“Let’s Do This Right”

~~~

by Julia Edwards, Roberta Rampton & Patricia Zengerle

Reuters via Yahoo News

October 22, 2015

~~~

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama officially vetoed the $612 billion annual defense authorization bill on Thursday, returning the measure to Congress because of the way it uses money meant for war spending to avoid automatic budget cuts to military programs.

“I’m going to be sending it back to Congress and my message to them is very simple: ‘Let’s do this right,'” Obama told reporters.

“We’re in the midst of budget discussions. Let’s have a budget that properly funds our national security as well as economic security,” he said.

Obama and many of his fellow Democrats are pushing for a broader budget deal that would address mandatory cuts in domestic spending rather than only providing more funds for the Pentagon.

But Republicans, who control Congress, say Democrats are irresponsibly playing politics with national security in order to protect pet spending programs at a time when the United States faces rising threats around the world.

“By placing domestic politics ahead of our troops, President Obama has put America’s national security at risk,” John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, said in a statement.

Republicans have vowed to override his veto, only the fifth of his presidency, which would require two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate. But Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, insists the chamber will sustain it.

Under congressional rules, the House will consider the veto before the Senate. A veto override vote has been scheduled in the chamber for Nov. 5.

The Democratic president is also unhappy with measures in the National Defense Authorization Act limiting moves toward closing the military prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

~~~

http://news.yahoo.com/obama-vetoes-defense-bill-tells-congress-lets-200911716–business.html

~~~

The Terrible Truth & One Thousand Lies

 This One

is

On The House

 ~

by Rawclyde!

1980

~

     The music pounded like a locomotive.  The go-go girl followed it like a train.  And every patron in the bar was her caboose.

     Her nucleus of sexuality, hardly covered by a little white bikini bottom oh so snug, exploded, poetically speaking, all over the stage.

     She aimed it at a poor hobo and pumped him a few.  She would never know how much he appreciated that.  She did the bump ‘de bump with a lonely soldier boy’s ambition and ground to pieces an old cowboy’s sadness.  Boldly she stepped up close to a wicked man’s leer, crouched low and with her hands ludicrously rammed it in and out.

     Her fat, shapely, little belly, a masterpiece so tan, so smooth, so hot, was just about smoking like a home on fire.  Her belly button was the sun.  Her stage, more than just creaking wood, was the face of every feller’s drifting dream.

     She really knew how to dance.

     Like a snake, like a swan, like a cloud, like a shooting star, like the terrible truth and a thousand lies.  Nobody, absolutely nobody played pool when Philana danced.

     A tall stranger sauntered into the place.  Infront of the go-go bar’s stage, or ramp, he stoically stood ~ watched the go-go girl go-go.  His presence loomed so profoundly that the hooting, guffawing, and even the silent dreaming of all the Saturday night patrons ~ died.  He was that rare kind of guy.  Besides, except for a preposterous, black, cowboy hat on his head, he was naked.

     The go-go tune ended.

     Nobody clapped.  Usually everybody clapped, and a few would holler, when Philana finished a number.  But due to this stranger’s strange naked presence ~ not this time.

     An old drunk accidently knocked over a glass of beer.  He ducked his head sheepishly.  Not a soul moved.  Deep silence reigned.

     The stranger, lewdly handsome, smiled just a little bit at the intrigued saloon girl who was now standing still in the quiet limelight.  She rested her hand on her smooth hip, eyeballed the stranger up and down ~ especially down.  She was out of breath.  Her round, bare, little breasts gently rose and fell.

     “What?  What?  Are you trying to corrupt this town?”  she finally asked of him ~ her smile twitching.

     “No,” replied the stranger with an unobtrusive chuckle.  “Just escaped from jail.  All I could grab on my way out was ~ my hat.”

     Another working girl, scantily clad, quietly served him a beer.  “The bartender says this one is on the house,” she whispered.

     The stranger nodded gratefully, toasted the bartender, lifted the frosty mug to his thirsty lips.

