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REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATION ON THE WAY FORWARD IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN - History

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATION ON THE WAY FORWARD IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN - History

Eisenhower Hall Theatre

United States Military Academy at West Point

West Point, New York

December 1 8:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our Armed Services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan -- the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. It's an extraordinary honor for me to do so here at West Point -- where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country.

To address these important issues, it's important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of passengers onboard one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda -- a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban -- a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.

Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and those who harbored them -- an authorization that continues to this day. The vote in the Senate was 98 to nothing. The vote in the House was 420 to 1. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5 -- the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. And the United Nations Security Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks. America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist network and to protect our common security.

Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy -- and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden -- we sent our troops into Afghanistan. Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope. At a conference convened by the U.N., a provisional government was established under President Hamid Karzai. And an International Security Assistance Force was established to help bring a lasting peace to a war-torn country.

Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It's enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention -- and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.

Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we are doing so is a testament to the character of the men and women in uniform. (Applause.) Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people.

But while we've achieved hard-earned milestones in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda’s leadership established a safe haven there. Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it's been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient security forces.

Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating attacks of terrorism against the Pakistani people.

Now, throughout this period, our troop levels in Afghanistan remained a fraction of what they were in Iraq. When I took office, we had just over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan, compared to 160,000 in Iraq at the peak of the war. Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive. And that's why, shortly after taking office, I approved a longstanding request for more troops. After consultations with our allies, I then announced a strategy recognizing the fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan and the extremist safe havens in Pakistan. I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and civilian efforts.

Since then, we've made progress on some important objectives. High-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and we've stepped up the pressure on al Qaeda worldwide. In Pakistan, that nation's army has gone on its largest offensive in years. In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and -- although it was marred by fraud -- that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan's laws and constitution.

Yet huge challenges remain. Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards. There's no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border. And our forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner with Afghan security forces and better secure the population. Our new commander in Afghanistan -- General McChrystal -- has reported that the security situation is more serious than he anticipated. In short: The status quo is not sustainable.

As cadets, you volunteered for service during this time of danger. Some of you fought in Afghanistan. Some of you will deploy there. As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service. And that's why, after the Afghan voting was completed, I insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. Now, let me be clear: There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period. Instead, the review has allowed me to ask the hard questions, and to explore all the different options, along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and our key partners. And given the stakes involved, I owed the American people -- and our troops -- no less.

This review is now complete. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.

I do not make this decision lightly. I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war now for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources. Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.

Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you -- a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens. As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars. I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I've traveled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.

So, no, I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.

Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America's war. Since 9/11, al Qaeda’s safe havens have been the source of attacks against London and Amman and Bali. The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered. And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them.

These facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies. Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.

To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future.

We will meet these objectives in three ways. First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban's momentum and increase Afghanistan's capacity over the next 18 months.

The 30,000 additional troops that I'm announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 -- the fastest possible pace -- so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They'll increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.

Because this is an international effort, I've asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we're confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. And now, we must come together to end this war successfully. For what's at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility -- what's at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.

But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We'll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government -- and, more importantly, to the Afghan people -- that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.

Second, we will work with our partners, the United Nations, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security.

This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai's inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We'll support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas -- such as agriculture -- that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people.

The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They've been confronted with occupation -- by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes. So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand -- America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect -- to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.

Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.

We're in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That's why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.

In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who've argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism. Public opinion has turned. The Pakistani army has waged an offensive in Swat and South Waziristan. And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy.

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistan people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

These are the three core elements of our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.

I recognize there are a range of concerns about our approach. So let me briefly address a few of the more prominent arguments that I've heard, and which I take very seriously.

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we're better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now -- and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance -- would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

Second, there are those who acknowledge that we can't leave Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with the troops that we already have. But this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there. It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions needed to train Afghan security forces and give them the space to take over.

Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a time frame for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort -- one that would commit us to a nation-building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.

As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests. And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces. I don't have the luxury of committing to just one. Indeed, I'm mindful of the words of President Eisenhower, who -- in discussing our national security -- said, "Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs."

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance. We've failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy. In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our neighbors and friends are out of work and struggle to pay the bills. Too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children. Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce. So we can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.

All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars. Going forward, I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I'll work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.

But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military. It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That's why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended -- because the nation that I'm most interested in building is our own.

Now, let me be clear: None of this will be easy. The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will be an enduring test of our free society, and our leadership in the world. And unlike the great power conflicts and clear lines of division that defined the 20th century, our effort will involve disorderly regions, failed states, diffuse enemies.

So as a result, America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict -- not just how we wage wars. We'll have to be nimble and precise in our use of military power. Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold -- whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere -- they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships.

And we can't count on military might alone. We have to invest in our homeland security, because we can't capture or kill every violent extremist abroad. We have to improve and better coordinate our intelligence, so that we stay one step ahead of shadowy networks.

We will have to take away the tools of mass destruction. And that's why I've made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to pursue the goal of a world without them -- because every nation must understand that true security will never come from an endless race for ever more destructive weapons; true security will come for those who reject them.

We'll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone. I've spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world -- one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.

And finally, we must draw on the strength of our values -- for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. That's why we must promote our values by living them at home -- which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority.

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents and great-grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions -- from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank -- that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades -- a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, and markets open, and billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for -- what we continue to fight for -- is a better future for our children and grandchildren. And we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity. (Applause.)

As a country, we're not as young -- and perhaps not as innocent -- as we were when Roosevelt was President. Yet we are still heirs to a noble struggle for freedom. And now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.

In the end, our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms. It derives from our people -- from the workers and businesses who will rebuild our economy; from the entrepreneurs and researchers who will pioneer new industries; from the teachers that will educate our children, and the service of those who work in our communities at home; from the diplomats and Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad; and from the men and women in uniform who are part of an unbroken line of sacrifice that has made government of the people, by the people, and for the people a reality on this Earth. (Applause.)

This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue -- nor should we. But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership, nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time, if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse.

It's easy to forget that when this war began, we were united -- bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. (Applause.) I believe with every fiber of my being that we -- as Americans -- can still come together behind a common purpose. For our values are not simply words written into parchment -- they are a creed that calls us together, and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation, as one people.

America -- we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes. (Applause.)

Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 8:35 P.M. EST



Obama: Foreign Policy Realist

While President Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech placated some of his US critics today, his recent decision to surge and withdraw in Afghanistan remains deeply controversial.

Liberal critics upbraid the President for increasing US military forces there. Conservatives complain that Mr. Obama’s announcement of a date for the beginning of US military withdrawal from Afghanistan will only allow al Qaeda and its Taliban allies to wait America out. In addition, some media pundits claim the President’s policy is really all about domestic politics, giving a little bit to everybody with strong preferences on what the US should be up to in Afghanistan and moving out of the country before the 2012 US presidential campaign heats up.

The last view may have some truth, but overstates its case. No war-time president has ever been, or could afford to be, oblivious to domestic politics. Presidents need popular support to sustain military action they deem necessary. Popular support can also give presidents the ability to end military actions in ways they think in the country’s interest. So, Mr. Obama’s year-and-a-half mark for beginning US withdrawal from Afghanistan probably is, in part, a carrot for members of his own party’s left-wing who want the President to break his campaign promise to pursue the war along the Afghan-Pakistan border with renewed vigor.

But in the end, I believe that all three views are simplistic, naive, and heedless of the facts. Obama is not George W. Bush-2, as some of his Democratic critics claim, nor a latter day peacenik, nor a pol solely in search of a golden mean to ensure his re-election.

It is, I think deeply significant that Mr. Obama chose to give the address unveiling his Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy at West Point, more particularly at the Eisenhower Auditorium there. I also believe that it was more than just the venue that incited the President to cite President Eisenhower during his speech, as he discussed all the factors that presidents must take into consideration in their decision-making.

Dwight Eisenhower was the most effective US president, when it came to foreign policy and national security issues, in the twentieth century. It wasn’t merely Eisenhower’s military background that made him so effective–MacArthur, LeMay, or Patton would have manifestly been disasters as presidents, in spite of their military backgrounds. It was, first of all, that Eisenhower was, in the best sense of the term, a “political general,” acclimated from peace-time service at the War Department to dealing with US pols at the Capitol and knowledgeable of the world scene from both his command of Allied forces in Europe during World War Two and his service as the first commander of NATO.

Eisenhower was an advocate and practitioner of what I call foreign policy realism. It’s one of three major ways in which foreign policy and national security have been approached in US history. I talk about those three ways here, a post in which I recount a conversation my son and had over dinner about five years ago:

…the first way was that of the realists. This was George Washington’s and Alexander Hamilton’s mode of thought. Later practitioners would include Dwight Eisenhower, Henry Kissinger, and Brett Scowcroft.

