Addressing U.S. troops at the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii on Christmas, President Barack Obama said that Afghanistan will not be “a source of terrorist attacks again,” according to media reports. Obama’s speech was delivered just a week before the U.S. combat mission in the country is scheduled to end.
“We’ve been in continuous war now for over 13 years,” Obama reportedly said. “Next week we will be ending our combat mission in Afghanistan.
“Because of the extraordinary service of the men and women in the American armed forces, Afghanistan has a chance to rebuild its own country,” Obama reportedly told the troops. “The world is better, it's safer, it's more peaceful, it's more prosperous and our homeland protected because of you.”
Although most U.S. and NATO troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, a residual force of about 13,000 soldiers, including 10,800 American soldiers, will stay back to train and assist the Afghan army.
In his speech, Obama also alluded to the ongoing U.S.-led operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, according to media reports.
“We still have some very difficult missions around the world, including in Iraq,” Obama reportedly said.
A U.S.-led coalition is currently carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets in northern Iraq and Syria. As of now, there are nearly 1,600 U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq, where they are advising Kurdish and Iraqi forces. However, this number is likely to grow to over 3,100 in the coming months after Obama authorized a plan in November to double U.S. forces on the ground.