Obama cements US support to Afghanistan beyond 2014
Obama met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which states that Washington may use “diplomatic means, political means, economic means and even military means” to help Afghanistan, with approval from Kabul. Obama hailed the agreement as “historic” calling it a responsible transition with the Afghans taking control of their own country. The pact could help Washington smooth out its relations with Kabul following a number of incidents involving US soldiers, including the massacre of 17 civilians in Kandahar and the Koran-burning incident in Bagram.A section of the pact signed on Tuesday implies that the US will not use Afghanistan as a launchpad for attacks on other countries in the region, such as drone strikes or any attack similar to the one that killed Osama Bin Laden exactly one year ago.With the US presidential elections nearing, Obama addressed the nation from a military base in Bagram, during which he showcased his military achievements and promised a renewal for America.“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America,” he said in the address. The president promised not to keep Americans in harm’s way “a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security" but underlined that “we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly. This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.” Though admitting that the war has taken “longer than most anticipated” Obama said: "Our goal is to destroy Al-Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that."Outlining the plan to complete the mission and end the war in Afghanistan, Obama said that the US had begun a transition to Afghan responsibility for security. He added that the next step is for the US to “shift into a support role as Afghans step forward.”"As our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country," he stressed.The White House has denied any political motives behind Obama’s surprise trip to Afghanistan, which coincides with the first anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. A senior administration official said the visit had been more than a year in the making. The Republicans have recently been saying that Obama is politicizing the anniversary Bin Laden’s death ahead of November’s elections.The official added that the anniversary was a “resonant day” for Obama to visit troops in Afghanistan. "It was always the president's intention to spend this anniversary with our troops, because it was an extraordinary group of US service members who carried out that operation," the official said.