This group has always held that nations tend to act in their own self-interest. When, in his Farewell Address, drafted by Alexander Hamilton, Washington warned against “entangling alliances,” he wasn’t commending isolationism. He was rather offering a realistic warning that other nations–including republican France which people like Thomas Jefferson naively wanted the US to unstintingly support over against the still-powerful Great Britain–would act in their own interests, forming temporary friendships that advanced their national aims. But, the original George W and other realists would say, US foreign policy ought to be shaped by what is in the best interests of the country.

A second tradition in US foreign policy is represented by what I would call the impositionists. This group has been exemplified by Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and of late perhaps, George W. Bush.

Whether by military force, through support of other kinds, or simply in their thinking about foreign policy issues, these leaders have believed in the imposition of the American template on other countries. Jefferson read his own version of the American Revolution (to which he was more of a spectator than participant) into the French Revolution and concluded that America must lend its hand to republican France. Wilson adventured in Mexico and then entered World War One to “make the world safe for democracy.” Kennedy and Johnson got us into Vietnam. James K. Polk can, to some extent, be put in this category as well.

Most impositionists have been Democrats and have operated from a kind of semi-religious zeal. (Republican William McKinley, who employed the language of religious zealotry, displayed this tendency, as did his successor, Republican Theodore Roosevelt. But both did so more for economic or global political reasons than for others. )

Impositionists seem to see it as the function of American government to spread democracy, by force if necessary. Their approach to military force has been analogous, perhaps, to their big government solutions to domestic policies.

[George W. Bush], with his adoption of neo-conservative ideas on foreign policy may be in this camp. His evangelistic zeal to spread democracy in the Middle East, even, some would say, through the barrel of a gun, is reminiscent of Wilsonian approaches to the world. [The second Bush’s] policies bear little resemblance, for example, to the approaches taken by his own father, who was much more in the realist camp.

A third group has been the isolationists. One stream of isolationists might be associated with William Jennings Bryan, the prarie populist and three-time Democratic Party nominee. He viewed the outside world as evil over against the pristine purity of America.

Another stream of isolationism came to the fore in the wake of World War One. Tired of the adventurism of the Wilson presidency, Republicans called the country to “return to normalcy ” in the 1920 election. Later, they fought any US involvement in the Second World War, even as an armorer to Great Britain, until the attack on Pearl Harbor changed everybody’s tune. But the Republican isolationism of the 1920s and 30s was surprisingly congruent with that of the Bryan Democrats: Time Magazine, I’m told, didn’t have a section for foreign news in its early days. That section was simply labeled, “Power Politics.” If true, the clear implication would be that those folks “over there” were dirty while we were pure…

President Obama had already clearly signaled that he tilts to the realist camp during the 2008 campaign, siting both the first President Bush and President Eisenhower as role models for him in the realm national security and foreign policy.

And there is much to inspire Mr. Obama in the example of Mr. Eisenhower. Elected in 1952, the country mired in the pointless war in Korea, Eisenhower promised to end the conflict there in six months. He did just that, getting the North Koreans to the peace table by threatening to nuke the country if they didn’t make peace. For the next seven-and-a-half years, at the height of the Cold War, no American was killed or fired a shot in war.

Eisenhower was deeply concerned that the international situation necessitated the expenditure of money on the materiel of war. He also bemoaned the power given to the what he called “the military industrial” complex as a consequence of the Cold War. But he also, in a rare moment of public chest-thumping, incited by John Kennedy’s fictitious claim of a “missile gap” during the 1960 presidential campaign, declared that US military power was unparalleled, “awesome” he called it, all because of his insistence that until the world willingly disarmed and shared its nuclear secrets for peaceful purposes, the US should pursue “peace through strength.”

Like all the best foreign policy realists, Eisenhower knew that the use of military might should be the option of last choice, but that it is a choice that the United States needed to have in hand.

Above all, the bottom line for foreign policy realists is what is in the best interest of the United States. Multilatealism is embraced as an adjunct to what is, as President Obama said in today’s Nobel acceptance speech, in this country’s “enlightened self-interest.” (Obama also said at West Point that the place he most wants to do nation-building is the United States.)

In his speech at West Point, Mr. Obama gave scant reference to defeating the Taliban, nation-building in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or democracy in Afghanistan, all oft-mentioned pieces of his predecessor’s policies. That’s because from the standpoint of the foreign policy realism to which Mr. Obama appears to adhere, the form of government adopted by Afghanistan or the persons who man that government are not core issues. Destroying the capacity of al Qaeda to use the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan as a staging ground for violence against Americans–as well as against Afghans, Pakistanis, and others–is critical. Destroying al Qaeda, while fostering sustainable institutions in Afghanistan and Pakistan which can quell the resurgence of al Qaeda or similar groups, is the US mission.

Under Mr. Obama’s policies, US forces will destroy al Qaeda enclaves, Americans will train Afghan and Pakistani police and military officials, and Afghans and Pakistanis will be helped to take charge of their own lives. Those three things are ambitious enough. But, taken together, they don’t add up to a reiteration of his predecessor’s Wilsonian impositionism, as charged by members of his own party.

As to Mr. Obama’s decision to begin bringing US forces back in eighteen months, that element of his policy can be seen as much as pressure on the Afghans and Pakistanis to throw in with the US as it can be portrayed as a domestic political strategy. If the current Afghan and Pakistani governments wish to move on unencumbered by al Qaeda and the Taliban, they have eighteen months to get on the right track. (The assistance, in various ways, of the Indian government right now would do a great deal toward quelling al Qaeda as well as securing peace and stability in the region and between India and Pakistan. Hopefully, the Obama Administration can secure such cooperation.)

As is always the case, I express no opinion on the rightness of Obama’s policies in what is called “Afpak.” But it’s clear to me that this guy is not continuing his predecessor’s policies and is not a naive isolationist ceding time or territory to the terrorists. He’s spinning his own version of foreign policy realism. I suspect Ike would endorse the Obama strategy.

My own Foreign Policy Over Burritos and Tacos, here.


Statement on President Obama’s Address to the Nation on Afghanistan

Following months of international deliberation, the Obama administration outlined its Afghanistan strategy in a speech to the nation at West Point last night. President Barack Obama increased and deepened a U.S. commitment to Afghanistan and outlined a strategy for &ldquodisrupting, dismantling, and defeating Al Qaeda and its extremist allies and preventing their return to Afghanistan and Pakistan.&rdquo

Now that the president has outlined his case moving forward, congressional leaders and policymakers must continue to press the administration and the government agencies responsible for carrying out this task to provide additional details of how they intend to operationalize this strategy. As we argued in a previous statement, before Congress approves additional funding it should require the Obama administration to outline a clear set of objectives with accompanying metrics and an implementation strategy that does the following:

  • Establishes a flexible timeframe for the withdrawal of U.S. troops
  • Ensures that the mission is shared with our international allies
  • Presses Pakistan to battle extremists within its borders
  • Requires good governance and internal reforms in Afghanistan
  • Plans for how the war will be funded

In addition, Congress should be asking key questions about the strategy. These include:

Nature of the training mission: Congress should press the administration on how it plans to reverse the Afghan Army and Polices Forces&rsquo notoriously low retention rates and high absentee rates. A key component of the president&rsquos stated goal is the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces, beginning as soon as 2011. Reportedly, the Pentagon has yet to determine the exact mix of trainers and combat troops that will be deployed within the 30,000 overall figure authorized by the president.

Consistent shortfalls of trainers for the Afghan police and army have hobbled our training efforts to date. The establishment of a new NATO training command under Lieutenant General William Caldwell signals the new priority the coalition intends to give to training, but close oversight of the process by Congress will be needed to ensure that the security forces improve in both quality as well as quantity, and remain a multiethnic institution representative of the entire nation of Afghanistan.

Additionally, the administration and its NATO allies should be pressed to develop clearer plans for how the Afghan government will eventually take responsibility for the costs of its security forces, which currently depend on international donor support to sustain their current levels. Congress should also ask for criteria that will be used to decide whether troops can be withdrawn in 18 months.

Relations with local-level officials and local security initiatives: The administration has referred both publicly and privately to plans to work around the central government and deal more directly with provincial or local-level officials it has determined can deliver results. But it has given little indication on what criteria it will use in establishing such relationships or how they will be managed. While the 2001 Bonn process developed a constitution for Afghanistan that was highly centralized in the office of the presidency, there is a serious risk of exacerbating the country&rsquos fragmentation further if the United States perpetuates a strategy of empowering local strongmen seen as capable of delivering on our short-term security needs, which it has done for much of its engagement in the country to date.

Additional reports have indicated that NATO&rsquos International Security Assistance Force, in some degree of partnership with the Afghan ministry of interior, plans to institute a &ldquocommunity development initiative&rdquo that would pay local militia groups to resist the Taliban. But little information is available about how such groups would be constituted, overseen, funded, or integrated into existing security services.

