Today, President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan -- to meet with President Hamid Karzai and sign a strategic partnership agreement that will help to guide our future relationship with the country.
For more than a decade, U.S. troops have served in the region as part of the NATO mission. In a televised address, tonight, the President talked about the progress they've made and the new relationship between the United States and Afghanistan:
[We've] begun a transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Already, nearly half of the Afghan people live in places where Afghan security forces are moving into the lead. This month, at a NATO Summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed. But we will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward.
As we do, our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more and more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.
The President also discussed how the end of two wars will allow us to focus on a new set of national priorities:
As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it’s time to renew America -- an America where our children live free from fear and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.
Read the full remarks here.