WASHINGTON (PAN): The United States will complete security transition to Afghan forces by 2014 and will work with the Afghan government to train its security forces to ensure al Qaeda never again establish a safe haven there, President Barack Obama said on Thursday.
“In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for that country’s security. Our troops will come home. Our combat mission will come to an end,” he said in a major policy speech on counter-terrorism policy at the National Defense University.
“We will work with the Afghan government to train security forces, and sustain a counterterrorism force, which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe haven to launch attacks against us or our allies,” he said.
“Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless “global war on terror,” but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries,” Obama said in his speech, which was marked by protest from an anti-drone activist.
In his nearly an hour long speech, Obama justified use of drones as “legal” a highly “effective” successful tool to target high value terrorist targets. At the same time he asserted that United States respects the sovereignty of other countries, noting that a commando operation like the one that killed Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda leader, cannot be a norm.
Obama said drone strikes are legal and effective. “America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law and international law, the United States is at war with al-Qaida, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war, a war waged proportionally, in last resort and in self-defense,” he said.
The US President said his fight against terrorism has been successful so far. “The core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They’ve not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11,” he said.
Obama said in the Afghan war theater, the US will continue to support its troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014.
“And that means we will continue to take strikes against high value al Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces. But by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we’ve made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes,” he said.
“Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces. And even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists; our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose; our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty,” Obama said