“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. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda.
This future is only within reach because of our men and women in uniform. Time and again, they have answered the call to serve in distant and dangerous places. In an age when so many institutions have come up short, these Americans stood tall. They met their responsibilities to one another, and the flag they serve under. I just met with some of them, and told them that as Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder. In their faces, we see what is best in ourselves and our country.”…
“This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.”
Yeah, like I said in my earlier post, tonight’s address is as much about reminding swing voters that the troops are coming home as it is about kicking Bin Laden’s skull through the uprights. The poll numbers on Afghanistan have turned toxic, and not just among Democrats and indies. There’s not much spring in his “Bin Laden bounce” but there may be a few points for him in reminding the public that things are winding down in a war to which they’ve long since given up paying close attention.
Two interesting things about the excerpts from his speech that the White House released. One: No Bin Laden reference. He’ll mention OBL at some point tonight, rest assured, but maybe his team’s starting to tone down the self-congratulation after the criticism of the past few days. Two: The excerpts emphasize his praise for the troops, something that’s been lacking lately as Team Hopenchange goes fishing for credit for the Bin Laden raid. Speaking of which, check out the brutal — and I mean brutal — vid released by “Veterans for a Strong America” taking Obama to task for trying to make the raid all about the O. That’ll keep you entertained until showtime at Bagram; the second vid below is just to put you in the mood for the occasion.
Update: Here’s the vid and the transcript. Read it and you’ll see that, as noted above, the ball he really wanted to spike tonight was “victory” in Afghanistan and a drawdown of U.S. troops. And the path to victory in this case lies through narrowly defining who the enemy is:
Fourth, we are pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my Administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We have made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws. Many members of the Taliban – from foot soldiers to leaders – have indicated an interest in reconciliation. A path to peace is now set before them. Those who refuse to walk it will face strong Afghan Security Forces, backed by the United States and our allies…
As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline. The answer is clear: our goal is not to build a country in America’s image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and many more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that. Afghans want to fully assert their sovereignty and build a lasting peace. That requires a clear timeline to wind down the war.
Read this depressing Seth Jones piece about how AQ franchises are actually building up in places like Yemen and Somalia despite the best efforts of U.S. drone operators. (He doesn’t even mention Syria, which is well on its way to becoming the biggest jihadi magnet in the Middle East.) Read David Ignatius too on how, thanks to the Arab Spring and its Islamist tide, “electoral Bin Ladenism” is in ascendance in the region. Memo from Bush to O: Be careful about declaring victory prematurely.