President Obama used the signing of an agreement Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a backdrop to once again tout his having authorized the killing of Osama bin Laden during a speech at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air BaseBa.
“[O]ne year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” Obama said. “The goal that I set – to defeat al Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild – is within reach.”
The president’s recent campaign activities leading up to the anniversary of the raid have caused Republicans and others to accuse him of politicizing the issue. This is despite his comments a year ago saying that Americans “don’t spike the football”.
Obama campaigned in 2008 on ending the war in Iraq and on escalating the fight in Afghanistan. The president used the speech to revisit themes from his first presidential campaign – namely that the war in Iraq distracted attention from Afghanistan and allowed the Taliban to gain momentum.
He took credit for building a “strong Afghan Security Forces” and for devastating al-Qaida’s leadership. But the brag about what his administration has accomplished building Afghan military and police forces flies in the face of published reports of their unreliability.
The New York Times warned in February that the Afghan Security Forces are “riddled with dangerously unreliable soldiers and police officers” who routinely attack their American sponsors despite tens of billions of dollars having been spent.
An Afghan soldier shot and killed an American service member as recently as last week.
Obama touted that his administration has no desire to “eradicate every vestige of the Taliban”, but limit the objective to eradicating al-Qaida as the clock ticks down to the end of combat operations in 2014.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., one of the few Americans to have seen the photos of bin Laden following the raid, dismissed the speech as just another campaign stop.
“Clearly this trip is campaign related. We’ve seen recently that President Obama has visited college campuses in an attempt to win back the support of that age group since he has lost it over the last three years,” Inhofe said. “ Similarly, this trip to Afghanistan is an attempt to shore up his national security credentials, because he has spent the past three years gutting our military.
“He cut the F-22, future combat system, C-17, and our ground-based interceptor in Poland to name a few. On top of that, he has tried to close GITMO – the very source of some of our intelligence that resulted in bin Laden’s demise.”
Inhofe, who was in Afghanistan two weeks ago, warned that the gains that have been made are fragile and called for the elimination of remaining Taliban strongholds.
“The Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that President Obama just signed is an important step, but getting the details of that agreement right will be vital to success,” Inhofe said.