- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Speaking to Marines who’ve borne the brunt of combat in Afghanistan, President Obama said Wednesday that hard fighting remains, but the “core” of al Qaeda is nearly defeated.

“This is still a hard fight,” Mr. Obama said at Camp Pendleton in California. “It’s still tough, and we’re still needed.”

The president, whose claims that al Qaeda is “on the run” are being questioned due to reports of a new plot by the terrorist network, said U.S. troops have nearly finished the job in Afghanistan. More than 320 Marines based at Camp Pendleton have been killed in theater.

“Because of you, the 9/11 generation, we are accomplishing what we set out to do,” the president said. “The core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the way to defeat. We are going to make sure that Afghanistan is never again a source of attacks against our country.”

The president also criticized congressional Republicans for the so-called “sequester” budget cuts that have hit various departments across the board, including the military. He said the budget cuts must be eliminated next month in favor of more targeted cutbacks, and said he’s “frustrated” by Republicans who, he said, claim to support the military but allowed the sequester to take effect.

“Hard-working folks are getting furloughed,” he said. “That’s not how a great nation should be treating its military and military families.”

Mr. Obama also had strong words about the persistent incidents of sexual assault among service members, saying the problem “undermines what the military stands for.”

“We are going to work together, all of us, to stop these crimes,” Mr. Obama said. “That message is coming all the way from the top.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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