Obama speech on Afghanistan: Liveblog
June 22nd, 2011
08:00 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama speech on Afghanistan: Liveblog

(CNN)-President Barack Obama addresses the nation on his plan to withdraw 33,000 "surge" troops from Afghanistan beginning at the end of 2011 and ending by the summer of 2012.

9:35 p.m. ET@SenatorDurbin Need swift&substantial withdrawal of troops from #Afghanistan. #longestwar has cost $100s of billions&1.6k lives. Time to bring troops home

9:16 p.m. ET@David_Gergen Much talk that our wars bleeding us dry - over $1T in 10 yrs. But worth remembering US gov't has spent $40T in same time. #cnn

8:53 p.m. ET@David_Gergen #Obama address had echoes of George McGovern's famous 1972 "Come Home, America" speech. But I imagine public will like. #Afghanistan

8:40 p.m. ET@SenatorReid President's plan 2 begin w/drawing troops from Afghanistan is a critical step. I look fwd 2 day when all our courageous men & women r home.

Read the full liveblog after the jump.

8:34 p.m. ET@MittRomney Our decision to withdraw from Afghanistan should not be based on politics or economics

8:14 p.m. ET
-President Obama: That’s a lesson worth remembering – that we are all a part of one American family. Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish. Now, let us finish the work at hand. Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story. With confidence in our cause; with faith in our fellow citizens; and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America – for this generation, and the next. May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America.

8:13 p.m. ET-
@EWErickson Damn. I don't want Obama to focus on nation building here, given his track record already.

8:13 p.m. ET
-President Obama: In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care, and benefits, and opportunity that you deserve.

I met some of those patriotic Americans at Fort Campbell. A while back, I spoke to the 101st Airborne that has fought to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and to the team that took out Osama bin Laden. Standing in front of a model of bin Laden’s compound, the Navy SEAL who led that effort paid tribute to those who had been lost – brothers and sisters in arms whose names are now written on bases where our troops stand guard overseas, and on headstones in quiet corners of our country where their memory will never be forgotten. This officer – like so many others I have met with on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital – spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one – depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril.

8:12 p.m. ET@EWErickson Interestingly, by taking Afghanistan off the table, the election will really be just about the economy.

8:12 p.m. ET– President Obama: America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

8:11 p.m. ET
– President Obama: Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource – our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep and no horizon is beyond our reach.

8:11 p.m. ET
– President Obama: In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power – it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. 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.

8:10 p.m. ET-President Obama: As they do, we must learn their lessons. Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world. Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extend ourselves, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

We must chart a more centered course. Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. 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, which we are doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their destiny.

8:09 p.m. ET- President Obama: My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country. We have learned anew the profound cost of war - a cost that has been paid by the nearly 4500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1500 who have done so in Afghanistan – men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended. Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the field of battle, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.

Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way. We have ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.

8:08 p.m. ET
-President Obama: Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region. We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments. For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe-haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.

8:08 p.m. ET– President Obama: 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 will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people; and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures – one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.

8:07 p.m. ET@HowardKurtz Obama was sounding a tad too rosy about Afghan situation until he pivoted to "challenges remain" – & Rahm peace talks in Chicago!

8:07 p.m. ET-President Obama: Of course, huge challenges remain. This is the beginning – but not the end – of our effort to wind down this war. We will have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we have made, while we drawdown our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government. And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.

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.

8:06 p.m. ET@donnabrazile More: "We will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer." It's clear the mission will change from combat to helping the Afghans.

8:06 p.m. ET– President Obama: In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country. Afghan Security Forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we have already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people. In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.

8:05 p.m. ET@donnabrazile More: "Starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year." Is this sufficient?

8:05 p.m. ET-President Obama: We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”

The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain. Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda has been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that have been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam – thereby draining more widespread support. Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks. But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.

8:04 p.m. ET- President Obama: Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead. 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.

8:03 p.m. ET- President Obama: 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; 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 drawdown our forces this July.

8:02 p.m. ET@David_Gergen In '09 Petraeus/Gates/Clinton won the President's favor on AfPak surge. 2011 sees a shift toward Biden's preferred counterterrorism strategy

8:01 p.m. ET– President Obama: Nearly ten years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor. This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security – one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives.

7:59 p.m. ET- Awaiting president's remarks.

Filed under: Afghanistan • President Obama
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. ObamaSux1

    What is this clown going to lie to the nation about tonight

    June 22, 2011 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  2. Nina Fox

    3 more years in Afghanistan @ the cost of how many lives and money?

    June 22, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  3. Matt

    I like Obama with his military and foreign policies.... However I do not like his budget priorities. War is expensive but so are wasteful government programs. Cut the budget TREMENDOUSLY President Obama or you will not be re-elected. President Romney could be the next guy.

