These have been encouraging days for Afghanistan's future. We've witnessed a first round of free elections where millions of Afghans made their voices heard, in what promises to be the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's history. Both of the leading candidates unequivocally support signing a Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States as they look towards a long and lasting relationship between our two nations. Now, with President Obama's announcement today of what America's presence will look like in Afghanistan after combat operations end in 2014, our nation’s longest war is coming to a responsible end.
The Afghan people have an opportunity now to build on the progress that's been made, to achieve a more secure, more prosperous, and more peaceful future. President Obama has made it clear that as they do, the United States will stand with them.
The President’s plan for our military footprint in Afghanistan would not have been possible without the decision to surge both troops and diplomacy, and without the tremendous performance of our men and women in uniform, as well as the diplomats, civil servants, and local staff who have also served there proudly. They have worked day-by-day with Afghanistan’s own security forces to support them as they take the reins and have contributed to the tremendous gains the Afghan people have made.
Along with our Allies and partners, who have shared in this long struggle, we will continue providing training, advice, and assistance to the Afghan security forces, as well as critical development aid, to support the Afghans as they work to prevent their territory from ever again becoming a haven for Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Routing out Al Qaeda's core leadership has been our most important mission in Afghanistan, and because of our focused and targeted efforts, we have significantly degraded the terrorist group's capabilities there. But more work remains, and that is why the United States is committed to keeping up the fight against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and wherever else its murderous mission has taken root.
On Memorial Day yesterday, we remembered the more than 2,100 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. We continue to honor the fallen, and all those who came home from the battlefield with injuries both visible and invisible. We also remember the many Afghans who stood up courageously for their country. By standing together, Americans and Afghans will continue the march towards peace just as faithfully as we did in the struggle of war.