FARMINGTON (WCCO) — President Barack Obama told the American people Wednesday night that it’s time to wind down the war in Afghanistan, calling for a responsible end.
“This is the beginning, but not the end, of our effort to wind down this war. We’ll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we’ve made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government,” said Obama, addressing the nation from the East Room of the White House.
Obama laid out his plan for the United State’s future role in Afghanistan, saying 10,000 troops will be pulled out of the country by the end of this year. By September 2012, the full 33,000 troops that were part of the surge will be removed. By 2014, Obama is aiming for total withdrawal with the goal of handing over security to Afghan forces.
“We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures — one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government,” said Obama.
Some of the President’s critics say the drawdown isn’t fast enough, while others say the U.S. is taking a risk by getting out too early. One Minnesota father isn’t sold on the President’s plan.
Bill Fischer, a military father of three from Farmington, welcomed his oldest son home safely at the 29 Palms Marine base in California just three weeks ago.
Lance Cpl. Andrew Fisher, 23, served seven months patrolling violent areas near the southern border of Afghanistan. It was his second deployment overseas with the 1st Marine Division – 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
“He is a survivor, his battalion came back intact (from Afghanistan) with no casualties or fatalities,” said Bill Fischer, who says his son will now end his Marine Corps service for a new chapter in life.
Before the speech began, Fischer hoped Obama would take a strong stance to continue the fight.
“I want to know for certain we are doing all we can to take the battle to the enemy and keep our men and women safe. We need to be all in or all out, we can’t do it halfway,” Fischer said. “His troops should be his number one concern, not political motives.”
Obama announced his plan and ended by saying, “Now, let us finish the work at hand. Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story.”
“We’ve never lost the American dream. There is nothing to reclaim — dream is still there,” argued Fischer, saying he disagrees with the strategy. “How do you reclaim the American dream by pulling 30,000 troops out of Afghanistan? He’s wrapping political gibberish around the flag. … By pulling those troops out, we put the remaining troops in jeopardy. In any measure, I think it’s a bad decision. What has the sacrifice been worth?”
Fischer is involved in a military support group at his church and acknowledges a withdrawal may be welcome news for other Minnesota families.
Obama says the country needs to focus on nation building on its own soil.
“Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource –- our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach,” said Obama.
To date, least 1,500 troops have died in Afghanistan along with 12,000 wounded since the war began nearly 10 years ago.