KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) — President Barack Obama, speaking early Wednesday at the tail end of a surprise visit, discussed the exit strategy from Afghanistan and promised a steady drawdown of U.S. troops.
Obama committed to pulling 23,000 troops out of the country by the end of summer and sticking to the 2014 deadline to turn security fully over to the Afghan government. He also said that NATO will set a goal this month for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations next year.
“We must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly,” the president said during a speech at Bagram Air Base.
Earlier in the trip, which coincided with first anniversary of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed an agreement outlining cooperation between their countries once the U.S.-led international force withdraws in 2014.
“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear and have the skills to claim their dreams,” Obama said. “This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.”