In a speech at the White House on 22nd June 2011, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, reiterated the involvement of Osama Bin Laden in the perpetration of the attacks on New York on 11th September 2001.
He also announces that US troops would begin to reduce their numbers in Afghanistan from July 2011, reversing the surge at West Point:
“…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.”
10,000 troops will be transported back to the US by the end of the year and 33,000 in total will have returned to American shores by the summer of 2012. Thereafter, troops will pull out of the province at a “steady rate” until Afghan forces assume the full command of their country: “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.”
The President paid tribute to the Pakistani authorities, saying that together they had “taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership.” The President painted a picture of a terrorist organisation still very much alive, but under strain from the sustained efforts of US action.
The Commander-in-Chief praised the efforts of ordinary Afghans who are working to rebuild the country and resisting the Taliban. He also announced that a summit would be held in Chicago in May 2012 with NATO and other partners to decide on the direction of the transition.
It has long been known that some sort of deal would be done with elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, as the Allies sought for ways to end the war. The President has confirmed that a compromise will be sought:
“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.”
Worryingly, the US has firmly turned its attentions to Pakistan, taking a hard line on the country. The President took the opportunity to remind Pakistan that “the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us.” Obama also counted the cost of war to America – 4,500 US lives lost in Iraq and 1,500 lost in Afghanistan, but pointed to a light at the end of the tunnel, saying: “These long wars will come to a responsible end.”
Obama attempted, in his speech, to set a tone of international engagement rather than isolationism or crusading:
“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”
However, his comments on the “Arab Spring” will set alarm bells ringing for what might be characterised as ideological imperialism:
“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.”
After explaining that America has spent one trillion dollars on war over the last decade, President Obama shifted the focus back to domestic matters of job creation and scientific innovation, saying that the USA should now concentrate on nation building.