President Obama used his weekly address to highlight his trip this week to Afghanistan and call on Congress to use half the money the nation is no longer spending on war to pay down our debt, and use the other half on infrastructure projects to help create jobs and spur the still-sputtering economy.
"After more than a decade of wear, it is time to focus on nation building here at home," he said in the address.
The president repeated his appreciation for the military's sacrifices and services and credited their commitment to turning the tide of war in Afghanistan and for killing Osama bin Laden and depleting its leadership ranks.
"Because of their bravery and dedication ... we have broken the Taliban's momentum," he said. "We've built strong Afghan Security Forces. We have devastated al Qeada's leadership. And one year ago, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set — to defeat al Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild — is within reach."
Because of that progress, Mr. Obama said he was able to sign a historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that allows for a continued drawdown in U.S. troops over the next two years but commits the U.S. to a support role in the country until 2024.
After backing a surge in U.S. troops in Afghanistan during his first two years in office, last year the U.S. removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and another 23,000 are set to leave by the end of the summer. By the end of 2014, the United States wants to turn over the responsibility of securing the country to Afghan forces.
Mentioning the experiences of his grandfather who served in World War II and his grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line, Mr. Obama said the nation must decide what kind of country the returning soldiers are coming back to and promoted his policies of increasing taxes on the wealthy to help pay for increased infrastructure spending and to preserve major programs of the social safety net such as Medicare and Social Security.
"Will it be a country where a shrinking number of Americans do really well while a growing number barely get by?" he asked. "Or will it be a country where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules — a country with opportunity worthy of the troops who protect us?"
Keeping the promise of the American dream alive for all members of society, he said, is the "defining issue of our time."
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