On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against Al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. It’s important for Americans to know: This war will not be quick, and this war will not be easy. We know this from not only intelligence, but from the history of military conflict in Afghanistan. It’s been one of initial success, followed by long years of floundering and ultimate failure. We’re not going to repeat that mistake. We destroyed the Taliban, many terrorists and the camps where they trained. We continue to help the Afghan people lay roads, restore hospitals and educate all of their children. And so our message to the people of Afghanistan is: Take a look at this building. It’s a big, solid, permanent structure which should represent the commitment of the United States of America to your liberty. For all the good work we’ve done in that country, it is clear we must do even more. I’m announcing today additional American troop deployments to Afghanistan. Today, I’m announcing a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. I’ve already ordered the deployment of 17,000 troops. At the same time, we will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of Afghan security forces. I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. We will begin the transition of responsibility to Afghans and start reducing American forces next July. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world: The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year and America’s longest war will finally be over. President Ghani has requested some flexibility on our drawdown timelines, decided that we will maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops through the end of this year. We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership. It’s the lesson of Vietnam. It’s the lesson of Iraq. And we should have learned it by now. I’m announcing an additional adjustment to our posture. Instead of going down to 5,500 troops by the end of this year, the United States will maintain approximately 8,400 troops in Afghanistan into next year, through the end of my administration. The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. We’re not fighting a war. If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people. The Taliban wants to make a deal. We just signed an agreement. We’ll be bringing it down to approximately 8,600. Bad things happen, we’ll go back. The United States will begin our final withdrawal on May 1 of this year. “Some Vietnamese veterans see echoes of their experience in this withdrawal in Afghanistan. Do you see any parallels?” “None whatsoever. Zero, and they’re not remotely comparable.” “Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?” “It is not. You have the Afghan troops at 300,000 against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable.” “The Taliban advance appears unstoppable. Regional capitals are falling like dominoes.” “Taliban has seized control of Kunduz.” “Today, it was Ghazni.” “The U.N. says this is likely to be the deadliest 12 months yet.” “Taliban are now in control of Afghanistan, after taking over the capital, Kabul.” I stand squarely behind my decision. This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference. Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today. I am president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.
Source: The New York Times