Corruption, justice, and political reform: President Obama identified corruption and accountability as key issues, but he said little on the provision of justice and dispute resolution at the local or provincial level in Afghanistan, whose absence has largely fueled the Taliban insurgency. The end of &ldquoblank checks&rdquo for President Hamid Karzai is a necessary start toward addressing the corruption issue, but the conditions in which the United States might withdraw aid from the government and the follow-up steps we would take after such a step have yet to be clearly established.

Relations with Pakistan: The president was right to stress efforts to broadly engage with Pakistan to form a relationship &ldquothat is built on mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust&rdquo and to provide the resources to support its democracy and development. But he largely elided the question of what that support would look like or what the next steps will look like, with a substantial increase in aid legislation and visits by the secretary of state already behind us.

The president also failed to establish a clear distinction between the diverse array of militant groups operating in Pakistan, conflating the Afghan Taliban with the Pakistani Taliban. While the latter groups target Pakistan in their attacks, the Afghan Taliban and other militants like Lashkar-e-Taiba operate with Pakistan&rsquos tacit support. Underlying differences remain in Pakistani and American strategic conceptions of the threat posed by these violent militants. The administration must provide more detail on what diplomatic or aid initiatives it plans to use to shift this calculation in the Pakistani establishment in regards to both India and Afghanistan.

Costs of the war: The president acknowledged the costs of the war&mdashestimated to approach $30 billion in annual military operations&mdashabove and beyond the $60 billion already allocated to the mission for fiscal year 2010, following the dispatch of additional troops. But he has yet to provide specific details on how those costs would be paid for. The administration should be asked to find specific offsets within the defense department&rsquos baseline budget to fund the war.

The Center for American Progress has identified nine such offsets in &ldquoBuilding a Military for the 21st Century,&rdquo released last December. Scaling back or eliminating these programs can provide enough savings to pay for the additional 30,000 troops and to maintain our fiscal solvency and allow a focus on what the president referred to as &ldquonation building at home.&rdquo Such steps would bring discipline to our defense budgeting process so that American taxpayers&rsquo money is used only for the programs that are truly necessary for our nation&rsquos national defense.

Comparing CAP&rsquos recommendations to the Obama speech

Prior to the Obama speech, we argued that the administration&rsquos Afghanistan strategy should include the following five elements:

  • Establish a flexible timeframe for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
  • Ensure that the mission is shared with our international allies.
  • Press Pakistan to battle extremists within its borders.
  • Require good governance and internal reforms in Afghanistan.
  • Plan for how the war will be funded.

Below is a comparison of CAP&rsquos recommendations with the Obama speech:

Set a timeline

CAP: A flexible timeframe for U.S. military engagement is necessary the United States and NATO should aim to turn over security in certain areas to the Afghan Security Forces beginning in 2011 and have all Afghan forces in the lead within four years or the 12-year mark of our engagement. Throughout this time period the United States must continue to prioritize the training of Afghan National Army and Police.

Obama: President Obama outlined a similar timeframe for the transition of security to Afghan security forces&mdashthe United States will begin transferring security to Afghan National Security Forces in 2011. The pace of that transition is not fixed and will be based on assessments on the ground. Obama did not set a timeline for the departure for U.S. troops and left open the possibility of a U.S. reserve force to remain in country. President Obama will most likely deploy these troops in phases, allowing him to use further troop deployments as leverage to demand reform from the Afghan government. He will also place a high priority on training Afghan security forces.

Maintain international support

CAP: The United States cannot advance stability in Afghanistan alone instability in Afghanistan and the region affects the globe, and all countries must take responsibility for the mission. The U.S. administration must reassure allies through consultation and concrete steps that it has a viable strategy to address their concerns, especially corrupt Afghan leadership and the sustainability of Afghan security forces.

Obama: President Obama referred to the need for a broad international coalition on Afghanistan in his speech. He discussed his administration&rsquos outreach efforts to NATO and non-NATO countries to increase coordination and to prevent interference. Despite increasing opposition in NATO countries to any further resource and manpower commitments, the administration is reportedly seeking 10,000 additional troops from allied countries. Britain, Slovakia, and Turkey have been the principal nations to step forward thus far, but additional commitments are being sought from Germany and France, among others. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also agreed to host an international summit in London early next year to establish clear benchmarks for reforms on the part of the Afghan government.

Push Pakistan

CAP: Pakistan has served as a partner in the hunt for Al Qaeda and has recently undertaken some effective military actions against the Pakistani Taliban. However, it has not yet taken sufficient steps to counter those militant actors within their territory that threaten regional security but do not directly target the Pakistani state, such as the Afghan Taliban. The United States should work with international allies to develop a coordinated effort to shape Pakistan&rsquos calculations and actions to reduce the official support it extends to militant groups, while playing a behind-the-scenes role in decreasing tensions between India and Pakistan.

Obama: While President Obama did not discuss Pakistan as extensively as in the March review, he stated that a major component of the new strategy will be to create an expanded partnership with Pakistan. His administration will seek to institutionalize nonmilitary cooperation in a variety of forms while also pressing for greater action on Pakistan&rsquos part against militant groups that threaten regional stability. The Obama administration will also attempt to assist Pakistan in overcoming political, economic, and security challenges.

Prioritize Afghan governance

CAP: The United States cannot defend an Afghan government that has little support from the Afghan people and continues to pursue policies of cronyism and self-enrichment. The international community needs to pressure its Afghan partners to follow through on recent commitments to tackle corruption and reform its own practices to provide the Afghan government with the political support necessary to confront well-entrenched figures. Ultimately the justice vacuum will only be solved when the Afghan government and its international supporters show the political will to demand and enforce its provision.

Obama: The Obama administration emphasized the importance of tackling corruption in the Afghan government. It will support efforts the Karzai government is taking to tackle this problem, and it will also begin to direct its funding outside of the Karzai government to local district and provincial authorities. But the administration did not provide indications as to how those individuals would be selected or partnered with. Obama promised to end &ldquothe era of providing a blank check&rdquo to the government but did not offer specific measures to address the justice system&rsquos failings or on what conditions aid might be restricted.

Paying for the war

CAP: The United States currently spends more than $3.6 billion a month in Afghanistan, and the troop increases Obama announced will raise monthly costs to at least $6 billion. The United States cannot push the cost of the war to future generations, and it should not use the deficit to finance the conflict. The Obama administration should keep the topline defense budget constant and seek cuts within the Department of Defense to offset the cost of operations in Afghanistan, rather than adding to the American public&rsquos tax or debt burden.

Obama: President Obama noted the costs of the war in his remarks, but offered few details on how he plans on paying for the increase in operations. In conversations with reporters prior to the speech, the president cautioned against a system where the decisions of a commander in chief would be subject to incremental congressional referendums through the appropriations process, and instead pledged to bring the costs of the war into the future defense budget debate.


Biden announces withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 9/11

Washington &mdash President Biden announced Wednesday plans to pull all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, a move that will bring an end to America's longest war by the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon.

The president spoke about the way forward in Afghanistan, including his timeline for the drawdown of U.S. troops, from the Treaty Room at the White House, the same place where former President George W. Bush announced airstrikes in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. The U.S. will begin its final withdrawal from Afghanistan on May 1.

"With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country at a cost of billions each year makes little sense to me, and to our leaders," Mr. Biden said solemnly. "We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create ideal conditions for a withdrawal, and expecting a different result. I am now the fourth United States president to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan &mdash two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth."

The president said the U.S. is forever indebted to the members of the military who fought and died in Afghanistan and offered them the "thanks" of a "grateful nation." But, now, he added, it's time to move on from that chapter in our history.

"It's time to end the forever war," the president said. He asserted that "war in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking" and pointed out that he was the first president in 40 years who knows what it means to have a son serve in a war zone.

Troop presence in Afghanistan should, he said, be focused on the reason the U.S. went to war there in the first place: to ensure that Afghanistan could not be used as a base against us. "We did that," Mr. Biden said, noting that 9/11 attack mastermind Osama bin Laden "is dead" and al Qaeda "is degraded."

Afghanistan: The Way Forward

"We delivered justice to bin Laden a decade ago, and we've stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since," Mr. Biden said. "Since then, our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan have become increasingly unclear, even as the terrorist threat that we went to fight evolved."

"We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result," Mr. Biden argued.

While the U.S. will not be involved in Afghanistan militarily, diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue, and it will keep providing support to the Afghan government and assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Mr. Biden also said the U.S. would also ask other countries in the region, like China, Pakistan and Russia, to do more to support Afghanistan.

"We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021," Mr. Biden said. "Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that will determine our standing and reach today and into the years to come."

The president noted it's time to pivot to other fronts, like competition with China, instead of focusing on the past.

With his new target date for completing the drawdown in Afghanistan, Mr. Biden will miss a May 1 deadline for full withdrawal set by the Trump administration under an agreement with the Taliban last year. But a senior administration official said Tuesday the U.S. will begin pulling American troops before May 1, with the plan to have all service members out of the country before September 11. The president acknowledged last month it would be "hard" to meet the May 1 deadline set by his predecessor.

