By Randy Foreman, White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON – (Newsblaze) Attempting to underscore a “responsible end” to America’s presence in Afghanistan in which more than 2,200 American soldiers have paid the ultimate sacrifice, Barack Obama joined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in a joint East Room News Conference Tuesday, to put a happy face on the security situation.
America’s military presence in the war torn nation has been reduced from 100,000 troops to about 9,800 through the end of the year.
“I’m pleased to say that the departure of 120,000 international troops has not brought about the security gap or the collapse that was often anticipated.” Ghani remarked after earlier in the day visiting Arlington National Cemetery to pay tribute to fallen American troops with the Vice President.
Obama began the afternoon White House media gathering by saying that the visit marked Afghanistan’s progress and then laid out three points for discussion during Ghani’s state visit. The security situation would entail an aid package from America that would fund 350,000 Afghan military personnel and police officers through 2017 with 9,800 US troops to back them up.
Secondly, America would support the peace process. Ghani in a question from the Afghan media highlighted that his people would be in charge of the process. “The United States has agreed with us that the peace process will be led by Afghans, and Afghans will continue this process and it will be led by Afghans. This is obvious for us, and we are thankful for the support,” the Afghan leader said.
Thirdly, the Obama administration also pledged its support for the unity government. “We are unique in that we have embraced democratic ways. We are very proud of our Islamic civilization that is in Islam.”
The Afghan leader also took the occasion to thank the American people for their support as well “I would also like to thank the American taxpayer for his and her hard-earned dollars that have enabled us.” Ghani said.
Many American military personnel wonder what those dollars have been worth and their concerns were echoed by the first reporter Obama called on – Leo Shane from Military Times.
“With the increased slowdown in the drawdown here, we’re looking at more risk, more danger for U.S. troops that are in Afghanistan. How do you justify that to them? How do you tell them that the mission is still worth it? And how do you assure them that there is an end coming to this mission?”
“And for President Ghani, you’ve talked the last couple days a lot about the sacrifice of U.S. troops. You were at Arlington earlier today. How do you tell them that this continued sacrifice will be worth it to them, as well?”
Obama responded with the Administration’s point of view. “It is important to keep in perspective, first of all, that we’ve gone down from 100,000 down to under 10,000; that they are not on the frontlines because they’re not in a combat role. We are doing all that we can do to make sure that force protection is a priority for those who are in Afghanistan. And the date for us to have completed our drawdown will not change.”
The President also took a shot at Republican lawmakers during budget season during the joint news conference “Right now there’s a debate going up on Capitol Hill about budgets. This would be a good time for my friends up on Capitol Hill, including on the other side of the aisle, to take a look at their budgets. If we’re holding both our defense and non-defense budgets to 2006 levels, it’s a lot harder for us to do the job that we need to do not only on the national security side but also here at home.”