Third presidential debate transcript: President Barack Obama on the 2014 U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Excerpts from the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida on Oct. 22, 2012

Transcript of President Barack Obama’s remarks on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014: 

When I came into office, we were still bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan had been drifting for a decade. We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on Afghanistan, and we did deliver a surge of troops. That was facilitated in part because we had ended the war in Iraq.

And we are now in a position where we have met many of the objectives that got us there in the first place.

Part of what had happened is we’d forgotten why we had gone. We went because there were people who were responsible for 3,000 American deaths. And so we decimated Al Qaida’s core leadership in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We then started to build up Afghan forces. And we’re now in a position where we can transition out, because there’s no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country.

Now, that transition has to take place in a responsible fashion. We’ve been there a long time, and we’ve got to make sure that we and our coalition partners are pulling out responsibly and giving Afghans the capabilities that they need.

But what I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war it’s time to do some nation building here at home. And what we can now do is free up some resources, to, for example, put Americans back to work, especially our veterans, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools, making sure that, you know, our veterans are getting the care that they need when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, making sure that the certifications that they need for good jobs of the future are in place.

You know, I was having lunch with some — a veteran in Minnesota who had been a medic dealing with the most extreme circumstances. When he came home and he wanted to become a nurse, he had to start from scratch. And what we’ve said is let’s change those certifications. The First Lady has done great work with an organization called Joining Forces putting our veterans back to work. And as a consequence, veterans’ unemployment is actually now lower than general population. It was higher when I came into office.

So those are the kinds of things that we can now do because we’re making that transition in Afghanistan.

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