The official said the September 11 deadline for having troops out of Afghanistan is "not conditions-based," something the president reiterated in his address.

Following his speech, Mr. Biden visited Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery, where service members who died in America's most recent wars are buried.

"I'm always amazed at generation after generation of women and men who have prepared to give their lives for their country. They don't give it for country per se, they give it for their brothers, their sisters, their mothers, their fathers, their uncles, their aunts," Mr. Biden told reporters. "Look at them all."

Ahead of his remarks, Mr. Biden spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about the withdrawal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. In a series of tweets about the call, Ghani said "the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan respects the U.S. decision and we will work with our U.S. partners to ensure a smooth transition." The White House later said the two "discussed their continued commitment to a strong bilateral partnership following the departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and affirmed shared respect and gratitude for the sacrifices made by American forces, alongside NATO allies and operational partners, as well as by the Afghan people and Afghan service members over the past two decades."

Psaki also revealed Mr. Biden spoke with former President Barack Obama about the drawdown, and Mr. Biden said during his speech that he had also spoken with Mr. Bush about his decision.

Mr. Biden's move to bring U.S. forces home from Afghanistan has met with mixed reactions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Top Republicans criticized the president's decision, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling it a "grave mistake" and Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying the move is "outrageous."

Some Democrats, too, have expressed concern about the forthcoming announcement. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would not support any U.S. aid to Afghanistan "if there is backsliding on civil society [and] the rights that women have achieved," and is "concerned that after so much blood and national treasure that we don't lose what we were seeking to achieve."

But progressives cheered Mr. Biden's move. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said it was the "brave and right decision," while Congressman Ro Khanna said he applauds Mr. Biden "for achieving an impossibility here in Washington: ending forever war."


Remarks by President Biden in Address to a Joint Session of Congress

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Good to be back. And Mitch and Chuck will understand it’s good to be almost home, down the hall. Anyway, thank you all.

Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President — (applause) — no President has ever said those words from this podium. No President has ever said those words, and it’s about time. (Applause.)

First Lady — (applause) — I’m her husband Second Gentleman Chief Justice members of the United States Congress and the Cabinet distinguished guests my fellow Americans: While the setting tonight is familiar, this gathering is just a little bit different — a reminder of the extraordinary times we’re in.

Throughout our history, Presidents have come to this chamber to speak to Congress, to the nation, and to the world to declare war, to celebrate peace, to announce new plans and possibilities.

Tonight, I come to talk about crisis and opportunity, about rebuilding the nation, revitalizing our democracy, and winning the future for America.

I stand here tonight, one day shy of the 100th day
of my administration — 100 days since I took the oath of office and lifted my hand off our family Bible and inherited a nation — we all did — that was in crisis.

The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.

Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again — (applause) — turning peril into possibility, crisis to opportunity, setbacks into strength.

We all know life can knock us down. But in America, we never, ever, ever stay down. Americans always get up. Today, that’s what we’re doing: America is rising anew, choosing hope over fear, truth over lies, and light over darkness.

After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff, in my view. We’re working again, dreaming again, discovering again, and leading the world again.

We have shown each other and the world that there’s no quit in America — none.

One hundred days ago, America’s house was on fire. We had to act. And thanks to the extraordinary leadership of Speaker Pelosi Malor- — Majority Leader Schumer and the overwhelming support of the American people — Democrats, independents, and Republicans — we did act.

Together we passed the American Rescue Plan — one of the most consequential rescue packages in American history. We’re already seeing the results. (Applause.) We’re already seeing the results.

After I promised we’d get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into people’s arms in 100 days, we will have provided over 220 million COVID shots in those 100 days. (Applause.)

Thanks to all the help of all of you, we’re marshalling — with your help, everyone’s help — we’re marshalling every federal resource. We’ve gotten vaccines to nearly 40,000
pharmacies and over 700 Community Health Centers where the poorest of the poor can be reached. We’re setting up community vaccination sites, developing mobile units to get to hard-to-reach communities.

Today, 90 percent of Americans now live within five miles of a vaccination site. Everyone over the age of 16 — everyone
is now eligible to get vaccinated right now, right away. (Applause.) Go get vaccinated, America. Go and get the vaccination. They’re available. You’re eligible now.

When I was sworn in on January 20th, less than 1 percent of the seniors in America were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. One hundred days later, 70 percent of seniors in America over 65 are protected — fully protected.

Senior deaths from COVID-19 are down 80 percent since January — down 80 percent because of all of you. And more than half of all the adults in America have gotten at least one shot.

At a mass vaccination center in Glendale, Arizona, I asked a nurse — I said, “What’s it like?” She looked at me and she said, “It’s like every shot is giving a dose of hope” — was the phrase. “A dose of hope.”

A dose of hope for an educator in Florida who has a child suffering from an autoimmune disease — wrote to me, said she’s worried — that she was worrying about bringing the virus home. She said she then got vaccinated at a — at a large site, in her car. She said she sat in her car, when she got vaccinated, and just cried — cried out of joy and cried out of relief.

Parents see the smiles on their kids’ faces, for those who are able to go back to school because the teachers and school bus drivers and cafeteria workers have been vaccinated.

Grandparents hugging their children and grandchildren instead of pressing hands against a window to say goodbye.

It means everything. Those things mean everything.

You know, there’s still — you all know it you know it better than any group of Americans — there’s still more work to do to beat this virus. We can’t let our guard down.

But tonight I can say it: Because of you, the American people, our progress these past 100 days against one of the worst pandemics in history has been one of the greatest logistical achievements — logistical achievements this country has ever seen.

What else have we done in those first 100 days?

We kept our commitment — Democrats and Republicans — of sending $1,400 rescue checks to 85 percent of American households. We’ve already sent more than one — 160 million checks out the door. It’s making the difference. You all know it when you go home. For many people, it’s making all the difference in the world.

A single mom in Texas who wrote to me, she said she couldn’t work, but she said the relief check put food on the table and saved her and her son from eviction from their apartment.

A grandmother in Virginia who told me she immediately took her granddaughter to the eye doctor — something she said she put off for months because she didn’t have the money.

One of the defining images, at least from my perspective, of this crisis has been cars lined up — cars lined up for miles. And not — not people who just barely ever start those cars — nice cars lined up for miles, waiting for a box of food to be put in their trunk.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t ever think I’d see that in America. And all of this is through no fault of their own. No fault of their own these people are in this position.

That’s why the Rescue Plan is delivering food and nutrition assistance to millions of Americans facing hunger, and hunger is down sharply already.

We’re also providing rental assistance — you all know this, but the American people, I want to make sure they understand — keeping people from being evicted from their homes, providing loans to small businesses to reopen and keep their employees on the job.

During these 100 days, an additional 800,000 Americans enrolled in the Affordable Care Act when I established the special sign-up period to do that — 800,000 in that period.

We’re making one of the largest one-time ever investments — ever — in improving healthcare for veterans. Critical investments to address the opioid crisis. And, maybe most importantly, thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we’re on track to cut child poverty in America in half this year. (Applause.)

And in the process, while this was all going on, the economy created more than 1,300,000 new jobs in 100 days — more jobs in the first — (applause) — more jobs in the first 100 days than any President on record.

The International Monetary Fund — (applause) — the International Monetary Fund is now estimating our economy will grow at a rate of more than 6 percent this year. That will be the fastest pace of economic growth in this country in nearly four decades.

America is moving — moving forward — but we can’t stop now. We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century. We’re at a great inflection point in history.

We have to do more than just build back better — I mean “build back.” We have to build back better. We have to compete more strenuously than we have.

Throughout our history, if you think about it, public investment and infrastructure has literally transformed America — our attitudes, as well as our opportunities.

The transcontinental railroad, the interstate highways united two oceans and brought a totally new age of progress to the United States of America.

Universal public schools and college aid opened wide the doors of opportunity.

Scientific breakthroughs took us to the Moon — now we’re on Mars discovering vaccines gave us the Internet and so much more.

These are the investments we made together as one country, and investments that only the government was in a position to make. Time and again, they propel us into the future.

That’s why I proposed the American Jobs Plan — a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself. This is the largest jobs plan since World War Two.

It creates jobs to upgrade our transportation infrastructure jobs modernizing our roads, bridges, highways jobs building ports and airports, rail corridors, transit lines.

It’s clean water. And, today, up to 10 million homes in America and more than 400,000 schools and childcare centers have pipes with lead in them, including in drinking water — a clear and present danger to our children’s health.

The American Jobs Plan creates jobs replacing 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines so every American can drink clean water. (Applause.)

And in the process, it will create thousands and thousands of good-paying jobs. It creates jobs connecting every American with high-speed Internet, including 35 percent of the rural America that still doesn’t have it.

This is going to help our kids and our businesses succeed in the 21st-century economy.

And I am asking the Vice President to lead this effort, if she would —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Of course.

THE PRESIDENT: — because I know it will get done. (Applause.)

