Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—January 10, 2013.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON E. PANETTA: If I could have your attention, please.
First of all, let me express how honored we are to welcome you, Mr. President, and your distinguished delegation here to the Department of Defense and to the nation’s capital.
Have we got everybody? Okay.
Again, Mr. President, let me express our honor at the opportunity to welcome you here to the Pentagon. We — we sometimes are accused of having a great deal of power and I just want to assure you that the weather was nice because I prayed a lot.
But we — we enjoyed the opportunity to be able to honor you as a distinguished visitor to the United States.
This is a — this is a wonderful opportunity, and it comes after 10 years of war, of blood, of battle, the loss of many on both sides. But — after — after a long and difficult path, we finally are, I believe, at the last chapter of establishing an Afghanistan — a sovereign Afghanistan that can govern and secure itself for the future.
I want to thank you in particular, in light of the sacrifices that have been made, of your taking the time to visit our wounded Afghan and American comrades at Walter Reed Hospital. That — that, I believe, is a reflection of your kindness and your appreciation.
When I traveled to Afghanistan last month, as I told you, I had the opportunity to meet with all of our military key leaders there. And it was clear to me from them and from the Afghans that I spoke with that what we are doing together — what we are doing in partnership is indeed succeeding.
It was equally clear to me that our partnership, forged as I said through almost 11 years of shared sacrifice, is a key to our ability to achieve the final mission. We’ve come a long way towards a shared goal of establishing a nation that you and we can be proud of, one that never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism.
This next year in Afghanistan will be a very important one, as we continue to transition security responsibility to the Afghan forces. And this coming year, we will complete that transition with tranche five.
I want to commend you on the bravery and the skill of your forces. They are demonstrating, alongside the United States and coalition forces, every day the bravery, the courage and the capability to provide the security you need in order to ensure a safe future for your nation.
I also want to assure you, my friend, that the United States and the Department of Defense are fully committed to helping the people of Afghanistan secure and govern your own country.
We — we have sacrificed together. That has created a bond that will not be broken in the future.
PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI: Thank you very much, dear friend, Secretary Panetta, for the very warm welcome today by you personally and for the very beautiful honor guard that was presented, and for receiving me and my delegation today at the Pentagon in your office.
Thank you also, Mr. Secretary, for being a friend of Afghanistan for all these years you were working at the Pentagon.
Indeed, Afghanistan and the United States have come a long way in the past 11 years, with sacrifice on both sides, of your men and women in uniform and civilians, and also of the Afghan security forces and the Afghan police.
As we move forward toward the completion of the transition, I’m glad we are going to announce the final and fifth tranche mid 2013: Afghanistan will be taking over responsibility for its own security.
And I thank you and all our allies for providing Afghanistan the assistance that was needed in the past 11 years and for training and equipping the Afghan forces.
I can assure you, Mr. Secretary, that Afghanistan will, with the help that you provide, be able to provide security to its people and to protect its borders; so Afghanistan would not ever again be threatened by terrorists from across our borders.
And I’m sure during this trip, Afghanistan and the United States will work out a modality for bilateral security agreement that will ensure the interests of Afghanistan and also the interests of the United States.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SEC. PANETTA: Thank you very much, Mr. President.