Maggie: We are beginning with President Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan.
The president met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign what is called the Strategic Partnership Agreement, outlining the U.S – Afghanistan relationship over the next ten years. President Obama also named Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally, giving the country certain military and financial perks. Mister Obama later spoke to U.S. troops at the Bagram air field in a speech televised here at home…
President Obama: The reason that the Afghans have the opportunity for a new tomorrow is because of you. The reason America is safe is because of you.
Maggie: …And then spoke to the American public from the Bagram air field.
Obama: The goal I’ve set is to defeat al-Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild is within our reach. I will not keep Americans in harm’s way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly.
Maggie: The president made the Afghanistan trip on the anniversary of the night U.S. Navy SEALs took out the most-wanted man in the world. Osama bin Laden.
One year ago, the elite military group carried out a daring nighttime raid at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The SEALs had just forty minutes to kill bin Laden and collect as many documents, hard drives and other evidence as possible before Pakistani police arrived. The president and his cabinet watched the dangerous mission from the White House situation room.
Osama bin Laden was the leader of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, which was behind the attacks of 9-11 in 2001. And according to evidence scooped up during the raid, bin Laden, angered by what he saw as Western nations’ oppression of Islam, was plotting terrorism up until his death.
A year later, al-Qaeda remains a threat. In a video, al-Qaeda’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri is promising to quote, “do everything in order to deprive America of security.”
U.S. authorities are also keeping a close eye on a branch of al-Qaeda in the country of Yemen. The group’s leader, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone attack last fall. But Ibrahim al-Asiri, who is accused of building the underwear bomb used in the failed Christmas Day attack in 2009, is still believed to be there.
Al-Qaeda is also still trying to recruit in the U.S. and other Western countries.
“This is the crown jewel for al-Qaeda, to be able to have somebody they can trust, they can train, and then re-insert back into their homeland and carry out an attack, essentially, whenever they deem appropriate.”
Maggie: Experts say these home-grown terrorists are the biggest threat to Americans.
Just this week, an al-Qaeda follower from New York was convicted of a plot to attack subways. Another al-Qaeda member testified about plots to attack commuter trains and Walmarts.
“They understand the psyche of the West. That even a small plot that’s successful will cause huge economic disruption.”
Maggie: The killing of Osama bin Laden did strain America’s relationship with Pakistan, an important ally in the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. says Pakistan didn’t do enough to find bin Laden, who may have lived less than a hour away from the capital for years. And pakistan is angry the U.S. conducted the raid without their cooperation.