Obama Gives Reminder of U.S. Mission in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2010 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma today used the eve of the anniver­sary of the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attacks on the Unit­ed States as a reminder of why U.S. forces still are in Afghanistan.

“We are there because that is the place that al-Qai­da launched the attack that killed 3,000 Amer­i­cans,” he said at a White House news con­fer­ence. “We want to make sure we dis­man­tle al-Qai­da and that Afghanistan nev­er again is used as a base for attacks against the Unit­ed States.”

Oba­ma said the day before the anniver­sary of the attacks is a good time to remind peo­ple of why U.S. forces still are in Afghanistan after nine years.

Although the U.S. mil­i­tary entered Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, Oba­ma said, “sev­en years of drift” from the mis­sion before he took office derailed progress. Now, he said, progress is being made in train­ing Afghan secu­ri­ty forces, pro­mot­ing polit­i­cal set­tle­ments, encour­ag­ing the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide ser­vices, and reduc­ing cor­rup­tion.

The pres­i­dent said U.S. offi­cials will con­tin­ue to pres­sure Afghan lead­ers to root out cor­rup­tion in their gov­ern­ment, and will look with­in to ensure that the Unit­ed States does not con­tribute to the prob­lem by hav­ing on its pay­roll Afghans involved in cor­rup­tion.

“We’re a long way from where we need to be,” the pres­i­dent said, but he not­ed that progress can be seen in the num­ber of gov­ern­ment offi­cials Afghans have indict­ed for cor­rup­tion.

We’re going to keep putting pres­sure on that front,” he said. “If we’re say­ing pub­licly that’s impor­tant, our actions have to match up across the board.”

Oba­ma also said U.S. forces have not giv­en up on cap­tur­ing or killing al-Qai­da leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Remov­ing the two “would be extreme­ly impor­tant to our nation­al secu­ri­ty” and is a pri­or­i­ty for the admin­is­tra­tion, he said, but he added that “it doesn’t solve all our prob­lems.”

The per­sis­tence of U.S. forces has made it hard­er for al-Qai­da to oper­ate, Oba­ma said, not­ing that bin Laden “has gone deep under­ground.”

Still, Oba­ma said, he is opti­mistic that bin Laden and Zawahiri will be cap­tured or killed.

“We have the best minds, the best intel­li­gence offi­cers, the best Spe­cial Forces, who are think­ing about this day and night,” he said. “And they will con­tin­ue to think about this day and night as long as I am pres­i­dent.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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