ABC News' Kristina Wong reports: In his State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his promise to begin a troops drawdown from Afghanistan this July.
“This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home,” he said Tuesday night to loud applause.
The president also praised U.S. troops and civilians for reclaiming Taliban strongholds and training Afghan Security Forces, and claimed that “fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency,” and al Qaeda’s safe-havens in Pakistan “are shrinking.”
“We have sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: we will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you,” he said.
However, at the same time he warned that there would “tough fighting ahead” for troops and civilians in Afghanistan, and that the Afghan government would need to “deliver better governance.”
“But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them,” he said.
President Obama devoted most of his State of the Union address to jobs, the economy, and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. Mention of Afghanistan came approximately 48 minutes into his speech.
The president also restated the mission in Afghanistan: “Our purpose is clear — by preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe-haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.”
New Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, immediately issued a response criticizing the president’s mention of the July drawdown date.
“Tonight, the President’s speech reflected a strong commitment, which I support, to defeating insurgents in Afghanistan and rooting out al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, I am concerned that the President has placed a timeline beginning in July for the withdrawal of our troops. This sends a mixed message to our troops and to the enemies they face. I steadfastly believe that, going forward, leaders in Washington must look to our commanders on the ground when determining our troop levels,” she said.
Read more on the president’s remarks on foreign policy HERE.
Read the president’s full remarks HERE.