East Room has been transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with four trees and garland and tree branches in every window.  A 400-pound gingerbread, marzipan, and white chocolate White House—an exact replica, complete with tiny furniture, art, and chandeliers—sits in the State Dining Room.

And, a very special four-legged member of the Obama family is represented in nearly every room. Bo can be found in nearly every room, from small ornaments to life-size topiaries made from everyday materials like felt, buttons, candy and even trash bags!

Read more about the White House Holiday decorations and this year’s theme

Shine, Give, Share

The theme for this 2011 holiday season is “Shine, Give, Share,” which offers an opportunity to pay tribute to our troops, veterans, and their families throughout the White House. This year, the official tour features 37 Christmas trees, 30 are natural trees and 7 are made from paper, felt or aluminum; a gingerbread model of the White House made of 400 pounds of gingerbread, white chocolate and marzipan plus 5 different representations of First Dog Bo Obama. Volunteers from 36 states plus the District of Columbia worked for days to get everything ready.

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Blue Room

The centerpiece of the Blue Room is the official White House Christmas tree—a breathtaking 18-foot-6-inch balsam fir from Neshkoro, Wisconsin—which honors our men and women in uniform and features holiday cards created by military children. Collected from United States military installations around the world, these thoughtful and poignant cards celebrate their parents serving in uniform. Medals, badges, and patches from all of the military branches are displayed on ornaments, historic military images are displayed with volunteer-made pinecone frames and ribbons inspired by the Armed Forces colors represent the brave women and men who protect our Nation and defend our freedom.

Share a holiday message with our troops:

Share Your Message

blue room holiday photo

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Download the White House Holiday Tour Book

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Gold Star Tree

The Gold Star Families Tree pays tribute to those who gave their lives in service to our Nation and to the families who continue to carry their proud legacy forward. Photos of these fallen heroes and messages from their loved ones honor their courageous service, and remind us of the great sacrifices made for our freedom. Visitors can write notes to service members showing their thanks and visiting Gold Star Families will have the opportunity to inscribe a ceramic gold star with a personalized note to decorate the tree. Honoring Gold Star Families in this fashion was the First Lady’s idea, and the tree was decorated by Gold Star families who volunteered their time this holiday season.

gold star tree photos

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See some special moments from White House Holidays through the years

First Family Slideshow First Family’s Pets Slideshow Obama Family Slideshow Simple Gift Blog Post

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Deck the Halls with Bo Obama

This year the White House Holiday décor includes a bounty of Bos! The tour route features 5 Bo topiaries made from various materials like felt (35 yards of wool felt used), buttons (318 buttons in total), pom poms (750 pom poms used), candy (12 marshmallows, 1911 pieces of licorice), and even trash bags (6,850 feet worth)! Including Bo ornaments and other small Bos, you can find Bo in almost every room!

Shine, Give, Share: The Obama White House’s theme for this 2011 holiday season is “Shine, Give, Share,” which offers an opportunity to pay tribute to our troops, veterans, and their families throughout the White House. This year, the official tour features 37 Christmas trees, 30 are natural trees and 7 are made from paper, felt or aluminum; a gingerbread model of the White House made of 400 pounds of gingerbread, white chocolate and marzipan plus 5 different representations of First Dog Bo Obama. Volunteers from 36 states plus the District of Columbia worked for days to get everything ready. — WH

‘Shine, Give, Share’: Christmas Decorations at the White House — PICTURESNational Journal, 11-30-11

