KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii – President Obama said the United States is safer after 13 years of war in Afghanistan and he added that the Asian nation will no longer be the source of terrorist attacks, as the American military continues to withdraw to a far smaller force.
“Next week, we will be ending our combat mission in Afghanistan,” Obama said, as he and first lady Michelle Obama thanked U.S. troops at a Marine Corps base here during their traditional visit for Christmas dinner. A Marine shouted “Hurrah!” and others cheered when the president mentioned the end of combat.
“Because of the extraordinary service of the men and women in the armed forces, Afghanistan has a chance to rebuild its own country,” Obama said. "We are safer. It’s not going to be a source of terrorist attacks again."
Most U.S. and NATO forces will withdraw from the country by Dec. 31, with 10,800 U.S. troops remaining to help with training and in advisory roles, along with some counterterrorism operations. That’s about 1,000 more than was initially announced by the Obama administration earlier this year. Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, has seen an increase of violence in recent months.
The White House has projected confidence that Afghan forces are prepared to take the lead in the country’s security, as Obama attempts to make good on his promises to wind down the U.S. combat role.
In his remarks, Obama briefly alluded to the new U.S. mission in Iraq, where American troops are advising local forces in a fight against the Islamic State militant group. U.S. fighter jets also have launched airstrikes against the group in Syria.
“We still have some very difficult missions around the world, including in Iraq,” Obama said. “But the world is better, it’s safer, it’s more peaceful, it’s more prosperous and our homeland is protected because of you and the sacrifices you make each and every day.”