By Jake Tapper and Karen Travers: Bagram Air base, Afghanistan -- Dressed in a bomber jacket in front of nearly 3,000 troops at Bagram Air Force base today, President Obama praised troops for their service in Afghanistan, saying that he is confident they will succeed in their mission.
"One year ago, I ordered additional troops to serve in this country that was the staging ground for the 9/11 attacks. All of those troops are now in place. And thanks to your service, we are making important progress. You are protecting your country. You're achieving your objectives. You will succeed in your mission," he said.
The primary purpose of Mr. Obama’s short surprise trip to Afghanistan today was to thank the troops, especially during the holiday time.
“I know it's not easy for all of you to be away from home, especially during the holidays,” the president told troops. “But here's what I want you to know. As president of the United States, I have no greater responsibility than keeping the American people secure. I could not meet that responsibility, we could not protect the American people, we could not enjoy the blessings of our liberty, without the extraordinary service that each and every one of you perform each and every day. “
Beforehand, the president visited with wounded warriors at Bagram Air Force base hospital and awarded five purpose hearts.
“I don't need to tell you this is a tough fight,” he said, mentioning his visit to the medical unit. “This is a tough business. Progress comes slow. There are going to be difficult days ahead. Progress comes at a high price.”
The president thanked the troops, adding that they can all be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control and more Afghans have a chance at a better future.
“Now, because of the service of the men and women of the United States military, because of the progress you're making, we look forward to a new phase next year: the beginning of a transition to Afghan responsibility," he said. "As we do, we continue to forge a partnership with the Afghan people for the long term. And we will never let this country serve as a safe haven for terrorists who would attack the United States of America again. That will never happen.”
Amid elections and debates, the president said the nation stands behind the troops completely and said he will do whatever it takes to make sure the strategy and the resources are available to get the job done in Afghanistan.
“I can say without hesitation that there is no division on one thing, no hesitation on one thing, and that is the uniform support of our men and women who are serving in the armed services.”
Read more about the president's trip HERE.