Sunday afternoon, President Barack Obama signaled the formal end of the “combat” mission in Afghanistan, saying that after 13 years and 2,000 American lives lost, the longest war in history was coming to a “responsible conclusion.” Approximately 2,200 American troops were killed in Afghanistan in a war that cost the U.S. $1 trillion since the initial invasion in 2001. Obama promised early on to end the Afghan war, when he first took office. This year Obama promised he would reduce the number of “boots on the ground” to 10,000.
Obama emphasized that Afghanistan remained a dangerous place and the role of the remaining American forces would serve an advisory role to the Afghan forces. Civilian casualties in the country this year are on track to hit 10,000, and some 5,000 Afghan forces were also killed in 2014. Beginning Jan. 1, the new mission will provide training and support for Afghanistan’s military, with the U.S. accounting for almost 11,000 of the 13,500 members of the residual force. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who took office in September, signed bilateral security agreements with Washington and NATO allowing the ongoing military presence. The move has led to a spike in violence, with the Taliban claiming it as an excuse to step up operations aimed at destabilizing his government.
General John Campbell, commander of International Security Assistance Force held a small ceremony marking the end of the engagement. Campbell rolled up the flag of the ISAF and a new flag representing the new global mission Resolute Support was unveiled. Campbell spoke to the handpicked audience. “Resolute Support will serve as the bedrock of an enduring partnership” “The road before us remains challenging, but we will triumph.” In President Obama’s statement, he thanked the military for their sacrifices.
Our courageous military and diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan — along with our NATO allies and coalition partners — have helped the Afghan people reclaim their communities, take the lead for their own security, hold historic elections and complete the first democratic transfer of power in their country’s history.”
The President used a Christmas address to Marines stationed on Oahu to hail the achievements of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, asserting the U.S. is safer because of the effort there. Afghanistan is “not going to be a source of terrorist attacks again.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave his own statement discussing the announcement. Hagel said that the U.S. would work on strengthening the “hard-fought gains” of the last 13 years and supporting the local government as they continue to “the next phase of the U.S.-Afghanistan defense relationship.”