It creates jobs, building a modern power grid. Our grids are vulnerable to storms, hacks, catastrophic failures — with tragic results, as we saw in Texas and elsewhere during the winter storms.

The American Jobs Plan will create jobs that will lay thousands of miles of transmission lines needed to build a resilient and fully clean grid. We can do that. (Applause.)

Look, the American Jobs Plan will help millions of people get back to their jobs and back to their careers.

Two million women have dropped out of the workforce during this pandemic — two million. And too often because they couldn’t get the care they needed to care for their child or care for an elderly parent who needs help.

Eight hundred thousand families are on a Medicare waiting list right now to get homecare for their aging parent or loved one with a disability. If you think it’s not important, check out in your own district.

Democrat or Republican — Democrat or Republican voters, their great concern — almost as much as their children — is taking care of an elderly loved one who can’t be left alone. Medicaid contemplated it, but this plan is going to help those families and create jobs for our caregivers with better wages and better benefits, continuing a cycle of growth.

For too long, we’ve failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: “jobs.” Jobs. Jobs. (Applause.)

For me, when I think “climate change,” I think “jobs.”

The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy-efficient buildings and homes. Electrical workers — IBEW members — installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways so we can own — (applause) — so we can own the electric car market. (Applause.)

Farmers — farmers planting cover crops so they can reduce the carbon dioxide in the air and get paid for doing it. (Applause.)

Look, but think about it: There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing. No reason. None. No reason. (Applause.)

So, folks, there’s no reason why American — American workers can’t lead the world in the production of electric vehicles and batteries. I mean, there is no reason. We have this capacity. (Applause.) We have the brightest, best-trained people in the world.

The American Jobs Plan is going to create millions of good-paying jobs — jobs Americans can raise a family on — as my dad would then say, “with a little breathing room.”

And all the investments in the American Jobs Plan will be guided by one principle: Buy American. (Applause.) Buy American.

And I might note, parenthetically — (applause) — that does not — that does not violate any trade agreement. It’s been the law since the 󈧢s: Buy American.

American tax dollars are going to be used to buy American products made in America to create American jobs. That’s the way it’s supposed to be and it will be in this administration. (Applause.)

And I made it clear to all my Cabinet people. Their ability to give exemptions has been exstrenuously [sic] limited. It will be American products.

Now I know some of you at home are wondering whether these jobs are for you. So many of you — so many of the folks I grew up with feel left behind, forgotten in an economy that’s so rapidly changing. It’s frightening.

I want to speak directly to you. Because if you think about it, that’s what people are most worried about: “Can I fit in?”

Independent experts estimate the American Jobs Plan will add millions of jobs and trillions of dollars to economic growth in the years to come. It is a — it is an eight-year program. These are good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.

Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree 75 percent don’t require an associate’s degree.

The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America. That’s what it is. (Applause.)

And it recognizes something I’ve always said in this chamber and the other. Good guys and women on Wall Street, but Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built the country, and unions built the middle class. (Applause.)

So that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act — the PRO Act — and send it to my desk so we can support the right to unionize. (Applause.)

And, by the way, while you’re thinking about sending things to my desk — (laughs) — let’s raise the minimum wage to $15. (Applause.)

No one — no one working 40 hours a week — no one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line.

We need to ensure greater equity and opportunity for women. And while we’re doing this, let’s get the Paycheck Fairness Act to my desk as well — equal pay. It’s been much too long. And if you’re wondering whether it’s too long, look behind me. (Applause.)

And finally, the American Jobs Plan will be the biggest increase in nondefense research and development on record. We will see more technological change — and some of you know more about this than I do — we’ll see more technological change in the next 10 years than we saw in the last 50. That’s how rapidly artificial intelligence and so much more is changing.

And we’re falling behind the competition with the rest of the world.

Decades ago, we used to invest 2 percent of our gross domestic product in America — 2 percent of our gross domestic product — in research and development.

Today, Mr. Secretary, that’s less than 1 percent. China and other countries are closing in fast. We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future:
advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, clean energy.

The Secretary of Defense can tell you — and those of you on — who work on national security issues know — the Defense Department has an agency called DARPA — the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. The people who set up before I came here — and that’s been a long time ago — to develop breakthroughs that enhance our national security -– that’s their only job. And it’s a semi-separate agency it’s under the Defense Department. It’s led to everything from the discovery of the Internet to GPS and so much more that has enhanced our security.

The National Institute of Health — the NIH –- I believe, should create a similar Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health. (Applause.)

And that would — here’s what it would do. It would have a singular purpose: to develop breakthroughs to prevent, detect, and treat diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer.

I’ll still never forget when we passed the cancer proposal the last year I was Vice President — almost $9 million going to NIH. And if you excuse the point of personal privilege, I’ll never forget you standing and mentioning — saying you’d name it after my deceased son. It meant a lot.

But so many of us have deceased sons, daughters, and relatives who died of cancer. I can think of no more worthy investment. I know of nothing that is more bipartisan. So, let’s end cancer as we know it. (Applause.) It’s within our power. (Applause.) It’s within our power to do it. (Applause.)

Investments in jobs and infrastructure, like the ones we’re talking about, have often had bipartisan support in the past. Vice President Harris and I met regularly in the Oval Office with Democrats and Republicans to discuss the Jobs Plan. And I applaud a group of Republican senators who just put forward their own proposal.

So, let’s get to work. I wanted to lay out, before the Congress, my plan before we got into the deep discussions. I’d like to meet with those who have ideas that are different — they think are better. I welcome those ideas.

But the rest of the world is not waiting for us. I just want to be clear: From my perspective, doing nothing is not an option. (Applause.)

Look, we can’t be so busy competing with one another that we forget the competition that we have with the rest of the world to win the 21st century.

Secretary Blinken can tell you, I spent a lot of time with President Xi — traveled over 17,000 miles with him spent, they tell me, over 24 hours in private discussions with him. When he called to congratulate me, we had a two-hour discussion. He’s deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others — autocrats — think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies because it takes too long to get consensus.

To win that competition for the future, in my view, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children. That’s why I’ve introduced the American Families Plan tonight, which addresses four of the biggest challenges facing American families and, in turn, America.

First is access to a good education. When this nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated, best-prepared nation in the world. It’s, I believe, the overwhelming reason that propelled us to where we got in the 21st — in the 20th century.

But the world has caught up, or catching up. They are not waiting. I would say, parenthetically: If we were sitting down, put a bipartisan committee together and said, “Okay, we’re going to decide what we do in terms of government providing for free education,” I wonder whether we’d think, as we did in the 20th century, that 12 years is enough in the 21st century. I doubt it. Twelve years is no longer enough today to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st Century.

That’s why my American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America, starting as early as we can.

The great universities of this country have conducted studies over the last 10 years. It shows that adding two years of universal high-quality preschool for every three-year-old and four-year-old, no matter what background they come from, it puts them in the position to be able to compete all the way through 12 years. It increases exponentially their prospect of graduating and going on beyond graduation.

The research shows when a young child goes to school — not daycare — they are far more likely to graduate from high school and go to college or something after high school.

When you add two years of free community college on top of that, you begin to change the dynamic. (Applause.) We can do that. (Applause.)

And we’ll increase Pell Grants and invest in Historical Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, Minority-Serving Institutions. The reason is: They don’t have the endowments, but their students are just as capable of learning about cybersecurity, just as capable of learning about metallurgy — all the things that are going on that provide those jobs of the future.

Jill was a community college professor who teaches today as First Lady. She has long said — (applause). She has long — (applause). If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Joe, any country that out-educates us is going to outcompete us.” She’ll be deeply involved in leading this effort. Thank you, Jill.

Second thing we need: American Families Plan will provide access to quality, affordable childcare. We guarantee — (applause). And I’m proposing a legislation to guarantee that low- and middle-income families will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for high-quality care for children up to the age of 5. The most hard-pressed working families won’t have to spend a dime.

Third, the American Families Plan will finally provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave and medical leave — family and medical leave. We’re one of the few industrial countries in the world — (applause).

No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and their loved ones –- a parent, a spouse, or child.

And fourth, the American Family Plan puts directly into the pockets of millions of Americans. In March, we expanded a tax credit for every child in a family. Up to a $3,000 per child if they’re under [over]* six years of age — I mean, excuse me — under — over six years of age, and $3,600 for children over [under]* six years of age.

With two parents, two kids, that’s $7,200 in the pockets that’s going to help to take care of your family. And that will help more than 65 million children and help cut childcare [child] poverty in half. (Applause.) And we can afford it.

So we did that in the rec- — in the — in the last piece of legislation we passed. But let’s extend that Child Care Tax Credit at least through the end of 2025. (Applause.)

The American Rescue Plan lowered healthcare premiums for 9 million Americans who buy their coverage under the Affordable Care Act. I know that’s really popular on this side of the aisle. (Laughter.) But let’s make that provision permanent so their premiums don’t go back up. (Applause.)

