Barack Obama pledges to 'finish the job' in Afghanistan

 

Mr Obama hailed the approaching end of the war and thanked US troops

US President Barack Obama has pledged to "finish the job" and end the Afghan war, addressing the US public live from a military base in Afghanistan.

Speaking a year after Osama Bin Laden's killing, Mr Obama thanked US troops and hailed plans to end combat operations.

He arrived in Kabul on a surprise visit lasting a few hours to sign an accord on future Afghan-US ties with President Hamid Karzai, ahead of a Nato summit.

Hours after his speech, at least seven people died in an attack in Kabul.

Afghan officials said at least two suicide bombers targeted a residential compound popular with foreigners in the eastern part of the capital.

They said at least four of those killed were from a nearby school. Seventeen people were wounded. The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A spokesman for the Nato-led force praised the Afghan security forces for "taking the lead in putting down another desperate attack by insurgents".

Analysis

The partnership addresses long-term Afghan financial and security needs and aims to make clear the West is not cutting and running.

That's an important message for audiences in Nato countries, as well as in Afghanistan. But it also sends a signal to the militants and their supporters eyeing up the "end game".

More than 20 drafts were exchanged before the final text could be agreed. Clauses were also inserted late on to try to reassure neighbours like Iran and Pakistan who are nervous about a continued US presence.

Change will be gradual. The US will retain a large degree of influence - but less and less control - over key areas like prisons and night raids. Crucially for Afghans, they now have a framework for gaining control of these issues.

The deal will not itself provide a durable peace - that will need many other steps, including a settlement with the insurgent groups and the co-operation of Afghanistan's neighbours.

'National security'

Earlier, Mr Obama said signing the pact with President Karzai was "a historic moment" for both nations.

His visit and TV address came as the patience of the US public with the war in Afghanistan is wearing thin.

In the speech, beamed back to prime-time evening audiences in the US, the president said that at the forthcoming Nato summit, to be held in Chicago later this month, the alliance would "set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year".

Nato has already committed to withdrawing from combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

"I will not keep Americans in harm's way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security," Mr Obama said. "But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly."

Correspondents say Mr Obama's words appear to be aimed at showing American voters he is pursuing a strategy to wind down the war, while reassuring Afghans in the face of a continuing Taliban insurgency.

'Path to peace'

About 23,000 of the 88,000 US troops currently in the country are expected to leave Afghanistan by the summer, with all US and Nato combat troops out by the end of 2014.

"It is time to renew America," Mr Obama said towards the end of his remarks.

"My fellow Americans, we have travelled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.

"The Iraq war is over. The number of our troops in harm's way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfil our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al-Qaeda."

Start Quote

Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai on 1 May 2012

America has no designs beyond an end to al-Qaeda safe-havens, and respect for Afghan sovereignty”

End Quote Barack Obama US President

During the speech, Mr Obama outlined the agreement he had just signed with Mr Karzai.

The BBC's Paul Adams says 20 months of negotiation finally produced an agreement after differences over night raids by Nato special forces and the handling of prisoners were ironed out.

According to the US president, the document outlines plans for training Afghan forces and supporting counter-terrorism efforts, as well as "Afghan commitments to transparency and accountability".

Mr Obama also spoke of a "negotiated peace" with the Taliban, saying that if insurgents broke with al-Qaeda, and followed the "path to peace", there could be reconciliation.

He said that ahead of the Chicago meeting of Nato, he had made it clear to Pakistan that it could be an "equal partner in the process".

Pakistan and US relations soured after Mr Obama launched the raid that killed Bin Laden inside the country's border.

"In pursuit of a durable peace, America has no designs beyond an end to al-Qaeda safe-havens, and respect for Afghan sovereignty."

Mr Obama also rejected calls to leave Afghanistan in advance of the 2014 Nato timeline, saying "we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly".

President Karzai said after the meeting: "By signing this document, we close the last 10 years and open a new season of equal relations."

The Taliban accused him of selling Afghan sovereignty to the Americans.

In the wake of the agreement, the US is to designate Afghanistan as a major non-Nato ally, US officials are quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

The deal does not commit the US to any specific spending or troop presence, but does leave the way open for Washington to keep forces in Afghanistan until 2024, the Associated Press reports.

 

Comments

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 299.

    Two years after the Americans declare victory and leave, the Taliban will be in Kabul and the helicopters fleeing the US embassy will be dumped over the side of an aircraft carrier.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 298.

    I'm talking about the WASTE of British TAX Payers money on supporting Zionist ISRAEL.

    If we go to war with Iran for Israel .. just like we did with Iraq for Israel. That would be the final slap across the face for us Brits. - We've gotten no Oil out of Iraq.

    If Islam is removed from Iran .. Persia will flourish and out compete us. Its in our best interest to leave Israel do its own job.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 297.

