By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2013 – The mission objective to prevent al-Qaida from using Afghanistan to launch attacks against the United States is within reach, President Barack Obama said in his weekly address to the nation today.
“This week, I welcomed [Afghanistan] President Hamid Karzai to the White House to discuss the way ahead in Afghanistan,” Obama said in his address. “And today, I want to update you on how we will end this war, bring our troops home, and continue the work of rebuilding America.”
The president thanked U.S. service members, noting the United States has “dealt devastating blows” to al-Qaida and ejected the Taliban from their strongholds in the past four years.
Obama said the 33,000 additional forces he ordered to Afghanistan served with honor, completed their mission, and returned home last fall as promised.
“This week, [President Karzai and I] agreed that this spring, Afghan forces will take the lead for security across the entire country and our troops will shift to a support role,” Obama said. “In the coming months, I’ll announce the next phase of our drawdown. By the end of next year, America’s war in Afghanistan will be over.”
Obama gave credit for the progress made in Afghanistan to the “heroic sacrifices of our troops and diplomats, alongside forces from many other nations.”
More than a half-million Americans -- military and civilian -- have served in Afghanistan, the president said, noting thousands of have been wounded and more than 2,000 have given their lives.
And, the drawdown in Afghanistan remains a challenge, he said.
“This remains a very difficult mission,” Obama said. “The work ahead will not be easy. Our forces are still in harm’s way. But make no mistake -- our path is clear, and we are moving forward.”
Now, the United States must “care for our troops and veterans who fought in our name,” the president said.