A year on from the biggest call of his Presidency, to kill Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama has signed a new pact with Karzai on a surprise visit to Afghanistan.
A year on from the biggest call of his Presidency, the call to send in the Seals and take out Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama has signed a new pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a surprise visit to the country, hailing “a future in which war ends, and a new chapter begins”.
Addressing US troops at Bagram Air Base, he said the goal of defeating al-Qaeda “is now within our reach”, and called on the troops to “finish the work at hand” and “forge a just and lasting peace”, declaring:
“This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.”
Heralding “a future in which war ends, and a new chapter begins”, he said:
“My fellow Americans, we’ve travelled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of new day on the horizon.”
“The reason the Afghans have a new tomorrow is because of you.”
Looking ahead, he said:
“Our goal is not to build a country in America’s image or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars and many more American lives.
“Our goal is to destroy al-Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that… The goal I set to defeat al-Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild is now within reach.”
“I know the battle is not yet over; some of your buddies are going to get injured, some of your buddies may get killed. And there’s going to be heartbreak and pain ahead. But there is a light on the horizon because of the sacrifices you made…
“Today, with the signing of the strategic partnership agreement, we look forward to a future of peace.”
• Barack Obama’s 2012 4 Jan 2012
• The A-Z of Ayman al-Zawahiri 16 Jun 2011
• Now even al-Qaeda say bin Laden is dead 6 May 2011
• The influence and legacy of Osama Bin Laden 3 May 2011
• Where’s Osama? 3 Dec 2009
Back in the US, however, the way the Obama administration have marked the one year anniversary of the killing of Bin Laden has drawn criticism from usually unhostile quarters.
One such is the Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington, who blogged:
The administration has every reason to celebrate, as does the country. The president made the right decision, and it was a great example of leadership, courage, and competence at a time when all three are in short supply in our politics.
Less laudable is the other way the administration is celebrating: by rolling out an attack ad questioning whether Mitt Romney would have made the same call to go after the man behind the 9/11 attacks. In the ad, after Bill Clinton extols the decision to greenlight the high-risk operation, the question “What path would Mitt Romney have taken?” appears ominously on the screen.
President Obama made the right call on taking out bin Laden, one that carried great political risk (as Clinton puts it in the ad: “Suppose the Navy SEALs went in there and it hadn’t been bin Laden. Suppose they had been captured or killed.”). And he deserves credit for it. But having made the tough call and having succeeded is exactly what should have given him the leverage to refuse to continue the destructive “who is more macho?” cycle of bravado.
Romney himself has accused Obama of calibrating his war strategy to the election calendar, and has erred by setting a deadline for withdrawing troops – since the Taliban could simply wait out the Americans.
The Republican challenger did, though, put partisanship aside to give the President a share of the credit for Bin Laden’s killing, adding of Afghanistan:
“It would be a tragedy for Afghanistan and a strategic setback for America if the Taliban returned to power and once again created a sanctuary for terrorists.”