     Philana rested a high-heeled foot on the bar that encircled the ramp.  She was staring at the stranger with not just her eyes, it seemed, but also with the provocative bulge of her snuggly, barely veiled, dynamite-packed pussy, which was at the same level as the stranger’s face and just a few inches away.  “What’s your name?” she asked.

     “Bogie,” drawled the stranger.  He ignored the saloon girl’s poignantly flaunted mound, squinted up into the soul in her brown bottomless eyes.  “Nick Bogie.”

     “I’m Philana,” said Philana.  Music began to play again.  Some fool howled.  There was laughter.  And cigarette smoke.  The woman and the man stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment.

     Then ~

     “Let’s ball, Bogie!” cried Philana like a whip.  Her eyes squinted full of tears.  Her thigh quivered.  The man to whom she had spoken held open his arms.

     She jumped.

     He carried her out the door like a bride.

Imagine Tolerating Child Rape

~~~

by Congressman Duncan Hunter

U.S.House of Representatives, 50th District, CA

Sept. 23, 2015

~~~

Imagine for a moment that you are serving in the U.S. Army and deployed to Afghanistan, and on your base there is clear evidence that child rape and other human rights violations are occurring at the hands of local Afghan police commanders and military officials.

You have already reported the crimes and nothing has been done.  Now you are standing face to face with a self-admitted child rapist and he’s laughing in your face—telling you to get lost.

What do you do?

That was the situation facing a group of Green Berets in Afghanistan, led by Captain Danny Quinn and Sergeant First Class Charles Martland.

There is no policy that requires our soldiers to look the other way, but, clearly, the fact that Quinn, Martland, and others have been punished for intervening in such cases of abuse shows exactly how our military leadership has decided to handle these cases.

In 2011, Quinn and Martland received reports that an Afghan woman was severely beaten by an Afghan commander when she went looking for her son.  Turned out her son had been kidnapped, chained to a bed and repeatedly raped by that same Afghan commander.

Quinn and Martland had experienced this before—twice, in fact.  Two other commanders received no punishment from the Afghan government for the rape of a 15-year-old girl and the honor killing of a commander’s 12-year-old daughter for kissing a boy.  And as Martland said, “I felt that morally we could no longer stand by and allow our ALP to commit atrocities.”

So Quinn and Martland confronted the commander.  He laughed in their face, told them he would not stop, and suggested they find something else to do with their time.

So Quinn picked up the commander and threw him on the ground.  Martland did the same.

In doing so, they conveyed to the commander, loud and clear, that the abuse of children—especially in the presence of U.S. forces—won’t be tolerated.

In a single confrontation, Quinn and Martland were able to do what the Afghan justice system and our own military commanders could not.  They sent a message in a language and terms he could understand and wouldn’t forget.

For doing the right thing, Quinn was immediately removed from the front line and shown the door by the Army.

Martland was also relieved from the same outpost, but he is now fighting to save his Army career after 11 years.  Because of his actions, Martland was reprimanded by the Army — at the direction of General Christopher Hass — and given a blemish on his record for “a physical altercation with a corrupt ALP commander.”

The Army stated he lacked integrity.

Even though Martland did not need to apologize, he did.  He committed to self-improvement, to show the Army that he could continue serving.  And in 2014, he was selected as runner up for the Special Warfare Training Group Instructor of the Year, competing against over 400 Senior NCOs.

This is the type of warrior and leader that deserves to be involuntarily removed from service?  I think not.

This is one case where better judgment must prevail.  Quinn and Martland were reprimanded because they were told it wasn’t their place to intervene and they should properly observe Afghanistan’s cultural and relationship practices.

There is no policy that requires our soldiers to look the other way, but, clearly, the fact that Quinn, Martland, and others have been punished for intervening in such cases of abuse shows exactly how our military leadership has decided to handle these cases.

