By Meghashyam Mali - 05/24/12 11:23 AM EDT
President Obama touted his administration’s foreign-policy achievements in an address to graduating cadets at the Air Force Academy, telling a new generation of military leaders the “dark cloud of war” was receding and they were entering “a different world.”
“You are the first class in nine years that will graduate into a world where there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in your lives, and thanks to Air Force personnel who did their part, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to our country,” said Obama Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colo. “We’ve put al Qaeda on the path to defeat. And you are the first graduates since 9/11 who can clearly see how we’ll end the war in Afghanistan.
The president told cadets the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would “make our military stronger.”
“Ten years of continuous military operations have stretched our forces and strained their families. Going forward, you’ll face fewer deployments. You’ll have more time to train and stay ready. That means you’ll be better prepared for the full range of missions you face,” he pledged.
The address came on the heels of a NATO summit in Chicago, where Obama and world leaders finalized plans for the Western alliance to exit all combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and hand over security operations to local Afghan forces.
In early May, Obama signed a strategic long-term partnership with Afghan President Hamid Karzai laying out the U.S. mission in the war-torn country after the departure of military forces.
Many Republican lawmakers and presumptive nominee Mitt Romney have criticized the president for establishing a timeline for Afghan withdrawal and for pulling forces from Iraq in 2011.
In his address, Obama said those decisions had helped the United States refocus its foreign policy on emerging threats and bolster its image internationally.
“Around the world, the United States is leading once more. From Europe to Asia, our alliances are stronger than ever,” said Obama. “Our ties with the Americas are deeper. We’re setting the agenda in the region that will shape our long-term security and prosperity like no other: the Asia Pacific.
“The United States is stronger and safer and more respected in the world,” he said, because the nation had “done the work of ending these wars.”