Thank you so much! Thank you. Thank you so much, everybody. Thank you. Everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat. Well, thank you so much.
Good afternoon, everybody. I was just told that was going to be the last “Hail to the Chief” on the road, and it got me kind of sentimental.
As you know all too well, your mission — and the course of history — was changed after the 9/11 attacks. By the time I took office, the United States had been at war for seven years.
The most solemn responsibility for any President is keeping the American people safe.
I came to this office with a set of core convictions that have guided me as Commander-in-Chief.
And these convictions guided the policies we pursued both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And this focus on al Qaeda — the most dangerous threat to the United States at the time — paid dividends.
Moreover, that early decision to strengthen our efforts in Afghanistan allowed us to build the capacity of Afghans to secure and defend their own country.
Now, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture. The situation in Afghanistan is still tough.
Of course, the terrorist threat was never restricted to South Asia, or to Afghanistan, or Pakistan.
There’s been a debate about ISIL that’s focused on whether a continued U.S. troop presence in Iraq back in 2011 could have stopped the threat of ISIL from growing.
In addition, maintaining American troops in Iraq at the time could not have reversed the forces that contributed to ISIL’s rise — a government in Baghdad that pursued a sectarian agenda, a brutal dictator in Syria who lost control of large parts of the country, social media that reached a global pool of recruits, and a hollowing out of Iraq’s security forces, which were ultimately overrun in Mosul in 2014.
But circumstances changed. When ISIL made substantial gains first in Mosul and then in other parts of the country, then suddenly Iraqis reached out once again for help.
We surged our intelligence resources so that we could better understand the enemy.
As we speak, ISIL faces an offensive on Mosul from Iraqi troops and coalition support.
In Libya, where U.S. airpower has helped local militias dislodge a dangerous ISIL cell.
This is your work. We should take great pride in the progress that we’ve made over the last eight years. That’s the bottom line.
Now, to say that we’ve made progress is not to say that the job is done. We know that a deadly threat persists.
These deranged killers can’t inflict the sort of mass casualties that we saw on 9/11, but the pain of those who lost loved ones in Boston, in San Bernardino, in Fort Hood and Orlando, that pain continues to this day.
So rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs, or deploying more and more troops, or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat, and we have to pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained.
Number three, we need the wisdom to see that upholding our values and adhering to the rule of law is not a weakness; in the long term, it is our greatest strength.
Consider the terrorists who have been captured, lawfully interrogated, and prosecuted in civilian courts.
Number four, we have to fight terrorists in a way that does not create more terrorists.
So the actions that we’ve taken have saved lives at home and abroad. But the point is, is that we do have to be careful to make sure that when we take actions, we’re not alienating local populations, because that will serve as recruitment for new terrorists.
Right now, we are waging war under authorities provided by Congress over 15 years ago — 15 years ago.
Number six, alongside our outstanding military work, we have to draw upon the strength of our diplomacy.
Similarly, any long-term strategy to reduce the threat of terrorism depends on investments that strengthen some of these fragile societies.
And finally, in this fight, we have to uphold the civil liberties that define us. Terrorists want us to turn on one another.
We are fighting terrorists who claim to fight on behalf of Islam. But they do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world, and they do not speak for American Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the United States of America’s military.
We’re a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted and that each of us has a responsibility to sustain it.
In other words, we are a nation that at our best has been defined by hope, and not fear.
I trust that you will fulfill that mission, as you have fulfilled all others. It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your Commander-in-Chief. I thank you for all that you’ve done, and all that you will do in the future. May God bless you. May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.
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