Obama pledges end to Afghan war
US President Barack Obama yesterday pledged to "finish the job" and end the Afghan war, addressing the US public live from a military base in Afghanistan.
Speaking a year after Osama Bin Laden's killing, Obama thanked US troops and hailed plans to end combat operations.
He arrived in Kabul on a surprise visit lasting a few hours to sign an accord on future Afghan-US ties with President Hamid Karzai, ahead of a Nato summit.
Hours after his speech, Taliban bombers attacked a heavily fortified guesthouse used by Westerners in Kabul, announcing the start of their annual "spring offensive" in defiance of calls from US President Barack Obama.
Afghan officials said at least two suicide bombers targeted a residential compound popular with foreigners in the eastern part of the capital.
They said at least four of those killed were from a nearby school. Seventeen people were wounded. The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The Taliban said the assault was a riposte to Obama's Afghanistan visit.
Earlier, Obama said signing the pact with President Karzai was "a historic moment" for both nations.
In the speech, beamed back to prime-time evening audiences in the US, the president said that at the forthcoming Nato summit, to be held in Chicago later this month, the alliance would "set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year".
Nato has already committed to withdrawing from combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
"I will not keep Americans in harm's way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security," Obama said. "But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly."
Correspondents say Obama's words appear to be aimed at showing American voters he is pursuing a strategy to wind down the war, while reassuring Afghans in the face of a continuing Taliban insurgency.
About 23,000 of the 88,000 US troops currently in the country are expected to leave Afghanistan by the summer, with all US and Nato combat troops out by the end of 2014.
"It is time to renew America," Obama said towards the end of his remarks.
"The Iraq war is over. The number of our troops in harm's way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfil our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al-Qaeda."
During the speech, Obama outlined the agreement he had just signed with Karzai.
According to the US president, the document outlines plans for training Afghan forces and supporting counter-terrorism efforts, as well as "Afghan commitments to transparency and accountability".
Obama also spoke of a "negotiated peace" with the Taliban, saying that if insurgents broke with al-Qaeda, and followed the "path to peace", there could be reconciliation.
He also rejected calls to leave Afghanistan in advance of the 2014 Nato timeline, saying "we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly".