Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a strategic partnership agreement at the Afghan leader’s palace that sets out a long-term U.S. role in Afghanistan, including aid and advisers, reports Reuters.
Before signing the agreement, Obama reminded Americans why U.S. troops were there in the first place: Osama bin Laden, a topic that the president and vice president haven’t been shy aboutÂ highlighting on the campaign trail, tells The Huff Post.
“It was here, in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden established a safe haven for his terrorist organization. It was here, in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda brought new recruits, trained them, and plotted acts of terror. It was here, from within these borders, that al Qaeda launched the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children,” Obama said.
â€śMy fellow Americans,â€ť the president said, speaking against a backdrop of armored military vehicles and an American flag, â€śweâ€™ve traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of new day on the horizon.â€ť
“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it’s time to renew America,” he said. “This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.”
Obama highlighted the successes of the U.S. military since the 9/11 attacks and tied them directly to his goal of toppling al Qaeda.
“We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al Qaeda’s leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” the president said.
“The goal that I set – to defeat al Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild – is within reach,” Obama said. “Here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon,” he said.
“I recognize that many Americans are tired of war. … But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly,” he said at Bagram airbase outside of Kabul.
“We did not choose this war. This war came to us on 9/11. And there are a whole bunch of folks here, I’ll bet, who signed up after 9/11,” the president said to a group of about 3,200 troops
President Obama met HamidÂ Karzai at his walled garden palace in Kabul, where they signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA).
“By signing this document, we close the last 10 years and open a new season of equal relations,” Karzai said after the meeting.
But OBama’s visit was marked by a bomb explosion. A car bomb exploded outside a compound housing Westerners in Kabul just hours after President Barack Obama signed a security pact during a short visit to a city that remains vulnerable to a resilient insurgency.
At least six people were killed, a Gurkha guard and five passers-by, and wounded 17. A young girl was among those killed.
“This attack was to make clear our reaction to Obama’s trip to Afghanistan. The message was that instead of signing of a strategic partnership deal with Afghanistan, he should think about taking his troops out from Afghanistan and leave it to Afghans to rebuild their country,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters.
In Washington, Obama’s trip drew mixed responses from Senate Republicans. “I am pleased that the President has traveled to Afghanistan,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee to oppose Obama in the November 6 U.S. presidential election, said he was pleased Obama had returned to Afghanistan.
“I am pleased that President Obama has returned to Afghanistan. Our troops and the American people deserve to hear from our president about what is at stake in this war.”
He continued: “Success in Afghanistan is vital to our nation’s security. It would be a tragedy for Afghanistan and a strategic setback for America if the Taliban returned to power and once again created a sanctuary for terrorists,” Romney said.
“We tolerated such a sanctuary until we lost thousands on September 11, 2001. Many brave Americans have sacrificed everything so that we could win this fight for a more secure future.”
“Let us honor the memory of the fallen, not only by keeping them in our daily thoughts but also by staying true to their commitment. We are united as one nation in our gratitude to our country’s heroes,” he added.