  • White House Holiday Decoration Preview with the First Lady: First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the White House today for the first peek at this year’s holiday decorations. After speaking to parents, spouses, and children of service members in the East Room, she invited kids down…. – The White House, 11-30-11
  • Holiday decorations unveiled to military families: …First lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the first viewing of the 2011 decorations on Wednesday. “Shine, Give, Share” is the theme for the Obama family’s third Christmas in the mansion. The theme translates throughout the public viewing space from gold foil leaf trimming to shiny quartz ornaments.
    Several decorations honor military families including a Gold Star Families Tree with ceramic gold ornaments carrying personalized messages by families. Tour visitors can also create handwritten notes for the troops… – AP, 11-30-11
  • White House decks the halls for Christmas: Amid the festive sparkle of 37 Christmas trees and a 400-pound gingerbread White House, Michelle Obama honored military families as she unveiled her 2011 holiday decor. The “Shine, Give, Share” theme was reflected in the East Room’s shimmering quartz … – WaPo, 11-30-11
  • Military families, first dog showcased in Christmas decorations at White House: First dog Bo is upstaging the Christmas decorations at the White House this holiday season. The Obamas’ Portuguese water dog is in almost every room of the public tour, ranging from a miniature licorice and marshmallow version to a felt … – WaPo, 11-30-11
  • The White House decking the halls: First Lady Michelle Obama showed off the newly-decked halls of the White House on Wednesday to a select group of special guests. Family members of military servicemen and women joined Mrs. Obama and her staff to preview this year’s … – CNN, 11-30-11
  • Holiday decorations unveiled to military families: First dog Bo is upstaging the Christmas decorations at the White House this holiday season. The Obamas’ Portuguese water dog is in almost every room of the public tour, ranging from a miniature licorice and marshmallow version…. – CBS News, 11-30-11
  • Bo stars at showcase of White House holiday decorations: The first family’s pet dog, Bo, starred Wednesday at a preliminary viewing of holiday decorations at the White House for military families. First lady Michelle Obama opened the White House to Gold and Blue Star military families … – MSNBC, 11-30-11
  • Bo is Christmas star in White House decor: Amid the festive sparkle of 37 Christmas trees and a 400-pound gingerbread White House, Michelle Obama honored military families as she unveiled her 2011 holiday decor. The “Shine, Give, Share” theme was reflected in the East Room’s shimmering quartz … – WaPo, 11-30-11
  • White House Christmas decor includes military tribute: “Shine, Give, Share” is the theme for Christmas at the White House, whose doors flung open Wednesday to the first wave of guests given the chance to ogle its fragrant, fanciful holiday finery, including no fewer … – LAT, 11-30-11
  • Michelle Obama hosts military families at holiday unveiling: First dog Bo is upstaging the Christmas decorations at the White House this holiday season. First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes children to begin festivities after welcoming military families who would be the first to view the 2011 White House… – USA Today, 11-30-11
  • Obamas Showcase First Pup Bo for Christmas: “Where’s Waldo” Fans will love the Obama’s Christmas decorations this year. Because in nearly every room, the first family has sneaked in a version of the first pup Bo.
    From a nine-and-a-half-inch depiction made of 318 buttons, a candy Bo made of 12 marshmallows and almost 2,000 pieces of licorice, a black and white Bo made of about 7,000 feet of trash bags and a four-and-a- half-foot tall pup made out of 35 yards of wool felt, it’s obvious Bo is the star of this year’s White House Christmas…. – US News, 11-30-11
  • Christmas At The White House: ‘Where’s Bo?’: While the official theme of this year’s White House Christmas is “Shine, Give, Share,” the real star of the Obama’s third holiday season at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is First Dog Bo. “It’s sort of a ‘where’s Bo?’” First Lady Michelle Obama explained at a White House holiday event with military families today. “You’ve got to find the Bo in every room, because he’s hidden everywhere.” … ABC News, 11-30-11
  • Michelle Obama, and Bo, show off White House holiday decor: First lady Michelle Obama and her dog Bo welcomed military families to the White House on Wednesday, the first visitors to see this year’s White House holiday decorations. As usual, the decorations are impressive…. – USA Today, 11-30-11
  • White House Christmas display salutes military: “Shine, Give, Share” is the theme for Christmas at the White House, whose doors flung open Wednesday to the first wave of guests allowed to ogle its fragrant, fanciful holiday finery, including no fewer … – Chicago Tribune, 11-30-11

White House Recap October 15-21, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Barack Obama’s Bus Tour to NC & VA Supporting the American Jobs Act — Obama Addresses Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication & Announces End of Iraq War & Return of All Troops

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: OCTOBER 15-21, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Bringing Home the Troops

Source: WH, 10-21-11

This week, the President traveled to Detroit with the President of South Korea, dedicated the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, embarked on a three day American Jobs Act bus tour, bestowed the Presidential Citizens Medal.

West Wing Week
Download Video: mp4 (202MB)

Home for the Holidays Friday afternoon the President announced that the remaining  troops in Iraq will be officially coming back home, thus ending the war in Iraq. “Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq—tens of thousands of them—will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home. The last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq—with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.”

