President Obama at NATO: "And Today We Stand United in Afghanistan"

White HouseAt the NATO Summit in Portugal, the chief concern was the future of Afghanistan, and the role of America and our allies in that future. At the press conference afterwards, the President explained the consensus:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon, everyone. We have just concluded an extremely productive NATO summit, and I want to thank our hosts, the government and the people of Portugal, for their hospitality in this beautiful city of Lisbon. And I thank my fellow leaders for the sense of common purpose that they brought to our work here.

For more than 60 years, NATO has proven itself as the most successful alliance in history. It’s defended the independence and freedom of its members. It has nurtured young democracies and welcomed them into Europe that is whole and free. It has acted to end ethnic cleansing beyond our borders. And today we stand united in Afghanistan, so that terrorists who threaten us all have no safe haven and so that the Afghan people can forge a more hopeful future.

At no time during these past six decades was our success guaranteed. Indeed, there have been many times when skeptics have predicted the end of this alliance. But each time NATO has risen to the occasion and adapted to meet the challenges of that time. And now, as we face a new century with very different challenges from the last, we have come together here in Lisbon to take action in four areas that are critical to the future of the alliance.

First, we aligned our approach on the way forward in Afghanistan, particularly on a transition to full Afghan lead that will begin in early 2011 and will conclude in 2014.

It is important for the American people to remember that Afghanistan is not just an American battle. We are joined by a NATO-led coalition made up of 48 nations with over 40,000 troops from allied and partner countries. And we honor the service and sacrifice of every single one.

With the additional resources that we've put in place we're now achieving our objective of breaking the Taliban’s momentum and doing the hard work of training Afghan security forces and assisting the Afghan people. And I want to thank our allies who committed additional trainers and mentors to support the vital mission of training Afghan forces. With these commitments I am confident that we can meet our objective.

Here in Lisbon we agreed that early 2011 will mark the beginning of a transition to Afghan responsibility, and we adopted the goal of Afghan forces taking the lead for security across the country by the end of 2014. This is a goal that President Karzai has put forward.

I've made it clear that even as Americans transition and troop reductions will begin in July, we will also forge a long-term partnership with the Afghan people. And today, NATO has done the same. So this leaves no doubt that as Afghans stand up and take the lead they will not be standing alone.