A decision on Martland’s future rests with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, whom,  I am told, is fully aware of the many appeals on Martland’s behalf.  I have to believe that he’ll do the right thing and put one of our most elite and ethical warriors above an admitted rapist.

Deciding in Marltand’s favor, given the circumstances of the case, is the quickest and most effective way for the Department of Defense to show it won’t tolerate abuse and human rights violations of any kind.

~~~

headline rewritten by Rawclyde!

~~~

http://hunter.house.gov/hunter-secretary-carter-show-world-we-wont-tolerate-afghan-child-rape

~~~

 

One Night At The Stone Fox

~ I ~

The Boys

And Mission Gorge

     Tonight was going to be a big night for Pee Wee Johnson.  He sat at the stage, near the side door, and watched the young woman dance.  Tonight was going to be his molotoff cocktail ~ no matter what.

     His finger slipped a tremble around the rim of his half-full beer glass.  The go-go music to which the half-naked dancer was blooming like a fast motion rose, was nothing compared to the drums pounding in Pee Wee’s head.

     A thousand drums.

     There were two other young men sitting at the stage.  They were alone too ~ just like Pee Wee.  One of the two was Nick Bogie.  The other was Slim Chance.  These three boys visited the place regularly.  The place was The Stone Fox.

     “When you go to the bathroom, woman, let me know, ’cause I wanna eat the peanuts out of your shit!” yelled Nick Bogie at the strutting dancer.  He laughed like a loud joke in the middle of a vegetable garden.

     The dancer stuck her tongue out at him and made a prancing detour on the stage.

     Slim Chance watched and that was all.  His glass was empty.  A sensuously dressed working girl walked up behind him ~ perfectly.  “Want another beer?”

     Slim nodded.

     The topless go-go girl on the stage did her thing, her routine and her bread.  She was dynamite.  She was also exhausted.  It was almost midnight on a slow Monday.

     The music boomed.

     The drums in Pee Wee Johnson’s head banged along.  The dancer tossed a quick glance at Pee Wee.  He was a very short guy, maybe four feet high when he stood tall as he could and in elevator shoes.  The dancer rolled her eyeballs.  She couldn’t believe what she saw in Pee Wee’s eyes.  She did a special wiggle, shot another glance at him.  God, the little squirt looked unusually mean tonight (because, you see, tonight was his night for real action).

     “You’re giving me a heart attack, woman!”  yelled Nick Bogie at the dancer.  She smiled.  “In my pants!” snidely added Bogie.

     Crude bastard.

     He was a big guy.  A handsome guy.  And pretty drunk.  You see, he was having trouble at home.  His wife didn’t like him anymore.  Like mad he wanted to ask the dancer out to dinner.  But he just couldn’t get serious enough in this place.

     But Pee Wee Johnson was very serious, sitting over by the side door.

     Mission Gorge, by the way, was the name of the dancer.

~

~ II ~

Pee Wee Makes His Move

     The place rocked on.  The bartender let the beer flow.  The bouncer sat slumped over in the corner, bored, wishing he didn’t have to constantly put up with “flakey chicks.”  While Mission Gorge stomped her third song away on the stage, the other girls, “flakey chicks,” kept the glasses full and the pitchers too.

     Slim Chance also wanted to ask Mission Gorge out for dinner but figured it was hopeless.  A year ago he had caught a venereal desease that would stay with him until the day he died.  What was the point in asking a woman out to dinner, he figured, if there was no possibility of a screwing ~ some day?  So his entire life was hopeless.  Forever he would just sit and watch.

     Mission Gorge buttoned up and darted off the stage.  Quiet moments passed.  “You’re up, Sheila!”  moaned the bouncer.

     Sheila ascended the stage, pushed the buttons to her selected hit tunes and commenced in doing her thing just as Mission Gorge had done hers ~ about 100 times a night it seemed to these young women.

     Mission Gorge shyly dashed across the saloon, flashed by Slim Chance and Nick Bogie, her skin a glow, crispy light hair a flowin’ down her back, a ghost like look of prettiness on her face.  Her eyes swung around like machine guns aiming at empty beer glasses in the dim light ~ and full ash trays.  She was a gorgeous portrait etched in lightning.  She was always too quick.

     But not tonight.

     “Mission!” called Pee Wee, as she was about to flash by him too.  She detoured on over, cautiously, as if Pee Wee was a dangerous dreamer who thought he loved her.  And that’s exactly what he was!

     Gently he took her arm in his hand.  Nice.  Then his fingers went tight like a vice.  Mission Gorge locked her eyes onto his ~ saw his bright red desperation.  Her eyes grew wide with fear.  The gleam in his eye was too damn serious!  The world stood stark raving still for half a second.

     “What?” Mission Gorge managed to ask.

     “Oh nothin’,” said Pee Wee.  He picked her up in his arms and smashed out the side door into the night.

~

~ III ~

Prelude To The Kidnapping

Of Mission Gorge

     A few months earlier ~

     Pee Wee Johnson was sitting before the lone window in his hole-in-the-wall, watching the sun go down, when he decided he was so lonely and horny that he wanted to die.

     He had worked hard all day long on his job.  He lit a small cigar.  He watched the sun sink.  He partook of a gulp of cold beer from the can in his hand.  He listened to the cowboy music on his cheap little stereo.  A puff of tobacco smoke from his cigar somersaulted against the window and bloomed into nothing.

     “Shit, I wanna die,” he muttered.  But he got up and pedaled his bicycle to a local go-go bar instead ~ The Stone Fox.

     He ordered a pitcher of beer and watched the girls dance topless.  Then Mission Gorge stepped on stage.  He was in love.

     She wasn’t the prettiest.  She wasn’t the best dancer.  But Pee Wee liked the way she moved ~ quick, haughty, and she did funny things ~ funny things like wearing Slim Chance’s hat on her breasts as she danced, and balancing Nick Bogie’s tossed quarters on her nipples after the hat fell off.  There were two real sad looking dudes sitting at the stage and she had them laughing in no time.

     And Pee Wee too.

     He became a regular.  He wanted to ask Mission Gorge out to dinner just like Nick Bogie and Slim Chance ~ and two dozen other guys.  But this go-go bar just wasn’t Pee Wee’s territory.  And Mission Gorge was always too quick to ask out ~ always passed by in a flash ~

     A portrait etched in lightning.

     And anyway, Pee Wee was a Negro ~ a Negro who liked cowboy music.  What a drag!

     One night he looked at himself in the long mirror on the closet door in his hole-in-the-wall.  He was just four feet tall ~ in elevator shoes.  Women just didn’t see anything in this city except how tall you were.  Yet Pee Wee was determined to not go to bed with Jose, the Mexican homo.

     “Shit,” moaned Pee Wee.  A tear rolled down his cheek.  He put on some of that fine shit-kicking music ~ got out a book.

     He read the book for a while.  And had an idea.  He slammed the book down on the table and gritted at the walls, “Guts!”

~

~ IV ~

The Quiet Ride

     The big ol’ bouncer bolted to his feet and hollered, “Mission Gorge!  She’s been carried away!  By that little, little ~ ” He couldn’t finish what he was saying ~ sprinted for the side door.

     “Bastard!” growled the bartender.  He knocked over a pitcher of beer, screeched around the corner of the bar like a dragster (with smoking heels instead of tires) and followed the bouncer out the side door.

     Nick Bogie jumped across the stage and dove out the side door after them.

     Even passive Slim Chance ~ out the side door.

     With his 100-pound load and an “umph!” Pee Wee waddled across the street to a parked rented car.

     “What are you doing?” screamed Mission Gorge in his arms, wondering whether or not she should laugh.  Pee Wee was pretty strong for such a little guy.

     “Nothin’,” gritted Pee Wee and threw her in the driver’s side of the car.  She bumped her head.  He hopped in after her and slammed the door shut, locked it as the bouncer grabbed the exterior handle.  Mission Gorge decided not to laugh after her bump on the head and threw herself against the other door.  The inside handle had been removed.

     “Damn,” she moaned and turned to Pee Wee.  “You better let me out of here or I’ll bust your balls!”

     Pee Wee started the engine and his rented car ~ a ’79 Buick with a tired automatic transmission ~ screeched away amidst burning rubber and exhaust and night time neon ~ through a red light.  The bouncer bounced off the bumper and fell in the gutter next to an empty half-pint whiskey bottle.

     The bartender, meanwhile, hustled back inside to the telephone, of course, to call the cops.

     Nick Bogie and Slim Chance stood side by side on the sidewalk and scratched their heads in the night.

     “Damn nigger,” muttered Nick Bogie with his chest out.

     “Takes courage to do that,” said Slim Chance.  He pulled his hat down in a philosophical way.

