By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2011 – President Barack Obama marked the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan today by honoring those who have served there and noting their efforts toward bringing the war to a responsible end from a position of strength.
Operation Enduring Freedom, launched in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, targeted al-Qaida and its Taliban protectors in Afghanistan.
The initial volley began Oct. 7, 2001, with 15 land-based bombers and 25 Navy strike aircraft from carriers targeting al-Qaida Taliban-held airfields, terrorist training camps, command-and-control nodes and anti-aircraft positions. In addition, U.S. and British ships and submarines launched some 50 Tomahawk missiles.
The effort combined air power, precision-guided munitions and state-of-the-art communications with thousands of Afghan warriors on horseback or on foot.
Initially, the operation involved a relatively small force – a few hundred special operations forces and thousands of Afghan forces in the Northern Alliance supported by powerful U.S. air support. U.S. Marines and soldiers joined the force to confront extremist elements throughout Afghanistan.
Later, Operation Enduring Freedom shifted to a broader-based effort aimed at creating conditions in Afghanistan that gave people hope for the future and an ability to reject terrorists and their activities.
Ten years later, Obama noted progress in taking the fight against violence extremism to the source.
“In delivering justice to Osama bin Laden and many other al-Qaida leaders, we are closer than ever to defeating al-Qaida and its murderous network,” he said.
Despite what he acknowledged to be “enormous challenges” remaining in Afghanistan, he cited progress made. “We’ve pushed the Taliban out of its key strongholds, Afghan security forces are growing stronger, and the Afghan people have a new chance to forge their own future,” he said.
In doing so, working with the Afghan people and a coalition of dozens of nations around the world in Afghanistan and beyond, “we have shown that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam and that we are a partner with those who seek justice, dignity and opportunity,” Obama said.
Looking to the future, Obama said the United States is putting “a difficult decade” behind it as it works toward “responsibly ending today’s wars from a position of strength.”
“As the rest of our troops come home from Iraq this year, we have begun to draw down our forces in Afghanistan and transition security to the Afghan people, with whom we will forge an enduring partnership,” he said.
On the 10th anniversary of the war’s beginning, the president said he and First Lady Michelle Obama “join all Americans in saluting the more than half a million men and women who have served bravely in Afghanistan to keep our country safe, including our resilient wounded warriors who carry the scars of war, seen and unseen.”
“We honor the memory of the nearly 1,800 American patriots, and many coalition and Afghan partners, who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan for our shared security and freedom,” he continued. “We pay tribute to our inspiring military families who have persevered at home with a loved one at war.”
Obama also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to provide 9/11 generation veterans the “care, benefits and opportunities they deserve.” In addition, he expressed thanks to diplomatic, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement professionals who have worked tirelessly over the past decade to protect the United States and save American lives.
“Thanks to the extraordinary service of these Americans, our citizens are safer and our nation is more secure,” he said. “As we reflect on 10 years of war and look ahead to a future of peace, Michelle and I call upon all Americans to show our gratitude and support for our fellow citizens who risk their lives so that we can enjoy the blessings of freedom and security.”