Road Trip President Obama embarked on a three day bus tour to spread the word about the American Jobs Act. Starting the journey in Asheville, NC and ending in North Chesterfield, VA, he also made stops in Millers Creek, NC, Jamestown, NC, Emporia, VA and Hampton, VA.The President visited schools, an airport, a military base, and a fire station along the way all of which will benefit from the American Jobs Act. On the last day of the tour, the First Lady joined the President at Joint Base Langley-Eustis announcing a commitment from the private sector to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses. The jobs bill would put Americans back to work, upgrade our country’s infrastructure, and keep teachers and emergency responders on the job.

Citizens Award Tuesday in the East Room, the President honored 13 Americans with the Citizens Medal, one of the highest honors a civilian can receive. The award is given to Americans who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.” The recipients chosen to receive this year’s medal were nominated by the public, and then carefully selected by the White House. Click here to learn more about the recipients and to watch a video showing their reactions to the news that they’d been chosen.

“We Will Overcome” Tens of thousands came to the National Mall Sunday for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication. President Obama, joined by the First Family, toured the memorial and then spoke at the dedication ceremony in honor of Dr. King’s work. During his speech, President Obama reminded us that the progress towards Dr. King’s vision has not come easily and there is still more to do to expand opportunity and make our nation more just:“We can’t be discouraged by what is.  We’ve got to keep pushing for what ought to be, the America we ought to leave to our children, mindful that the hardships we face are nothing compared to those Dr. King and his fellow marchers faced 50 years ago, and that if we maintain our faith, in ourselves and in the possibilities of this nation, there is no challenge we cannot surmount.”

MLB support U.S. Veterans As a part of their Joining Forces Initiative, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, for Game One of the World Series to meet with military families and to recognize Major League Baseball’s support of those who serve and their families. Earlier that day, the First Lady announced at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia a commitment from the private sector to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses.

Cutting Waste As a part of the Campaign to Cut Waste, the White House recently updated the Excess Property map that uses new data to pinpoint the location and status of federal properties that agencies have targeted for closure and consolidation. Ending this waste and improving the management of the government’s real estate will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Full Text October 22, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address on Strong US World Leadership, the Death of Libyan Dictator Moammar Qaddafi & End of Iraq War

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama discusses how the death of Moammar Qadhafi in Libya and the announcement that troops from Iraq will return home by the end of the year are strong reminders that the United States has renewed its leadership in the world.

President Barack Obama tapes his Weekly Address
President Barack Obama tapes the weekly address, White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 10/21/11

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Renewing America’s Global Leadership

In this week’s address, President Obama said that the death of Moammar Qadhafi in Libya and the announcement that troops from Iraq will return home by the end of the year are strong reminders that the United States has renewed its leadership in the world.  The role of our brave pilots and crews has given the Libyan people a chance to seek a democratic future for their children, and after a decade of war in Iraq, the United States is moving forward and focusing on strengthening the economy and security at home.  This is why the President is calling on Congress to pass the American Jobs Act to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, give working families a tax break, and put teachers back in our classrooms and cops on the beat.  We must bring the same sense of urgency to revitalizing our economy that our troops took to their fight, which is why President Obama is urging Republicans and Democrats to work together to pass the American Jobs Act now to put the American people back to work.

Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House October 22, 2011

This week, we had two powerful reminders of how we’ve renewed American leadership in the world.  I was proud to announce that—as promised—the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of this year.  And in Libya, the death of Moammar Qadhafi showed that our role in protecting the Libyan people, and helping them break free from a tyrant, was the right thing to do.

In Iraq, we’ve succeeded in our strategy to end the war.  Last year, I announced the end of our combat mission in Iraq.  We’ve already removed more than 100,000 troops, and Iraqi forces have taken full responsibility for the security of their own country.  Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, the Iraqi people have the chance to forge their own future.  And now the rest of our troops will be home for the holidays.

In Libya, our brave pilots and crews helped prevent a massacre, save countless lives, and give the Libyan people the chance to prevail.  Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives.  Soon, our NATO mission will come to a successful end even as we continue to support the Libyan people, and people across the Arab world, who seek a democratic future.

These successes are part of a larger story.  After a decade of war, we’re turning the page and moving forward, with strength and confidence.  The drawdown in Iraq allowed us to refocus on Afghanistan and achieve major victories against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  As we remove the last of our troops from Iraq, we’re beginning to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.

To put this in perspective, when I took office, roughly 180,000 troops were deployed in these wars.  By the end of this year that number will be cut in half, and an increasing number of our troops will continue to come home.

As we end these wars, we’re focusing on our greatest challenge as a nation—rebuilding our economy and renewing our strength at home.  Over the past decade, we spent a trillion dollars on war, borrowed heavily from overseas and invested too little in the greatest source of our national strength—our own people.  Now, the nation we need to build is our own.

We have to tackle this challenge with the same urgency and unity that our troops brought to their fight.  That’s why we have to do everything in our power to get our economy moving again.  That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, so we can rebuild our country – our schools, our roads, our bridges – and put our veterans, construction workers, teachers, cops and firefighters back to work.   And that’s why I hope all of us can draw strength from the example of our men and women in uniform.

They’ve met their responsibilities to America.  Now it’s time to meet ours.  It’s time to come together and show the world why the United States of America remains the greatest source for freedom and opportunity that the world has ever known.

Full Text: President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan Military Withdrawal

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

Remarks by the President on the Way Forward in Afghanistan

East Room

8:01 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  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 Qaeda 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 Qaeda 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 Qaeda’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 Qaeda 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 Qaeda, to 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 draw down our forces this July.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment.  Thanks to our extraordinary 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’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength.  Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11.  Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership.  And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda 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 Qaeda under enormous strain.  Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda had been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that had been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam -– thereby draining more widespread support.  Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks.  But we have put al Qaeda 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’ve 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’ll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we’ve made, while we draw down 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 Qaeda, 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 Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies.  We won’t 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’ll work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps 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’ve learned anew the profound cost of war — a cost that’s 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 battlefield, 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’ve 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 over-extended, 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’re 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 own 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’re 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 here 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 industries, 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, 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 these 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’ve met on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, and 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           8:16 P.M. EDT

Political Buzz June 22, 2011: President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan Military Withdrawal

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: OBAMA’S ADDRESS ON AFGHANISTAN EXIT STRATEGY


White House Photo, Photo by Chuck Kennedy, 6/22/11

Obama announces that ‘surge’ troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by summer 2012: President Obama on Wednesday announced that 10,000 U.S. troops will come home from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and that 23,000 more will be withdrawn by next summer, a timeline that is more rapid than military commanders had wanted.
“America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home,” Obama said, speaking from the White House East Room.

Obama to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year: President Obama will announce in his address at 8 p.m. Wednesday that he will order home 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year and another 23,000 by the end of September 2012, according to administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
The plan, charting the U.S. military’s exit from America’s longest war, outlines the withdrawal of the 33,000 forces that Obama ordered to Afghanistan at the end of 2009, after a months-long strategy review meant to find ways of salvaging a flagging war.

“America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.” – President Obama, declaring that the United States had achieved its main goals in Afghanistan.

Text of President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan: The following is the prepared text of President Obama’s speech regarding the troop pullout in Afghanistan, as provided by the White House…. – NYT, 6-22-11