     The bouncer was on his feet, in about half a second was seated in the driver’s seat of his own slick sports car ~ a late-model deep-sea blue jaguar ~ and in hot pursuit.

     But Pee Wee lost him.

     And the cops never got there.

     The passing neon lights of the city caressed the flushed cheek of the Stone Fox starlet.  The handle to the window on that side of the car had been removed also.  Pee Wee rolled down his own window and smiled.

     “Hi, Mission,” he said.

     She glared at him in disbelief.  But the sudden quiet in the car, like nicely chilled milk, poured into her ears, filled up an empty soul, after having spent so many hours in that damn bar.  She decided to kick back and enjoy the subdued poetry of the situation.

     After a long moment she smiled nervously.  “Hello, Pee Wee.”

     He glanced at her, stretched his arm across the top of the steering wheel ~ relaxed.  “I’ve never seen you smile like that before.”

     “We’ve never been this close to each other with nobody else around.”

     Pee Wee nodded.

     They rolled along ~ hit a freeway ramp ~ speeded up.  Pee Wee rolled the window up ~ opened the wing-a-ding.

     “How come you did that?” asked Mission Gorge.

     “Did what?”

     “Kidnapped me!”  She laughed.

     “Well.”  Pee Wee pondered.  “Well.  I wanna ask you out to dinner.  But I can never get myself to do it at the Stone Fox ~ which happens to be the only place I ever see you at.  So I had to get you outta that place some how.  And so ~ ”  He reached over to the glove compartment, opened it.  And stuck a cigarette into Mission Gorge’s mouth ~ her favorite brand.  He lit it for her with the car’s cigarette lighter.

     “Thank you,” said the young lady.  She opened the wing-a-ding on her side of the car.  She blew a slow stream of smoke out in front of her face.  “It feels good to sit down,” she said.

     Pee Wee smiled.  “Will you go out to dinner with me?”

     “No.”

     Pee Wee’s smile disappeared.  “Why not?”

     “I’ve got two kids and an old man,” said Mission Gorge.

     “Oh.”  Pee Wee slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand.  “I should have known!”

     “Good try, Pee Wee.  Real Good.”

     “Is he a good old man?”

     “He’s okay.”  Her eyes went neon.

     They zoomed along the freeway into the night, surrounded by emptiness, plenty of room for talk.

     “You see, Pee Wee, all you guys back at the club, you all are patrons.  I’ve gotta keep my distance.  Mission Gorge isn’t even my real name!  I dance for you and serve you.  You pay for my bread and my shed ~ and the shed I have is some pretty nice shelter.  Understand?”

     “Yeah.”

     “Now I gotta get back to work.”

     “What for?  Why don’t you take the rest of the night off?”

     “‘Cause I’m getting nervous.”

     Pee Wee Johnson re-navigated the vessel toward Mission Gorge’s harbor of labor.  They sailed in silence.  A few blocks away from their destination Mission suddenly said, “Stop the car.”

     He did.

     She slid over, put her arms around his neck and gave him a long slow kiss.  Pee Wee Johnson, to say the least, was surprised.  It was a kiss to be reckoned with.  It was a kiss that could re-write encyclopedias ~ and inspire clouds in the sky to “moo” like cows.

     Later that night ~

     When Pee Wee was walking the path to his hole-in-the-wall, he was greeted in the shadows by Jose, the Mexican homo.

     “Hello, handsome,” coo-ed Jose.

     “What’s happening?” muttered Pee Wee.

     “Ohhhhhhh, not much,” coo-ed Jose.  He rested his hand on the little negro’s shoulder.

     Ordinarily Pee Wee would have stiffened.  But tonight he settled back on his heels, gazed up into the dark taunting eyes of Jose.  Upon the smaller fellow’s lips a little smile began to play.  Pee Wee’s hand near his hip rolled itself into a tight fist.  He brought it way way way back ~

     And decked the batata.

~

~

fiction by Rawclyde!

1980

pretty gal photos courtesy of Anja Rubik        ~         text copyright Clyde Collins 1989 2010

Obama Lights Up

* * *

October 15, 2015

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON AFGHANISTAN

Roosevelt Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Last December — more than 13 years after our nation was attacked by al Qaeda on 9/11 — America’s combat mission in Afghanistan came to a responsible end.  That milestone was achieved thanks to the courage and the skill of our military, our intelligence, and civilian personnel.  They served there with extraordinary skill and valor, and it’s worth remembering especially the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