In addition to my Families Plan, I’m going to work with Congress to address, this year, other critical priorities for American families.

The Affordable Care Act has been a lifeline for millions of Americans, protecting people with preexisting conditions, protecting women’s health. And the pandemic has demonstrated how badly — how badly it’s needed. Let’s lower deductibles for working families on the Affordable Care — in the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.) And let’s lower prescription drug costs. (Applause.)

We know how to do this. The last President had that as an objective. We all know how outrageously expensive drugs are in America.

In fact, we pay the highest prescription drug prices of anywhere in the world right here in America — nearly three times — for the same drug, nearly three times what other countries pay. We have to change that, and we can.

Let’s do what we’ve always talked about for all the years I was down here in this — in this body — in Congress. Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices. (Applause.)

And, by the way, that won’t just — that won’t just help people on Medicare it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone.

And the money we save, which is billions of dollars, can go to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicare coverage benefits without costing taxpayers an additional penny. It’s within our power to do it let’s do it now. (Applause.)

We’ve talked about it long enough. Democrats and Republicans, let’s get it done this year. This is all about a simple premise: Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege in America. (Applause.)

So, how do we pay for my Jobs and Family Plan? I made it clear, we can do it without increasing the deficits. Let’s start with what I will not do: I will not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000. It’s — but it’s time for corporate America and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans to just begin to pay their fair share. (Applause.) Just their fair share.

Sometimes I have arguments with my friends in the Democratic Party. I think you should be able to become a billionaire and a millionaire, but pay your fair share.

A recent study shows that 55 of the nation’s biggest corporations paid zero federal tax last year. Those 55 corporations made in excess of $40 billion in profit. A lot of companies also evade taxes through tax havens in Switzerland and Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. And they benefit from tax loopholes and deductions for offshoring jobs and shifting profits overseas. It’s not right.

We’re going to reform corporate taxes so they pay their fair share and help pay for the public investments their businesses will benefit from as well. (Applause.)

We’re going to reward work, not just wealth. We take the top tax bracket for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans — those making over $400,000 or more — back up to where it was when George W. Bush was President when he started: 39.6 percent. That’s where it was when George W. was President.

We’re going to get rid of the loopholes that allow Americans who make more than a million dollars a year and pay a lower tax rate on their capital gains than Americans who receive a paycheck. We’re only going to affect three tenths of 1 percent of all Americans by that action. Three tenths of 1 percent.

And the IRS is going to crack down on millionaires and billionaires who cheat on their taxes. It’s estimated to be billions of dollars by think tanks that are left, right, and center.

I’m not looking to punish anybody. But I will not add a tax burden — an additional tax burden to the middle class in this country. They’re already paying enough. I believe what I propose is fair — (applause) — fiscally responsible, and it raises revenue to pay for the plans I have proposed, and will create millions of jobs that will grow the economy and enhance our financial standing in the country.

When you hear someone say that they don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent or corporate America, ask them: “Whose taxes you want to raise instead? Whose are you going to cut?”

Look, the big tax cut of 2017 — remember, it was supposed to pay for itself — that was how it was sold — and generate vast economic growth. Instead, it added $2 trillion to the deficit. It was a huge windfall for corporate America and those at the very top.

Instead of using the tax saving to raise wages and invest in research and development, it poured billions of dollars into the pockets of CEOs. In fact, the pay gap between CEOs and their workers is now among the largest in history.

According to one study, CEOs make 320 times what the average worker in their corporation makes. It used to be in the — below a hundred.

The pandemic has only made things worse. Twenty million Americans lost their job in the pandemic — working- and middle-class Americans. At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion — in the same exact period. Let me say it again: 650 people increased their wealth by more than $1 trillion during this pandemic. And they’re now worth more than $4 trillion.

My fellow Americans, trickle-down — trickle-down economics has never worked and it’s time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out. (Applause.)

You know, there’s a broad consensus of economists — left, right, center — and they agree what I’m proposing will help create millions of jobs and generate historic economic growth. These are among the highest-value investments we can make as a nation.

I’ve often said: Our greatest strength is the power of our example, not just the example of our power.

In my conversations with world leaders — and I’ve spoken to over 38, 40 of them now — I’ve made it known — I’ve made it known that America is back. And you know what they say? The comment that I hear most of all from them is they say, “We see America is back but for how long? But for how long?”

My fellow Americans, we have to show not just that we’re back, but that we’re back to stay and that we aren’t going to go it alone. (Applause.) We’re going to do it by leading with our allies. (Applause.)

No one nation can deal with all the crises of our time — from terrorism, to nuclear proliferation, mass migration, cybersecurity, climate change, as well as experi- — what we’re experiencing now with pandemics.

There’s no wall high enough to keep any virus out. And our own vaccine supply — as it grows to meet our needs and we’re meeting them — will become an arsenal of vaccines for other countries, just as America was the arsenal of democracy for the world — (applause) — and in consequence, influenced the world. (Applause.)

But every American will have access before that occur- — every American will have access to be fully covered by COVID-19 — from the vaccines we have.

Look, the climate crisis is not our fight alone it’s a global fight. The United States accounts, as all of you know, less than 15 percent of carbon emissions. The rest of the world accounts for 85 percent. That’s why I kept my commitment to rejoin the Paris Accord — because if we do everything perfectly, it’s not going to ultimately matter.

I kept my commitment to convene a climate summit right here in America with all of the major economies of the world — China, Russia, India, the European Union — and I said I’d do it in my first 100 days.

I want to be very blunt about it: I had — my attempt was to make sure that the world could see there was a consensus, that we are at an inflection point in history. And consensus — the consensus is: If we act to save the planet, we can create millions of jobs and economic growth and opportunity to raise the standard of living to almost everyone around the world.

If you’ve watched any of it — and you were all busy I’m sure you didn’t have much time — that’s what virtually every nation said, even the ones that aren’t doing their fair share.

The investments I’ve proposed tonight also advance the foreign policy, in my view, that benefits the middle class. That means making sure every nation plays by the same rules in the global economy, including China.

In my discussions — in my discussions with President Xi, I told him, “We welcome the competition. We’re not looking for conflict.” But I made absolutely clear that we will defend America’s interests across the board. America will stand up to unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and American industries, like subsidies from state — to state-owned operations and enterprises and the theft of American technology and intellectual property.

I also told President Xi that we’ll maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, just as we do with NATO in Europe — not to start a conflict, but to prevent one. (Applause.)

I told him what I’ve said to many world leaders: that America will not back away from our commitments — our commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms and to our alliances.

And I pointed out to him: No responsible American President could remain silent when basic human rights are being so blatantly violated. An American President — President has to represent the essence of what our country stands for. America is an idea — the most unique idea in history: We are created, all of us, equal. It’s who we are, and we cannot walk away from that principle and, in fact, say we’re dealing with the American idea.

With regard to Russia, I know it concerns some of you, but I made very clear to Putin that we’re not going to seek esca- — ecala- — exc- — excuse me — escalation, but their actions will have consequence if they turn out to be true. And they turned out to be true, so I responded directly and proportionally to Russia’s interference in our elections and the cyberattacks on our government and our business. They did both of these things, and I told them we would respond, and we have.

But we can also cooperate when it’s in our mutual interest. We did it when we extended the New START Treaty on nuclear arms, and we’re working to do it on climate change. But he understands we will respond.

On Iran and North Korea — nuclear programs that present serious threats to American security and the security of the world — we’re going to be working closely with our allies to address the threats posed by both of these countries through di- — through diplomacy, as well as stern deterrence.

And American leadership means ending the forever war in Afghanistan. (Applause.) We have — (applause) — we have, without hyperbole, the greatest fighting force in the history of the world. I’m the first President in 40 years who knows what it means to have a son serving in a warzone.

Today we have servicemembers serving in the same warzone as their parents did. We have servicemembers in Afghanistan who were not yet born on 9/11.

The War in Afghanistan, as we remember the debates here, were never meant to be multi-generational undertakings of nation-building. We went to Afghanistan to get terrorists — the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 — and we said we would follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell to do it. If you’ve been to the upper Kunar Valley, you’ve kind of seen the gates of hell. And we delivered justice to bin Laden. We degraded the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And after 20 years of value — valor and sacrifice, it’s time to bring those troops home. (Applause.)

Look, even as we do, we will maintain an over-the-horizon capacity to suppress future threats to the homeland. And make no mistake: In 20 years, terrorists has — terrorism has metastasized. The threat has evolved way beyond Afghanistan. And those of you in the intelligence committees, the foreign relations committee, the defense committees, you know well: We have to remain vigilant against the threats to the United States wherever they come from. Al Qaeda and ISIS are in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, other places in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.

And we won’t ignore what our intelligence agencies have determined to be the most lethal terrorist threat to the homeland today: White supremacy is terrorism. We’re not going to ignore that either.

