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Obama: US Safer Decade After Start of Afghan War


U.S. soldiers look at a Sept 11 memorial at the Jalalabad Air Field Base in eastern Afghanistan (File)

U.S. soldiers look at a Sept 11 memorial at the Jalalabad Air Field Base in eastern Afghanistan (File)

U.S. President Barack Obama says Americans are safer a decade after the start of the war in Afghanistan.

In a statement Friday marking the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion, Mr. Obama saluted those who have served in Afghanistan, including the nearly 1,800 American service members, and many Afghan and coalition soldiers, who have been killed in the fighting.

< U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands at a reception for the Texas A&M 2011 NCAA women's basketball championship team at the White House, October 6, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands at a reception for the Texas A&M 2011 NCAA women's basketball championship team at the White House, October 6, 2011

The president said the United States was "responsibly ending" the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from a "position of strength." He also said the U.S. is "closer than ever" to defeating al-Qaida.

Less than a month after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. launched a military campaign in Afghanistan with the aim of hunting down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and toppling the Taliban.

A decade later, Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his government and its international partners have failed to provide Afghans with security.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr. Karzai said NATO, the United States and neighboring Pakistan should have concentrated on eliminating Taliban sanctuaries early on in the conflict. The Afghan leader repeated the claim that the Taliban are supported by elements in Pakistan, a charge Islamabad has denied.

Retired Army General Stanley McChrystal delivered a speech on the eve of the anniversary, saying the most difficult task remaining in Afghanistan may be creating a legitimate government that ordinary Afghans can believe in and that can serve as a counterweight to the Taliban.

McChrystal, who commanded coalition forces from 2009 to 2010 and was forced to resign in a flap over a magazine article, said the war in Afghanistan was entered with "a frighteningly simplistic view" of Afghanistan's recent history.

NATO says its plans to hand over security responsibility to the Afghan government remain on track. The coalition has begun to relinquish security duties to Afghanistan's army and police in a gradual process that will see all foreign combat troops leave the country by the end of 2014.

Currently, there are more than 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan, mostly from the United States, which has about 100,000 troops there.

Friday's anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion passed in Afghanistan without public commemoration. But a day before, hundreds of demonstrators protested Thursday in Kabul to call for the immediate withdrawal of international forces.

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