I visited our troops in Afghanistan last year to thank them on behalf of a grateful nation.  I told them they could take great pride in the progress that they helped achieve.  They struck devastating blows against the al Qaeda leadership in the tribal regions, delivered justice to Osama bin Laden, prevented terrorist attacks, and saved American lives.  They pushed the Taliban back so the Afghan people could reclaim their communities, send their daughters to school, and improve their lives.  Our troops trained Afghan forces so they could take the lead for their own security and protect Afghans as they voted in historic elections, leading to the first democratic transfer of power in their country’s history.

Today, American forces no longer patrol Afghan villages or valleys.  Our troops are not engaged in major ground combat against the Taliban.  Those missions now belong to Afghans, who are fully responsible for securing their country.

But as I’ve said before, while America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures.  As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.  Our forces therefore remain engaged in two narrow but critical missions — training Afghan forces, and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda.  Of course, compared to the 100,000 troops we once had in Afghanistan, today fewer than 10,000 remain, in support of these very focused missions.

I meet regularly with my national security team, including commanders in Afghanistan, to continually assess, honestly, the situation on the ground — to determine where our strategy is working and where we may need greater flexibility.  I have insisted, consistently, that our strategy focus on the development of a sustainable Afghan capacity and self-sufficiency.  And when we’ve needed additional forces to advance that goal, or we’ve needed to make adjustments in terms of our timetables, then we’ve made those adjustments.  Today, I want to update the American people on our efforts.

Since taking the lead for security earlier this year, Afghan forces have continued to step up.  This has been the first fighting season where Afghans have largely been on their own.  And they are fighting for their country bravely and tenaciously.  Afghan forces continue to hold most urban areas.  And when the Taliban has made gains, as in Kunduz, Afghan forces backed by coalition support have been able to push them back.  This has come at a very heavy price.  This year alone, thousands of Afghan troops and police have lost their lives, as have many Afghan civilians.

At the same time, Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be.  They’re developing critical capabilities — intelligence, logistics, aviation, command and control.  And meanwhile, the Taliban has made gains, particularly in rural areas, and can still launch deadly attacks in cities, including Kabul.  Much of this was predictable.  We understood that as we transitioned, that the Taliban would try to exploit some of our movements out of particular areas, and that it would take time for Afghan security forces to strengthen.  Pressure from Pakistan has resulted in more al Qaeda coming into Afghanistan, and we’ve seen the emergence of an ISIL presence.  The bottom line is, in key areas of the country, the security situation is still very fragile, and in some places there is risk of deterioration.

Fortunately, in President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah there is a national unity government that supports a strong partnership with the United States.  During their visit earlier this year, President Ghani and I agreed to continue our counterterrorism cooperation, and he has asked for continued support as Afghan forces grow stronger.

Following consultations with my entire national security team, as well as our international partners and members of Congress, President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, I’m therefore announcing the following steps, which I am convinced offer the best possibility for lasting progress in Afghanistan.

First, I’ve decided to maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, 2016.  Their mission will not change.  Our troops will continue to pursue those two narrow tasks that I outlined earlier — training Afghan forces and going after al Qaeda.  But maintaining our current posture through most of next year, rather than a more rapid drawdown, will allow us to sustain our efforts to train and assist Afghan forces as they grow stronger — not only during this fighting season, but into the next one.

