(NECN/NBC News: Steve Handelsman) - President Obama announced on Friday that U.S. forces in Afghanistan will turn over most combat leadership to Afghan forces -- not by summer, as the president planned, but earlier. This spring.
The president credited the U.S. military, and Afghanistan's, which he said is stepping up.
More than 11 years after the Sept. 11 attacks and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai claimed a kind of success on Friday.
“Our core objective, the reason we went to war in the first place, is now within reach, ensuring that al-Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan to launch attacks against our country,” Obama said.
That has cost more than 2,000 American lives, half a trillion dollars and $66,000. U.S. forces are still there, but not for long.
The president is accelerating his withdrawal timetable by a few months.
“Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission -- training, advising, assisting Afghan forces,” Obama said.
Finally. Afghan forces are more capable and trustworthy, said the commander in chief, and they will be able to take over and run 90 percent of operations by spring.
“Every day, more Afghans are stepping up and taking responsibility for their own security, and as they do, our troops will come home, and next year, this long war will come to a responsible end,” Obama said.
After 2014, if Obama leaves any U.S. forces, Karzai seemed to agree that they can't be subject to local law.
"I can go to the Afghan people and argue for immunity,” Karzai said.
Karzai is set to leave office in 2014, as the U.S. role in Afghanistan is set to virtually end.
What role the Taliban will play is unclear. Obama said the answer should be no role unless the Taliban renounces terrorism.