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Tuesday night, President Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The key agreement signed in Kabul by the two presidents defines the relations between United States and Afghanistan and the US military presence in the country after 2014, when the last NATO-led troops are due to leave.
Obama’s surprise visit comes exactly on the one-year anniversary of the raid that led to the killing of Al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“Together, we’re now committed to replacing war with peace,” Obama said after signing the agreement. “With this agreement I am confident that the Afghan people will understand that the United States will stand by them,” he added.
“I’m here to affirm the bond between our two countries and to thank Americans and Afghans who have sacrificed so much over these last ten years,” the U.S. President stated after the signing ceremony. “Neither Americans nor the Afghan people asked for this war yet for a decade we’ve stood together.”
The occasion was called as “a historic moment for our two nations”.
By signing the agreement after months of negotiations, the United States guarantees to Afghanistan its sovereignty, assuring also their support after the withdrawal of the military force from the country.
During his visit to Bagram Air Field, addressing to U.S. troops President Obama said, “I know the battle’s not yet over. Some of your buddies are going to get injured. And some of your buddies may get killed. And there’s going to be heartbreak and pain and difficulty ahead. But there is a light on the horizon because of the sacrifices you made.”
At 7.30 p.m. EST, 4 a.m. in Afghanistan, Obama delivered a live address to the Nation.
“My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.” he said in speech excerpts released in advance of his televised delivery by the White House.
“The Iraq War is over,” he added. “We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al-Qaida.”
“Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”
Referring to the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, he added, “As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America … a united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.”
This visit to Afghanistan and the signature of the U.S. Afghanistan agreement, emphasized by the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, are aimed to underline the commitment of the Obama administration for ending the war and supporting democracy in Afghanistan. Just the right move at a crucial time for a president who wishes to be re-elected, but how this event might affect the voters is yet to be seen.