Saturday, 1 September 2012

Afghanistan Still A 'Tough Fight': Obama

US President Barack Obama Friday told soldiers headed for Afghanistan they still faced a "very tough fight" but pledged to end the war as "responsibly" as he halted conflict in Iraq.

As his aides lambasted his Republican foe Mitt Romney for failing to mention the Afghan war or tens of thousands of US soldiers waging it in his convention speech Thursday, Obama surrounded himself with fighting men in Texas.

His visit to Fort Bliss was ostensibly designed to mark the second anniversary of the end of US combat operations in Iraq, but with soldiers heading to the front soon, his thoughts turned to America's longest war.

"I know that some of you will be deploying later this year. I've got to tell you the truth, this is still a very tough fight," Obama said.

"You know this. You carry it in your hearts, the memory of comrades who made that ultimate sacrifice, including six heroes from Bliss who gave their lives on that awful day last month."

The six troops killed in an attack in July became the latest of more than 2,000 US soldiers to die in Afghanistan, including more than 200 this year, according to a count published on the website.

"Just as in Iraq, we are going to end this war responsibly. Next year, Afghans will take the lead for their own security. In 2014, the transition will be complete," Obama said.

White House and Obama campaign aides meanwhile Friday expressed disbelief that Romney did not mention the war in Afghanistan, one of America's greatest foreign policy challenges, in his 45 minute speech in Tampa, Florida.

"I was surprised not to hear mention of the 70,000 men and women who are serving in Afghanistan, executing a mission that is profoundly important to America's national security in a conflict that was the direct result of an attack on the United States by Al-Qaeda," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Obama praised troops from Fort Bliss for fighting to quell the insurgency which erupted in Iraq after the US invasion in 2003 and said their sacrifice had enabled him to effect a US withdrawal.

"You helped pull Iraq back from the abyss," Obama said.

Obama last traveled to the sprawling base on the Texas and New Mexico border two years ago to meet troops home from Iraq, hours before delivering a televised address on the end of combat operations from the Oval Office.

"I was able to come here to Bliss and mark the end of our combat mission. That night, I told the American people that all our troops would be out of Iraq by the end of the following year," Obama said.

"I know some folks didn't believe me, they were skeptical. Some thought the end of combat was just word games and semantics. But I meant what I said," Obama said, polishing his national security credentials as November's election looms.

Obama declared the end of American combat operations in Iraq, after a seven-year war, on August 31, 2010. All US forces returned home at the end of last year.

Although Obama's trip was billed as an official one, consistent with his duties as US commander-in-chief, it will be seen in a highly political context.

The president made his political name opposing the Iraq war even before he was elected to the Senate in 2004, and regards bringing US troops home as the fulfillment of one of his core political promises.

His decision will feature prominently next week in three days of speeches and events in North Carolina culminating in his acceptance of the Democratic Party nomination as he seeks a second term.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...