    @292 Chris Neville-Smith,

    The Saudis are Wahhabists -the same sect as bin-Laden. They're the most fundamentalist Islamists there are. I did not say that Saudi Arabia was a worst place to live than Afghanistan under the Taliban.

    You seem far more interested in arguing with the things you think I've said, rather than what I actually have said.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 296.

    Everybody knows how the end game goes. Karzai ousted in coup ... 'military strongman' as Pres. The Taliban storm Presidential palace 2020 (see Mohammad Najibullah).

    The retaliation for 9/11 should have been for the 15 Saudis (& their supporters), who who planned & financed the attacks, and just enough bombing of Afghanistan to flush Bin Laden out of Afghanistan & to his supporters in Pakistan.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 295.

    @289.Shaunie Babes

    Please don't tell me that you're suggesting that Europe would have been overrun by the Taliban had we not intervened? Because that is nothing short of ridiculous!

    I think it is more likely that we will suffer from more terrorist attacks because of the fact that the majority of the planet isn't too impressed with the 'War or terror' / Lets go steal all the oil!

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 294.

    277.Controlled Pair
    I can't think of a single Muslim country that doesn't harbour Islamic extremists.

    >>> I can't think of a single western coutry which does not harbour Zionist extremests, who readily commit war crimes on a massive scale at the behest of Israel. In the past decade the Zionists have attacked: Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, Somalia, Pakistan, Syria, etc.

  • Comment number 293.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 292.

    286. If you really think that Saudia Arabia, for all its faults, is worse than Afghanistan under the Taleban, we'll just have to agree to disagree. I will merely be thankful that, whatever mistakes are being made in Afghanistan right now, it's not you deciding what's in their best interests.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 291.

    @276.LillyBlow
    The only reason we owe anything to Israel is the fact that we were complicit in setting up that mess in the first place.

    Imposing a Jewish state where there had been none resulted in the persecution and 'ethnic cleansing' of Arabs from that state. People wouldn't tolerate Islam imposing a Sharia state in the UK - why are people shocked that they don't like it there?

  • Comment number 290.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 289.

    78.Oldskool-90
    75 Pete......the last time America practiced isolationism and kept its nose out of conflict, Europe was overrun by the Nazis, Asia by the Japanese and we had to beg them to help us....careful what you wish for
    ---
    Substitute Soviet Union for America and you have a better analogy.....careful what you wish for

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 288.

    270.RolyBoy

    I take your point Saudi is not particulalry tollerant either. However I'd not say it's anywhere near as bad as Afghanistan and certainly not a narco state.

    FYI They might be soldiers 'doing a job' but that doesnt mean we shouldn't care what they die for! If they must die let it be for a grateful peope who cherish their sacrifice.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 287.

    The Obama trip was a photo op and nothing more. The speech that he gave the american people could have just as easily been done from the oval office. Obama spent millions on this trip when you add up security, plane costs etc. Is is outrageous how this administration spends billions protecting Afghanistan and yet will not defend Arizona against illegal immigration.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 286.

    @268:

    "And are you seriously suggesting the Northern Alliance-backed government are worse Islamic fundamentalists than the Taleban?"

    No, I was correcting your statement, in 233, that the US's side 'weren't Islamic fundamentalists'.

    As to whether they were worse, that's a matter of judgement but not one I think would have bothered the US -which is firmly allied with the worst: Saudi Arabia.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 285.

    An election due is there?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 284.

    There will always be an element of fundamentalism and people who are willing to use violence to propagate it in Afghanistan. The initial key question is - can Karzai provide enough concessions without sacrificing key values, e.g. women's rights?

    But on the ground, I can imagine the ASF committing human rights abuses and being corrupt. People won't like it and the taliban will remain a force.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 283.

    The problem Obama faces is that on the one side everyone wants an end to the war. Thousands have died, soldiers and civilians and the longer we stay in there the more people view us as the evil invaders and join the Taliban.
    On the other hand,many Afghan people suffered horribly under the Taliban and are terrified they'll return.The Afghan army isn't strong enough to resist them.
    What do you do?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 282.

    How come his "surprise" visit is reported in such detail? How is it a "surprise" if every single Press person on planet knew about it?

    I wonder.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 281.

    265.Tanglewood
    terrorist groups .. No "conspiracy" is required to justify provision of support by the US and its allies to Israel ..

    >>> Most Brits want our troops out of Afghanistan now. We did not want to attack Iraq or Libya. Since our wishes are so consistently ignored, one need not be a conspiracy theorist to see a Zionist agenda here.

    BBC forbids me to name the real terrorist groups.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 280.

    @273.farkyss

    I agree, only last night the Occupy protestors where moved from the Stock Exchange camp after 2 hours - that is not freedom!! We should be able to protest where and when we like!. The freedom we have in this country is slowly slipping away as new legislation is brought in to every aspect of our lives 'protect us' - from what I have no idea!

 

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