  • LIVE BLOG: Obama’s Afghanistan speechWaPo, 6-22-11 
  • Obama’s day: Afghanistan speech: President Obama has some meetings today, but will spend most of his time preparing for tonight’s speech on a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan…. – USA Today, 6-22-11
  • Obama’s Afghanistan speech: Admitting the limits of American power: In November of 1986, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev addressed the Politburo about his country’s futile war in Afghanistan. The conflict had already dragged on for six years, Gorbachev told his comrades, but no end was in sight. “In general, we haven’t found the key to resolving this problem,” the communist leader explained, according to Gregory Feifer’s book, The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan. “We need to finish this process as soon as possible.” That was especially true in a nation whose economy was groaning from the expense of the war. … – AP, 6-23-11
  • Obama Orders Troop Cuts in Afghanistan: President Obama declared Wednesday that the United States had largely achieved its goals in Afghanistan, setting in motion a timetable for the rapid withdrawal of American troops in an acknowledgement of the shifting threat in the region and fast-changing political and economic landscape in a war-weary America.
    Asserting that the country that served as a launching pad for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks no longer represented a terrorist threat to the United States, Mr. Obama declared that the “tide of war is receding.” And in a blunt acknowledgment of domestic economic strains, he said, “America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home.”
    Mr. Obama announced plans to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The remaining 20,000 troops from the 2009 “surge” of forces would leave by next summer, amounting to about a third of the 100,000 troops now in the country. He said the troop reductions would continue “at a steady pace,” bringing to an end America’s longest war — a conflict that has cost 1,500 American lives.
    The troop reductions, which came after a short but fierce internal debate, are both deeper and faster than the recommendations made by Mr. Obama’s military commanders, and they come as the president faces relentless budget pressures, an increasingly restive Congress and American public and a re-election campaign next year…. – NYT, 6-22-11
  • Obama speech reflects unease at home after decade of war: President Obama announced his troop withdrawal from Afghanistan Wednesday night, but the real surprise was how much time he spent clothing his decision in domestic concerns with an eye to U.S. politics.
    As expected the president explained how the surge in U.S. troops had worked in hindering Al Qaeda from finding a safe haven in Afghanistan. He mentioned the U.S. raid in which terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan as well. He also praised Afghanistan and Pakistan for their efforts while noting they needed to do more.
    All of that had been expected, as had been the pledge to withdraw 10,000 troops this year and the rest of the surge forces in 2012.
    But the president made it clear he was aware of the American weariness with the almost decade-long war and a desire in many quarters to use any peace dividend for domestic needs.
    “America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home,” Obama said…. – LAT, 6-22-11
  • Obama details plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan: President Obama announced that the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will begin with 10,000 troops this year, plus another 23,000 by the end of next summer. Gains have been made against the Taliban, he said, but the fight against al Qaeda will continue wherever necessary…. – CS Monitor, 6-22-11
  • Obama’s Middle Ground on Afghanistan Is Between a Rock and a Hard Place: By seeking the middle ground in unwinding U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, President Obama now finds himself on an island.
    In Wednesday night’s 13-minute address from the East Room of the White House, the president declared, “[T]he tide of war is receding,” and announced his decision to remove 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and 23,000 more by next summer. That pace is much faster than his military commanders had recommended, but not fast enough to please his base…. – PBS Newshour, 6-23-11
  • Joint chiefs chairman: Obama Afghanistan plan incurs risk: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress today that President Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan is more risky than the military proposed, but still workable.
    “The president’s decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
    “More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course,” Mullen said. “But that does not necessarily make it the best course. Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take. I believe he has done so.”… – USA Today, 6-23-11

    THE SPEECH

  • President Obama on the Way Forward in Afghanistan: By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year. But al Qaeda’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 Qaeda 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 Qaeda, to 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 draw down our forces this July.
    Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our extraordinary 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’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength….
    The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply: No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies. We won’t 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….
    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’re 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 here 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 industries, 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, 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. – WH, 6-22-11Transcript: Speech Full-TextMp4Mp3