My fellow Americans, look, we have to come together to heal the soul of this nation. It was nearly a year ago, before her father’s funeral, when I spoke with Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s young daughter. She’s a little tyke, so I was kneeling down to talk to her so I could look her in the eye. And she looked at me and she said, “My daddy changed the world.” Well, after the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer, we can see how right she was if — if we have the courage to act as a Congress.

We’ve all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black Americans. Now is our opportunity to make some real progress. The vast majority of men and women wearing the uniform and a badge serve our communities, and they serve them honorably. I know them. I know they want — (applause) — I know they want to help meet this moment as well.

My fellow Americans, we have to come together to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve, to root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system, and to enact police reform in George Floyd’s name that passed the House already.

I know Republicans have their own ideas and are engaged in the very productive discussions with Democrats in the Senate. We need to work together to find a consensus. But let’s get it done next month, by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death. (Applause.)

The country supports this reform, and Congress should act — should act. We have a giant opportunity to bend to the arc of the moral universe towards justice — real justice. And with the plans outlined tonight, we have a real chance to root out systemic racism that plagues America and American lives in other ways a chance to deliver real equity — good jobs, good schools, affordable housing, clean air, clean water, being able to generate wealth and pass it down two generations because you have an access to purchase a house. Real opportunities in the lives of more Americans — Black, white, Latino, Asian Americans, Native Americans.

Look, I also want to thank the United States Senate for voting 94 to 1 to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to protect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. (Applause.) You acted decisively. (Applause.) And you can see on television the viciousness of the hate crimes we’ve seen over the past year — this past year and for too long. I urge the House to do the same and send that legislation to my desk, which I will gladly, anxiously sign.

I also hope Congress can get to my desk the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ Americans. (Applause.) To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people who are so brave, I want you to know your President has your back.

Another thing: Let’s authorize the Violence Against Women Act, which has been law for 27 years. (Applause.) Twenty-seven years ago, I wrote it. It’ll close the — the act that has to be authorized now will close the “boyfriend” loophole to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. The court order said, “This is an abuser. You can’t own a gun.” It’s to close that loophole that existed.

You know, it’s estimated that 50 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month in America — 50 a month. Let’s pass it and save some lives. (Applause.)

And I need not — I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence is becoming an epidemic in America.

The flag at the White House was still flying at half-mast for the 8 victims in the mass shooting in Georgia when 10 more lives were taken in a mass shooting in Colorado.

And in the week in between those two events, 250 other Americans were shot dead in the streets of America — 250 shot dead.

I know how hard it is to make progress on this issue. In the 󈨞s, we passed universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that hold 100 rounds that can be fired off in seconds. We beat the NRA. Mass shootings and gun violence declined. Check out the report in over 10 years. But in the early twe- — 2000s, the law expired, and we’ve seen daily bloodshed since. I’m not saying if the law continued, we wouldn’t see bloodshed.

More than two weeks ago in the Rose Garden, surrounded by some of the bravest people I know — the survivors and families who lost loved ones to gun violence — I laid out several of the Department of Justice a- — actions that are being taken to — impact on this epidemic.

One of them is banning so-called “ghost guns.” These are homemade guns built from a kit that includes directions on how to finish the firearm. The parts have no serial numbers, so they show up at crime scenes and they can’t be traced. The buyers of these ghost gun kits aren’t required to pass any background check. Anyone, from a criminal or terrorist, could buy this kit and within 30 minutes have a weapon that’s lethal. But no more.

And I will do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence, but it’s time for Congress to act as well. (Applause.)

Look, I don’t want to become confrontational but we need more Senate Republicans to join the overwhelming majority of Democrat colleagues and close the loopholes requiring a background check on purchases of guns. We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And don’t tell me it can’t be done. We did it before, and it worked.

Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters. They’ll tell you there’s no possible justification for having 100 rounds in a weapon. What do you think — deer are wearing Kevlar vests? (Laughter.) They’ll tell you that there are too many people today who are able to buy a gun but shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.

These kinds of reasonable reforms have overwhelming support from the American people, including many gun owners. The country supports reform and is — and Congress should act.

This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue. And no amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. From the very beginning, there were certain guns, weapons, that could not be owned by Americans. Certain people could not own those weapons ever.

We’re not changing the Constitution we’re being reasonable. I think this is not a Democrat or Republican issue I think it’s an American issue.

And here’s what else we can do: Immigration has always been essential to America. Let’s end our exhausting war over immigration. For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform, and we’ve done nothing about it. It’s time to fix it.

On day one of my presidency, I kept my commitment and sent a comprehensive immigration bill to the United States Congress. If you believe we need to secure the border, pass it, because it has a lot of money for high-tech border security. If you believe in a pathway to citizenship, pass it so over 11 million undocumented folks — the vast majority are here overstaying visas. Pass it. We can actually — if you actually want to solve a problem, I’ve sent a bill to take a close look at it.

We have to — also have to get at the root problem of why people are fleeing, particularly to — to our southern border from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador: the violence, the corruption, the gangs, and the political instability, hunger, hurricanes, earthquakes, natural disasters.

When I was President, my President — when I was Vice President, the President asked me to focus on providing the help needed to address the root causes of migration. And it helped keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave. The plan was working, but the last administration decided it was not worth it.

I’m restoring the program and asked Vice President Harris to lead our diplomatic effort to take care of this. I have absolute confidence she’ll get the job done. (Applause.)

Now, look, if you don’t like my plan, let’s at least pass what we all agree on. Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure protection for DREAMers — the young people who have only known America as their home. (Applause.)

And permanent protection for immigrants who are here on temporary protected status who came from countries beset by manmade and natural-made violence and disaster. (Applause.)

As well as a pathway to citizenship for farmworkers who put food on our tables. (Applause.)

Look, immigrants have done so much for America during this pandemic and throughout our history. The country supports immigration reform. We should act. Let’s argue over it, let’s debate it, but let’s act. (Applause.)

And if we truly want to restore the soul of America, we need to protect the sacred right to vote. Most people — (applause).

More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history, in the middle of the worst pandemic ever. It should be celebrated. Instead, it’s being attacked.

Congress should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send it to my desk right away. (Applause.) The country supports it. The Congress should act now. (Applause.)

Look, in closing, as we gather here tonight, the images of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol, desecrating our democracy, remain vivid in all our minds.

Lives were put at risk — many of your lives. Lives were lost. Extraordinary courage was summoned. The insurrection was an existential crisis –- a test of whether our democracy could survive. And it did.

But the struggle is far from over. The question of whether our democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent, as old as our Republic — still vital today.

Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us, created equal in the image of God, have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility?

Can our democracy deliver the most — to the most pressing needs of our people?

Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate, and fears that have pulled us apart?

America’s adversaries –- the autocrats of the world –- are betting we can’t. And I promise you, they’re betting we can’t. They believe we’re too full of anger and division and rage.

They look at the images of the mob that assaulted the Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy. But they are wrong. You know it I know it. But we have to prove them wrong.

We have to prove democracy still works — that our government still works and we can deliver for our people.

In our first 100 days together, we have acted to restore the people’s faith in democracy to deliver. We’re vaccinating the nation. We’re creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. We’re delivering real results to people they can see it and feel it in their own lives.

Opening doors of opportunity, guaranteeing some more fairness and justice — that’s the essence of America. That’s democracy in action.

Our Constitution opens with the words — as trite as it sounds — “We the People”. Well, it’s time to remember that “We the People” are the government — you and I. Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force that we have no control over. It’s us. It’s “We the People.”

In another era when our democracy was tested, Franklin Roosevelt reminded us, “In America, we do our part.” We all do our part. That’s all I’m asking: that we do our part, all of us.

If we do that, we will meet the center challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong. Autocrats will not win the future. We will. America will. And the future belongs to America.

As I stand here tonight before you, in a new and vital hour of life and democracy of our nation, and I can say with absolute confidence: I have never been more confident or optimistic about America — not because I’m President, because what’s happening with the American people.

We have stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and “We the People” did not flinch.

At the very moment our adversaries were certain we would pull apart and fail, we came together. We united.

With light and hope, we summoned a new strength, new resolve to position us to win the competition of the 21st century, on our way to a union more perfect, more prosperous, and more just, as one people, one nation, and one America.

Folks, as I told every world leader I’ve ever met with over the years, it’s never ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America, and it still isn’t. (Applause.)

We are the United States of America. (Applause.) There is not a single thing — nothing — nothing beyond our capacity. We can do whatever we set our mind to do if we do it together. (Applause.) So let’s begin to get together. (Applause.)

God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you for your patience. (Applause.)


SPECIAL REPORT: Trump addresses nation on Afghanistan policy

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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Full Transcript and Video: Trump’s Speech on Afghanistan

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you. Please be seated.

Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, members of the cabinet, General Dunford, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, and Colonel Duggan, most especially, thank you to the men and women of Fort Myer and every member of the United States military, at home and abroad.

We send our thoughts and prayers to the families of our brave sailors who were injured and lost after a tragic collision at sea, as well as to those conducting the search-and-recovery efforts.

