Watch videos of President Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan today and read the transcript of his address to the American people tonite inside the blog.
"As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline. The answer is clear: our goal is not to build a country in America's image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and many more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that. Afghans want to fully assert their sovereignty and build a lasting peace. That requires a clear timeline to wind down the war. Others will ask why we don't leave immediately. That answer is also clear: we must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise, our gains could be lost, and al Qaeda could establish itself once more. And as Commander-in-Chief, I refuse to let that happen.
"I recognize that many Americans are tired of war. As President, nothing is more wrenching than signing a letter to a family of the fallen, or looking in the eyes of a child who will grow up without a mother or father. I will not keep Americans in harm's way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly."
~ President Obama speaking to the nation from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan
Wars usually end in one of two ways – victory or defeat.
World War II ended with a ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri, with Japanese foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signing a document of surrender, which U.S. General Douglas MacArthur accepted.
On the other hand, the war in Vietnam ended with a frantic two-day evacuation of U.S. diplomatic and military personnel from the Embassy in Saigon, culminating in the final helicopter leaving the roof with Vietnamese civilians hanging from the skids.
The “official end” of the war in Iraq was neither of these