President Barack Obama says “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”
Obama is welcoming the end of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan. The war came to a formal end Sunday with a ceremony in Kabul.
Obama says in a statement that the effort has devastated al-Qaida’s core leadership, brought justice to Osama bin Laden and disrupted terrorist plots. He says U.S. troops and diplomats have helped Afghans reclaim their communities and move toward democracy.
Obama is also honoring the more than 2,200 Americans who have died in Afghanistan since the war started 13 years ago. Obama says those years have tested the U.S. and its military.
From a peak 140,000 troops in 2010, the U.S. and NATO plan to leave just 13,500 behind.
From U.S. Dept. of Defense: Statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
“At the end of this year, as our Afghan partners assume responsibility for the security of their country, the United States officially concludes Operation Enduring Freedom. Our combat mission in Afghanistan, which began in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, will come to an end.
“In 2015, we begin our follow-on mission, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, to help secure and build upon the hard-fought gains of the last 13 years.
“I want to express my deep gratitude to all U.S. personnel, both military and civilian, who have served in Afghanistan since 2001, many on multiple deployments. I also thank the thousands more who were a part of the mission at home and around the world. In fighting America’s longest war, our people and their families have borne a heavy burden, and some paid the ultimate price.
“From my first trip to Afghanistan in 2002 to my visit earlier this month, I have seen firsthand the hard and heroic work done by American military and civilian personnel. That work and their sacrifices have made our world safer and given Afghanistan the opportunity to chart a secure, democratic, and prosperous future.
“I also want to thank and acknowledge our International Security Assistance Force partners for their indispensable work and sacrifice in helping strengthen Afghanistan.
“In Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the United States will pursue two missions with the support of the Afghan government and the Afghan people. We will work with our allies and partners as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission to continue training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces. And we will continue our counterterrorism mission against the remnants of Al-Qaeda to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to stage attacks against our homeland.
“The United States remains strongly committed to a sovereign, secure, stable, and unified Afghanistan. As we responsibly draw down our military presence, we will continue to partner together with Afghan forces to combat terrorism and create a better future for the Afghan people. And through enduring security cooperation, we will continue assisting the Afghan government to build its capacity and self-sufficiency, as we transition to the next phase of the U.S.-Afghanistan defense relationship.
“We will continue to work with our Afghan partners to secure the great progress we have made since 2001 and to seize this defining moment of opportunity for Afghanistan’s future.”