Second, I have decided that instead of going down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, we will maintain 5,500 troops at a small number of bases, including at Bagram, Jalalabad in the east, and Kandahar in the south.

Again, the mission will not change.  Our troops will focus on training Afghans and counterterrorism operations.  But these bases will give us the presence and the reach our forces require to achieve their mission.  In this sense, Afghanistan is a key piece of the network of counterterrorism partnerships that we need, from South Asia to Africa, to deal more broadly with terrorist threats quickly and prevent attacks against our homeland.

Third, we will work with allies and partners to align the steps I am announcing today with their own presence in Afghanistan after 2016.  In Afghanistan, we are part of a 42-nation coalition, and our NATO allies and partners can continue to play an indispensable role in helping Afghanistan strengthen its security forces, including respect for human rights.

And finally, because governance and development remain the foundation for stability and progress in Afghanistan, we will continue to support President Ghani and the national unity government as they pursue critical reforms.  New provincial governors have been appointed, and President Ghani is working to combat corruption, strengthen institutions, and uphold rule of law.  As I told President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah yesterday, efforts that deliver progress and justice for the Afghan people will continue to have the strong support of the United States.  And we cannot separate the importance of governance with the issues of security.  The more effective these reforms happen, the better off the security situation is going to be.

We also discussed American support of an Afghan-led reconciliation process.  By now it should be clear to the Taliban and all who oppose Afghanistan’s progress the only real way to achieve the full drawdown of U.S. and foreign troops from Afghanistan is through a lasting political settlement with the Afghan government.  Likewise, sanctuaries for the Taliban and other terrorists must end.  Next week, I’ll host Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan, and I will continue to urge all parties in the region to press the Taliban to return to peace talks and to do their part in pursuit of the peace that Afghans deserve.

In closing, I want to speak directly to those whose lives are most directly affected most by the decisions I’m announcing today.  To the Afghan people, who have suffered so much — Americans’ commitment to you and to a secure, stable and unified Afghanistan, that remains firm.  Our two nations have forged a strategic partnership for the long term.  And as you defend and build your country, today is a reminder that the United States keeps our commitments.

And to our men and women in uniform — I know this means that some of you will rotate back into Afghanistan.  With the end of our combat mission, this is not like 2010, when nearly 500 Americans were killed and many more were injured.  But still, Afghanistan remains dangerous; 25 brave Americans have given their lives there this year.

I do not send you into harm’s way lightly.  It’s the most solemn decision I make.  I know the wages of war in the wounded warriors I visit in the hospital and in the grief of Gold Star families.  But as your Commander-in-Chief, I believe this mission is vital to our national security interests in preventing terrorist attacks against our citizens and our nation.

And to the American people — I know that many of you have grown weary of this conflict.  As you are well aware, I do not support the idea of endless war, and I have repeatedly argued against marching into open-ended military conflicts that do not serve our core security interests.

Yet given what’s at stake in Afghanistan, and the opportunity for a stable and committed ally that can partner with us in preventing the emergence of future threats, and the fact that we have an international coalition, I am firmly convinced that we should make this extra effort.  In the Afghan government, we have a serious partner who wants our help.  And the majority of the Afghan people share our goals.  We have a bilateral security agreement to guide our cooperation.  And every single day, Afghan forces are out there fighting and dying to protect their country.  They’re not looking for us to do it for them.

I’m speaking of the Afghan army cadet who grew up seeing bombings and attacks on innocent civilians who said, “because of this, I took the decision to join the army, to try and save innocent people’s lives.”  Or the police officer training to defuse explosives.  “I know it’s dangerous work,” he says, but “I have always had a dream of wearing the uniform of Afghanistan, serving my people and defending my country.”

