WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2014 – Meeting with U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel thanked them for their sacrifices and reminded them that work remains to be done.
During a visit to Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Hagel expressed his own gratitude, along with that of the president and the American people, for the sacrifices made by service members, especially while they’re separated from their families during the holidays.
“We don’t want to see that [sacrifice] roll back downhill. We want to do everything we can to continue to support the Afghan people because, after all, this is about their future,” he added. “It’s about the future of Afghanistan, what kind of country they want for their children, what kind of values [are] important to them and how they want to live their lives.”
‘Tremendous Progress’ Over 13 Years
The secretary noted “tremendous progress” in the country over the last 13 years, especially within the Afghan national security forces. Additionally, he said, as U.S. and coalition forces transition from combat roles, it’s “important that all leaders get a better understanding of not just how it’s going, [but] what your concerns are.”
Challenges remain ahead, and the job’s not over, the secretary said.
“This is still a dangerous country in many ways,” he said. “But you don’t measure life based on one day at a time, or even one year at a time.
“Is this country better off than it was five years ago or three years ago or certainly 13 years ago?” he continued. “I think, when we apply those kinds of metrics, it’s pretty clear what the answers are.”
Hagel’s remarks came a day after he announced the delayed withdrawal of up to 1,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan during the transition to the NATO Operation Resolute Support mission, which begins Jan. 1 and will focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces.