In early December, U.S. President Barack Obama flew to Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base to thank U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan for their service. Foul weather prevented President Obama from meeting with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai in person, but the two heads of state spoke by phone and reaffirmed their commitment, articulated last month at the NATO Lisbon Summit, to a framework for security transition in Afghanistan, beginning in 2011 and concluding in 2014, and to the United States’ enduring commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Mr. Obama then had the opportunity to address some 4,000 members of the U.S. Armed forces at Bagram Air Base.
"President Obama's visit comes at a time in which there have been a number of milestones around Afghanistan," said Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes. On the security side, he cited successes in clearing out some areas that were traditionally held by the Taliban; targeting Taliban leadership, training Afghan security forces, and working to build up the Afghan capacity to sustain these security gains.
"What we’re focused on is making sure that our two governments are aligned behind the strategic objective, which, again, is breaking the Taliban’s momentum, building up Afghan capacity, and undertaking a transition that both ensures that there's never a safe haven for terrorism in Afghanistan ... and that the Afghan people can control their own future," said Deputy National Security Advisor Rhodes.
President Obama said it more succinctly: "We will never let this country serve as a safe haven for terrorists who would attack the United States of America again. That will never happen. ... This part of the world is the center of a global effort where we are going to disrupt and dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies," he said:
"We said we were going to break the Taliban’s momentum, and that’s what you’re doing. You’re going on the offense, tired of playing defense, targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds. Today we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control and more Afghans have a chance to build a more hopeful future."
"We said a year ago that we’re going to build the capacity of the Afghan people," said Mr. Obama. "And that’s what you’re doing, meeting our recruitment targets, training Afghan forces, partnering with those Afghans who want to build a stronger and more stable and more prosperous Afghanistan.