Or the Afghan commando, a hardened veteran of many missions, who said, “If I start telling you the stories of my life, I might start crying.”  He serves, he said, because, “the faster we bring peace, the faster we can bring education, and the stronger our unity will grow.  Only if these things happen will Afghanistan be able to stand up for itself.”

My fellow Americans, after so many years of war, Afghanistan will not be a perfect place.  It’s a poor country that will have to work hard on its development.  There will continue to be contested areas.  But Afghans like these are standing up for their country.  If they were to fail, it would endanger the security of us all.  And we’ve made an enormous investment in a stable Afghanistan.  Afghans are making difficult but genuine progress.  This modest but meaningful extension of our presence — while sticking to our current, narrow missions — can make a real difference.  It’s the right thing to do.

May God bless our troops and all who keep us safe.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Q    Mr. President, can you tell us how disappointing this decision is for you?  Is this — can you tell us how disappointing this decision is for you?

THE PRESIDENT:  This decision is not disappointing.  Continually, my goal has been to make sure that we give every opportunity for Afghanistan to succeed while we’re still making sure that we’re meeting our core missions.

And as I’ve continually said, my approach is to assess the situation on the ground, figure out what’s working, figure out what’s not working, make adjustments where necessary.  This isn’t the first time those adjustments have been made; this won’t probably be the last.

What I’m encouraged by is the fact that we have a government that is serious about trying to deliver security and the prospects of a better life for the Afghan people.  We have a clear majority of the Afghans who want to partner with us and the international community to achieve those goals.  We have a bilateral security arrangement that ensures that our troops can operate in ways that protect them while still achieving their mission.  And we’ve always known that we had to maintain a counterterrorism operation in that region in order to tamp down any reemergence of active al Qaeda networks, or other networks that might do us harm.

So this is consistent with the overall vision that we’ve had.  And, frankly, we anticipated, as we were drawing down troops, that there would be times where we might need to slow things down or fill gaps in Afghan capacity.  And this is a reflection of that.  And it’s a dangerous area.

So part of what we’re constantly trying to balance is making sure that Afghans are out there, they’re doing what they need to do, but that we are giving them a chance to succeed and that we’re making sure that our force posture in the area for conducting those narrow missions that we need to conduct, we can do so relatively safely.  There are still risks involved, but force protection, the ability of our embassies to operate effectively — those things all factor in.

And so we’ve got to constantly review these approaches.  The important thing I want to emphasize, though, is, is that the nature of the mission has not changed.  And the cessation of our combat role has not changed.

Now, the 25 military and civilians who were killed last year, that always weighs on my mind.  And 25 deaths are 25 too many, particularly for the families of the fallen.  But understand, relative to what was involved when we were in an active combat role and actively engaged in war in Afghanistan was a very different scenario.

So here, you have a situation where we have clarity about what our mission is.  We’ve got a partner who wants to work with us.  We’re going to continually make adjustments to ensure that we give the best possibilities for success.  And I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next President.  And as conditions improve, we’ll be in a position to make further adjustments.

But I’m absolutely confident this is the right thing to do.  And I’m not disappointed because my view has always been how do we achieve our goals while minimizing the strain and exposure on our men and women in uniform, and make sure that we are constantly encouraging and sending a message to the Afghan people, this is their country and they’ve got to defend it, but we’re going to be a steady partner for them.

Thank you, everybody.

END                                        11:22 A.M. EDT