    REACTIONS

  • HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER, REPUBLICAN: I am pleased the president recognizes that success in Afghanistan is paramount. Continuing to degrade al Qaeda’s capabilities in Afghanistan and the surrounding region must take priority over any calendar dates. It’s important that we retain the flexibility necessary to reconsider troop levels and respond to changes in the security environment should circumstances on the ground warrant.
  • SENATOR JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRAT, CHAIRMAN SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The president correctly laid out the next phase of our strategy in Afghanistan — a transition to Afghan control that begins by redeploying the 33,000 surge troops starting next month and ending next summer, and puts the Afghans in complete control by 2014. In doing so, he kept the commitment he made to the American people 18 months ago at West Point. As a result of the gains made since the course correction outlined at West Point, we’re now operating from a position of strength.
  • SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, ARIZONA REPUBLICAN: I am concerned that the withdrawal plan that President Obama announced tonight poses an unnecessary risk to the hard-won gains that our troops have made thus far in Afghanistan and to the decisive progress that must still be made. This is not the ‘modest’ withdrawal that I and others had hoped for and advocated.
  • SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, CONNECTICUT INDEPENDENT: I am disappointed by the pace and timing of the withdrawal of those troops the President announced tonight. I had hoped the president would draw down our forces more cautiously and am therefore concerned that the accelerated withdrawal which the president has ordered will put at risk the substantial gains we have made in Afghanistan.
  • SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR, SENIOR REPUBLICAN ON SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: No rational review would commit nearly 100,000 troops and $100 billion a year to Afghanistan.
    The country does not hold that level of strategic value for us, especially at a time when our nation is confronting a debt crisis and our armed forces are being strained by repeated combat deployments.
  • JEFF DRESSLER, A MILITARY ANALYST AT THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: My sense is that the military in general was in favor of a much smaller withdrawal. Something they could have lived with was a couple thousand troops. But the fact is the conditions on the ground don’t merit any sort of withdrawal — it’s not time to be pulling out a substantive amount of troops. There’s a lot that has to be done in the east and you’re not out of the woods in the south yet.
  • LAWRENCE KORB, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS AND FORMER ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it’s also important that you send a signal to the government of Afghanistan that they are going to have to step up and take over. … You’re also balancing this against other U.S. interests. If the United States doesn’t have any money, we’re not going to be able to protect our interest in others areas. It’s obviously going to save some money.
  • CHRISTOPHER PREBLE, DIRECTOR OF FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, CATO INSTITUTE: Despite reports that the president’s decision signals a move toward a narrowly focused counter-terrorism mission, the fact is nearly 70,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan after this drawdown.
    Such a force is unnecessary, and a far less costly alternative is available to us. We could keep pressure on the Taliban, and deny al Qaeda a sanctuary, with perhaps as few as 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. We should be moving rapidly in that direction. President Obama hasn’t been, and this announcement suggests that he won’t.
  • TODD HARRISON, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND BUDGETARY ASSESSMENTS: With the faster drawdown that is being proposed, they (the administration) will actually save about $17 billion in ‘FY12 compared to what they had requested. That will bring the war budget down by about 15 percent, so that’s a significant reduction in war funding. Relative to the overall DOD (Department of Defense), it’s not that much of a reduction and relative to the overall federal budget and the deficit, this does not make much of a difference.
  • GOP hopefuls stake out Afghanistan positions: As President Obama called Wednesday night for scaling down troop numbers in Afghanistan over the next year, differences over how to approach the conflict emerged among GOP presidential hopefuls, with some calling for a faster withdrawal and others arguing for a more conditions-based drawdown.
    The contrast among 2012 Republican candidates reflects a change in the party’s hawkish orthodoxy, unease over spending and crumbling support for the war. The most recent poll shows that nearly three quarters of Americans believe a substantial number of troops should come home this summer. USA Today, 6-22-11
  • Jon M. Huntsman Jr.: Said the nation faces “a generational opportunity to reset our position in the world in a way that makes sense for our security as well as our budget.” “Now it is time we move to a focused counter-terror effort which requires significantly fewer boots on the ground than the President discussed tonight. We need a safe but rapid withdrawal which encourages Afghans to assume responsibility, while leaving in place a strong counter intelligence and special forces effort proportionate to the threat.”
  • Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, in a Fox News interview: “When America goes to war, America needs to win. We need to close out the war successfully, and what that means now is not nation-building. What it means is to follow General Petraeus’s advice and to get those security forces built up where they can pick up the slack as we draw down.”
  • Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney: “We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we shouldn’t adhere to an arbitrary timetable on the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. This decision should not be based on politics or economics.”
  • Newt Gingrich: “Given the reality of the larger war that President Obama refuses to name, it’s not responsible to make a decision on Afghanistan in isolation just in order to meet a domestic political agenda.”
  • Military Experts Scrutinize Obama’s Drawdown Plan: Military analysts weigh in on President Obama’s new plan to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan…. – PBS Newshour, 6-23-11
  • Analysis: U.S. forces face new challenges after drawdown: The United States and its allies have made dramatic progress in Afghanistan over the past year, seizing the initiative from the Taliban and driving insurgents from key strongholds in the south.
    The challenge for military commanders now will be to consolidate those gains and shift the military main effort to tackle insurgent strongholds in the east — all with fewer troops. The plan is a “compromise that will be problematic to many of the players,” warned David Barno, a retired three-star general who commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan and is now a senior adviser at the Center for a New American Security.
    Several commanders in Afghanistan had said reductions should be made so as to not jeopardize gains.
    “Ultimately the commanders on the ground will be able to reshape the plan” to achieve objectives, Barno said…. – USA Today, 6-22-11
  • Analysts rate Obama’s Afghanistan address: President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night that all the 33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 will be home within 15 months.
    In a nationally televised address from the East Room of the White House, Obama said 10,000 of the “surge” forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012.
    At the same time, Obama said the drawdown would help the United States begin to refocus attention and resources on efforts to resolve economic and other problems and to unify a politically divided nation.
    Here’s how CNN analysts reacted to the address…

    Bergen: President for first time acknowledged talks with Taliban
    Borger: Difficult to separate the military decision from political decision
    Gergen: Obama winding down Iraq, Afghanistan wars like he said he would
    Zakaria: Kept with his basic strategic rationale from the start

    CNN, 6-22-11

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