A day after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House, President Obama used his weekly radio address to highlight the progress made in the fight against terrorists there and make the case it is time for the U.S. involvement to end.
Despite widespread concerns about the stability of the Afghan government and the persistence of Taliban resistance to Kabul, Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai on Friday announced an accelerated timetable for Afghan troops to take the lead in the fighting by this spring, ahead of a withdrawal of all American forces by 2014.
The two leaders left open the option that some U.S. forces would remain after that date, for training, support and targeted operations against terrorist targets. Mr. Obama said any presence would depend on an agreement guaranteeing U.S. troops immunity from Afghan law, something Mr. Karzai hinted might be possible.
"Our core objective — the reason we went to war in the first place — is now within reach: ensuring that al Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against America," Mr. Obama said in his address.
By this spring, "Afghan forces will take the lead for security across the entire country, and our troops will shift to a support role," the president said. "In the coming months, I'll announce the next phase of our drawdown. And by the end of next year, America's war in Afghanistan will be over."
Mr. Obama made clear he felt it was time for the country to focus its energies inward, citing the need to address such issues as the economy, immigration and gun violence.
"After more than a decade of war, the nation we need to rebuild is our own," the president said.
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