In his State of the Union speech tonight, President Barack Obama addressed many of the most pressing issues on the world stage including the tense diplomatic situations in Iran and North Korea and the War on Terror in Afghanistan.
On the campaign trail, President Obama vowed to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. However, shortly after the election, the White House said they would not be able to commit to a specific withdrawal schedule in Afghanistan. Addressing the nation tonight, President Obama returned to his campaign promise and said the remaining U.S. troops in that country would be withdrawn in the next 22 months.
“Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women,” President Obama said. “This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This draw-down will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.”
Though he promised to pull American forces out of Afghanistan, President Obama said some form of U.S. military “commitment” will continue there in the years ahead, as will our battle against al-Qaeda.
“Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change,” he explained. “We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al-Qaeda and their affiliates.”
President President Obama followed his discussion of the War on Terror by addressing another potential national security threat, North Korea, which alarmed many observers with a nuclear weapons test earlier this week. For his part, President Obama vowed to take “firm action” as a result of North Korea’s provocations.
“Of course, our challenges don’t end with al Qaeda,” said President Obama. “America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.”
North Korea isn’t the only corner of the world where nuclear weapons are an issue. President Obama continued by talking about the potentially radioactive situation in Iran.
“Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon,” said the president.
He also said the White House will undertake diplomatic efforts to contain nuclear weapons in countries that aren’t as directly antagonistic with the U.S. as North Korean and Iran.
“At the same time, we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands,” President Obama said.
Along with Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran, the president previewed some of the messages he plans to broadcast on his upcoming trip to the Middle East.
“In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy,” the president said. “We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.”