Washington: Asserting that al Qaeda is on the road to defeat, US President Barack Obama has reminded Americans that before his election in 2008 he had pledged to kill Osama bin Laden and he achieved that.
"I pledged to make it a priority to take out the terrorists who had attacked us on 9/11. And as a candidate, I said that if we had Osama bin Laden in our sights, we would act to keep America safe -- even if it meant going into Pakistan.
"Some of you remember, at the time, that comment drew quite a bit of criticism," Obama said in a foreign policy speech in Reno Navada.
"Since I took office, we've worked with our allies and our partners to take out more top al Qaeda leaders than any time since 9/11.
"And thanks to the courage and the skill of our forces, Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again, and al Qaeda is on the road to defeat," Obama said in his address to the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"I pledged to finish the job in Afghanistan. After years of drift, we had to break the momentum of the Taliban, and build up the capacity and the capability of Afghans.
"And so, working with our commanders, we came up with a new strategy, and we ordered additional forces to get the job done.
"This is still a tough fight. But thanks to the incredible services and sacrifices of our troops, we pushed the Taliban back; we're training Afghan forces; we've begun the transition to Afghan lead," he said.
Taking on his critics who were against a timeline for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Obama said: "Again, there are those who argued against a timeline for ending this war or against talking about it publicly. But you know what, that's not a plan for America's security either.
"After 10 years of war, and given the progress we've made, I felt it was important that the American people -- and our men and women in uniform -- know our plan to end this war responsibly."
"By the end of this summer, more than 30,000 of our troops will have come home. Next year, Afghans will take the lead for their own security.
"In 2014, the transition will be complete. And even as our troops come home, we'll have a strong partnership with the Afghan people, and we will stay vigilant so Afghanistan is never again a source for attacks against America," he said.
The United States under his administration, Obama said, is not just ending these wars; but doing it in a way that achieves their objectives.
"Moreover, it's allowed us to broaden our vision and begin a new era of American leadership. We're leading from Europe to the Asia Pacific, with alliances that have never been stronger.
"We're leading the fight against nuclear dangers. We've applied the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea -- nations that cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons," he said.
"We're leading on behalf of freedom -- standing with people in the Middle East and North Africa as they demand their rights; protecting the Libyan people as they rid the world of Muammar Gaddafi," he said.
"The United States is also working for a transition so the Syrian people can have a better future, free of the Assad regime.
"Given the regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching, and that they will be held accountable by the international community and the United States, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons," Obama said.
"We will continue to work with our friends and our allies and the Syrian opposition on behalf of the day when the Syrian people have a government that respects their basic rights to live in peace and freedom and dignity," Obama said.
First Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 09:57