I am here tonight to lay out our path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia.

But before I provide the details of our new strategy, I want to say a few words to the service members here with us tonight, to those watching from their posts and to all Americans listening at home.

Since the founding of our republic, our country has produced a special class of heroes whose selflessness, courage and resolve is unmatched in human history. American patriots from every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield for our nation and for our freedom.

Through their lives, and though their lives were cut short, in their deeds they achieved total immortality. By following the heroic example of those who fought to preserve our republic, we can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal, and to remain one nation, under God.

The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission and one shared sense of purpose. They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed and color to serve together and sacrifice together in absolutely perfect cohesion. That is because all service members are brothers and sisters. They’re all part of the same family. It’s called the American family. They take the same oath, fight for the same flag and live according to the same law. They’re bound together by common purpose, mutual trust and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other.

The soldier understands what we as a nation too often forget, that a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people.

When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate. The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.

As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas — and we will always win — let us find the courage to heal our divisions within. Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name, that when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one.

Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the American military, and of our many allies throughout the world, horrors on the scale of Sept. 11 — and nobody can ever forget that — have not been repeated on our shores.

And we must acknowledge the reality I’m here to talk about tonight, that nearly 16 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, 17 years.

I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money — and most importantly, lives — trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.

That is why shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia. My original instinct was to pull out. And historically, I like following my instincts.

But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, in other words, when you’re president of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my cabinet and generals to complete our strategy.

I arrived at three fundamental conclusion about America’s core interests in Afghanistan. First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.

Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.

A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before Sept. 11. And as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

Third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.

For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.

No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia. But we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions. When I became president, I was given a bad and very complex hand. But I fully knew what I was getting into, big and intricate problems.

But one way or another, these problems will be solved. I’m a problem solver. And in the end, we will win.

We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now, and the threats we face and the confronting of all of the problems of today, and extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal. We need look no further than last week’s vile, vicious attack in Barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women and children. You saw it for yourself. Horrible.

As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology. Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next. They are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators and — that’s right — losers.

Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders and, yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear. We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America. And we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world, for that matter.

But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history. As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways.

A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options.

We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out.

I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.

Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome. Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.

America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.

The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.

Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists. In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.

But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.

But that will have to change. And that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India, the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States. We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Finally, my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people, will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work, and work effectively, and work quickly.

I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our war fighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.

Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles. They’re won in the field, drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders, and front-line soldiers, acting in real time with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.

That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan. These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms. Retribution will be fast and powerful, as we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field. We’re already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS, including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq.

Since my inauguration, we have achieved record-breaking success in that regard. We will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks to eliminate their ability to export terror. When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift, decisive and overwhelming force.

Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition. Attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.

We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will.

Since taking office, I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense. And they have done so.

In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces. As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.

Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us. The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do. Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. We want them to succeed.

But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over. Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests.

We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives. This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward. Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country. But strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.

America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden.

The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress and real results. Our patience is not unlimited. We will keep our eyes open. In abiding by the oath I took on Jan. 20, I will remain steadfast in protecting American lives and American interests.

In this effort, we will make common cause with any nation that chooses to stand and fight alongside us against this global threat. Terrorists take heed: America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat.

Under my administration, many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military, and this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense. In every generation, we have faced down evil, and we have always prevailed. We prevailed because we know who we are and what we are fighting for.

Not far from where we are gathered tonight, hundreds of thousands of America’s greatest patriots lay in eternal rest at Arlington National Cemetery. There’s more courage, sacrifice and love in those hallowed grounds than at any other spot on the face of the Earth.

Many of those who have fought and died in Afghanistan enlisted in the months after Sept. 11, 2001. They volunteered for a simple reason: They loved America, and they were determined to protect her.

Now we must secure the cause for which they gave their lives. We must unite to defend America from its enemies abroad. We must restore the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home. And we must achieve an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.

Our actions, and in months to come, all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, every family who lost a loved one, and every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation.

With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace. We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.

Thank you. May God bless our military, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you.


Remarks of President Barack Obama address to the nation

My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

As commander-in-chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaieda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.

Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL — which calls itself the “Islamic State.”

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaida’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists — Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East – including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region — including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners — including Europeans and some Americans — have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.

I know many Americans are concerned about these threats. Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then, we have conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq. These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. These strikes have helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi Security Forces. Now that those teams have completed their work — and Iraq has formed a government — we will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission — we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We will also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL control.

Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.

Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding improve our intelligence strengthen our defenses counter its warped ideology and stem the flow of foreign fighters into — and out of — the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

Fourth, we will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

This is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq sending arms and assistance to Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian opposition sharing intelligence and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.

My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the president and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.

Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved — especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.

My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks six years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back — America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.

Our technology companies and universities are unmatched our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day — and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.

Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America — our scientists, our doctors, our know-how — that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people — or the world — again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.

America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia — from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East — we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a commander-in-chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform — pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service-members who support our partners on the ground.

When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said. “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”

That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety — our own security — depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for — timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.

May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.


Full Replay/Transcript, President Trump's Afghanistan Address: "We're Not Nation-Building, We're Killing Terrorists"

President Trump addressed the nation on Monday night in his first official address, beginning at 9 ET, regarding U.S. engagement and "the path forward" in Afghanistan.

Long before he was president, Trump advocated pulling out of Afghanistan. In 2013 he tweeted: "Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA."

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you. Please be seated. Vice president Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, members of the cabinet, General Dunford, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, and Colonel Duggan. Most especially, thank you to the men and women of Fort Meyer and every member of the United States military at home and abroad. We send our thoughts and prayers to the families of our brave sailors who were injured and lost after a tragic collision at sea as well as to those conducting the search and recovery efforts.

I am here tonight to lay out our path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia. But before I provide the details of our new strategy, I want to say a few words to the service members here with us tonight. To those watching from their posts, and to all Americans listening at home. Since the founding of our republic, our country has produced a special class of heroes whose selflessness, courage, and resolve is unmatched in human history.

American patriots from every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield - for our nation and for our freedom. Through their lives, and though their lives - were cut short, in their deeds they achieved total immortality. By following the heroic example of those who fought to preserve our republic, we can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal and to remain one nation under God. The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission and one shared sense of purpose.

They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed, and color to serve together and sacrifice together in absolutely perfect cohesion. That is because all service members are brothers and sisters. They are all part of the same family. It’s called the American family. They take the same oath, fight for the same flag, and live according to the same law.

They are bound together by common purpose, mutual trust, and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other. The soldier understands what we as a nation too often forget, that a wound inflicted upon on a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt.

And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate. The young men and women we sent to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.

As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas, and we will always win, let us find the courage to heal our divisions within. Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name, that when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one.

Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the American military, and of our many allies throughout the world, horrors on the scale of September 11, and nobody can ever forget that, have not been repeated on our shores. But we must acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight, that nearly 16 years after September 11 attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history - 17 years. I share the American people's frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly, lives trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations. That is why shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia.

My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts. But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the oval office. In other words, when you are president of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. After many meetings over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my cabinet and generals to complete our strategy. I arrived at three fundamental conclusion about America's core interests in Afghanistan.

First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win. Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists. A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11. And as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq.

As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorists enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for bled to liberate and won were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world. For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states, whose tense relations threat to spiral into conflict, and that could happen.

No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions.

When I became president, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into. Big and intricate problems. But one way or another, these problems will be solved. I am a problem solver. And in the end, we will win. We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now, the threats we face, and the confronting of all of the problems of today, an extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal. We need look no further than last week's vile, vicious attack in Barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children.

You saw it for yourself. Horrible. As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia, three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology. Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next. They are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators, and, that’s right, losers. Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America's interests are clear.

We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America. And we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us or anywhere in the world, for that matter. But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history.

As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways: A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times, how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military operations.

We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America's enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will. Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power, diplomatic, economic, and military, toward a successful outcome. Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban and Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen. America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field.

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.

The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.

Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists. In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices, but Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time they are housing the same terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change. And that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country's harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy or America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India, the world's largest democracy and a key security and economic harbor of the United States. We appreciate India's important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Finally, my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people, will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work and work effectively and work quickly. I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our war fighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy. Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles. They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers, acting in real time with real authority and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy. That is why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.

The killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms. Retribution will be fast and powerful. As we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field, we are already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS, including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq. Since my inauguration, we have achieved record-breaking success in that regard. We will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks to eliminate their ability to export terror. When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift, decisive, and overwhelming force.

Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition. — attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge. We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will.

Since taking office, I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense, and they have done so. In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces.

As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us. Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us. The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do. Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. We want them to succeed. But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over. Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests.

We are not asking others to change their way of life but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives. This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward. Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country.

But strategically-applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace. America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress.

However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden. The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results.


Watch the video: Παστουν, μια Ελληνικη φυλη της ανατολης (January 2022).