    June 22, 2011 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  4. obayashi

    The President speech is exemplary and right on target. But the number of troops scheduled to go home is not enough. Bring home our troops. Let Afghanis to stand up not to sit down. Let them take responsibility and do the danagerous jobs of maintaining peace in their country.

    June 22, 2011 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  5. Rico Alexander

    Strong, very strong...

    June 22, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  6. Richard

    It's time to refocus America's efforts in nation building–back here at home. I hope the President meant what he said in his speech tonight. Our country's infrastructures are decaying and crumbling before our eyes. How about unyielding support to fixing our country's problems instead giving billions to other countries to rebuild their nations infrastructures and beef-up their military capabilities? As I heard, majority of this money is being channeled into corrupted hands.

    Houston TX

    June 22, 2011 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  7. Hammerer

    I now understand what the "change" Obama spoke of during his campaign.
    Change your mind daily.

    June 22, 2011 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  8. Donald Fraser Miles

    President Obama has made a prudent defence decision. The decision to significantly withdraw American forces will cut the umbilical cord which the US now has to Afghanistan. It will give birth to better strategic results and thinking. It will similarly lead to an improvement in the thinking and behaviour of all parties concerned. I predict the US and western economies will move forward strongly, too, as a result of this improved mentality that withdrawl brings.

    June 22, 2011 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  9. maikl

    I don't trust him at all. It's campaign step and this all about. New logo-"yes we can" in 2012 send Obama pink slip.

    June 22, 2011 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |

    are we serious about really rebuilding afganastan.when there are many places here in the USA that need rebuilding:streets,highways,houses,jobs.the healing of our own country.come on people are we really thinking we will be the ruler of the world.we have boarders that need to be upgrade,drugs on our streets. the interior structure of the american cities.what makes you think we want to rebuild a country of people that hates us over here.lets rebuild this country the train/railway system.we are worried about things that dont concern us.remember war is war and is we are at war with them with we are.just like japan we wasthen its called the UNITED STATES OF AFGANASTAN, just like the UNITED STATES OF JAPAN.COME ON AMERICA WHAT IS UP WITH US.THEY HATE US WITH A PASSION....JUST A USA CITIZEN.

    June 22, 2011 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  11. Junie W.

    Why wait so long? Every day our troops are there is more of our tax dollars flushed into the sand.

    June 22, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  12. pretty nick

    Not a bad speech, a trillion dollars is a lot of money, not as much as the human sacrifice, it would be a waste of lives, american financial resources to stay there for a long period of time, the mission is accomplished, bin laden was killed, never would have happened if the focus had stayed in iraq, that money is deperately needed at home (time for us to nation build), image the number of jobs a trillion dollars could create, and that would be just the beginning of our new progress, the cost of the wars is one of the main causes of the economic problems we are facing in america, lets get on board with this one

    June 22, 2011 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  13. AiyeSiss

    Biden was right about using drones and intelligence to get Bin Laden. Perhaps he has been right all along.

    June 22, 2011 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  14. Mark

    This guy is so full of it

    June 22, 2011 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  15. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It wasn't clearly defined as to who is coming home; the ones pulling the triggers or the ones behind the desks. I would hope that it would be a mix and it be a slower draw to come home. He did it well, but It is never easy when the area we are talking about has so much corruption (like the rest of the Arab and Muslim worlds) and violence. Some of these people only understand violence. I wish there was a way for them to put down their guns and hate to understand that there can be a respectful difference of opinion. Religion can't be that strict or it will kill all of us.

    June 22, 2011 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  16. Rob Johnson

    "Our decision to withdraw from Afghanistan should not be based on politics or economics"

    My God Romney, what should it be based on? How about if we base it on reality, or is that still not good enough?

    To hear that from the same party that is complaining about Obama spending too much money and constantly harping on the deficit just shows you how hypocritical they are. They don't mind spending money we don't have, as long as it's on pointless unwinnable wars in faraway countries, but God forbid we want to help Grandma pay for her medicine.

    In the end it's all about priorities, and the Republicans' priorities are exactly backwards.

    June 22, 2011 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  17. bill

    Sounded more like a campaign speech.

    June 22, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  18. Pallin2112

    Traitors Embracing Anarchy ( TEA Party) will criticize
    the president no matter what he does or says.

    June 23, 2011 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  19. I'm a GOP Hostage and so are you

    President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have runa nearly flawless foreign policy. It is almost stunning in how good it is considering how stunningly bad the Cowboy Diplomacy of Bush/Cheney/GOP worked out. If Obama didn't have to spend 4 years cleaning up he would be moving towards real change in the world. But then again, that's what 2012-2016 are for.

    June 23, 2011 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  20. z

    Agree, i don't like war. i love peace. God bless you Mr. Obama.

    June 23, 2011 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  21. i8jomomma

    this tea bag don't know what he's doing. if he spent the money on us instead of the towel heads.....we wouldn't be losing our homes and cars or jobs...........

    June 23, 2011 02:38 am at 2:38 am |