Washington: Afghan security forces would be "fully responsible" for the security of the country by 2014, US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.
"Already, nearly half the Afghan people live in places where Afghan Security Forces are moving into the lead. This month, at a NATO Summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year," Obama said in a nationally televised address to the nation from Bagram air force base in Afghanistan, where he made an unannounced visit on Tuesday night.
International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed. But US will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward, he said.
"As we do, our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country," he said.
"My fellow Americans, we have travelled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm's way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al-Qaeda," Obama said.
As US emerges from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America, he said. "An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation," the US President said.
This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end, he added.