Nearly 13 years ago, American forces first began their combat mission in Afghanistan. On Sunday, President Barack Obama marked the end point for that campaign as we know it. Although around 10,800 U.S. employees will linger to aid in the country’s reconstruction and advise them how to protect themselves against extremist groups, Obama noted that the grand majority of personnel in the country has already vacated, reported The Washington Post.
“These past 13 years have tested our nation and our military. But compared to the nearly 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan when I took office, we now have fewer than 15,000 in those countries. Some 90 percent of our troops are home.”
Obama took special note to mention his and the American people’s gratitude for what veterans and their families have sacrificed during the Afghani occupation. Such posturing may be necessary for the president; a recent poll by The Military Times shows that Obama currently holds a mere 15 percent approval rating among active military personnel. Still, Obama has made applauding those who fought in Afghanistan a key part of his speeches on the topic throughout the week.
“We remember the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and we pledge to stand with their Gold Star families, who need the everlasting love and support of a grateful nation.”
The biggest fear for Afghanistan and President Obama is that the country will devolve into the same disastrous situation that is currently playing out in Iraq. Kabul in particular has seen a sharp rise in attacks from terrorist organizations. While in Afghanistan on Thursday, notoriously hawkish Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John McCain said that he foresees a similar series of jihadist strongholds and viral execution videos replacing the departing American troops in Afghanistan, he told Fox News.
“The United States should be talking about a stabilizing force behind in Afghanistan to give the capabilities that they don’t have right now and won’t have when we leave. It should be a condition-based withdrawal… We’re going to see the same movie we saw in Iraq.”
Fox News noted that the reaction to Obama’s news is decidedly mixed among Afghanis, such as 42-year-old shop keeper Gul Mohammad.
“At least in the past 13 years we have seen improvements in our way of life — freedom of speech, democracy, the people generally better off financially. But we do need the foreign troops to stay here at least until our own forces are strong enough, while our economy strengthens, while our leaders try to form a government.”
President Barack Obama’s full speech has been posted to Twitter by the White House’s social media team. You can read his closing remarks below.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 28, 2014
[Image via Flickr]