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Obama lays framework for 2012 foreign-policy message

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- In a speech before the American Legion, President Obama laid the framework for his message on foreign policy as he runs for reelection. While praising the military, he touted accomplishments during his administration, including killing Osama bin Laden, ousting Moammar Khaddafy, ending the war in Iraq, and drawing down in Afghanistan.

He said current U.S. forces “have earned their place among the greatest of generations.” And he praised its accomplishments under the Bush administration, including “toppling the Taliban in just weeks,” “driving al Qaeda from the training camps where they plotted 9/11,” “giving the Afghan people the opportunity to live free from terror,” as well as ousting Saddam Hussein “in less than a month.”

But he also noted, “When a resurgent Taliban threatened to give al Qaeda more space to plot against us, the additional forces I ordered to Afghanistan went on the offensive—taking the fight to the Taliban, pushing them out of their safe havens, allowing Afghans to reclaim their communities and training Afghan forces.  And a few months ago, our troops achieved our greatest victory yet in the fight against those who attacked us on 9/11—delivering justice to Osama bin Laden in one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in American history.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also spoke on foreign policy at the VFW convention in San Antonio and criticized the president, whom he charged addresses “the world with an apology on his lips and doubt in his heart.”

Obama instead said the U.S. is “moving forward from a position of strength,” thanks to U.S. soldiers. And “America’s military is the best that it’s ever been.”

Romney said of Obama’s leadership on Libya: "Our involvement in Libya was marked by inadequate clarity of purpose before we began the mission, mission muddle during the operation, and ongoing confusion as to our role in the future.”

But Obama praised the role of the U.S. military there: “We saw that most recently in the skill and precision of our brave forces who helped the Libyan people finally break free from the grip of Moammar Khaddafy.”

Obama also promised again that he will “remove the rest of our troops [from Iraq] by the end of this year and end that war.” And on Afghanistan, he promised that “we’ll bring home 33,000 troops by next summer and bring home more troops in the coming years. “ He added that the mission there is transitioning “from combat to support” and that “Afghans will take responsibility for their own security.”

He also assured the assembled group of veterans that even with “hard fiscal choices” ahead, he would strive to make sure the U.S. military continues to be “the best-trained, the best-led, the best-equipped fighting force in history.”

He called upholding “trust” with veterans a “moral obligation” for his administration. “That’s why my very first budget included the largest percentage increase to the VA budget in the past 30 years,” he said. 

During the speech he, once again, called for an end to “gridlock in Washington “so as to speed up job creation and repeated that he would speak to the nation about a jobs plan sometime next week.

The president’s remarks moved beyond economic generalities when he called upon Congress to pass two initiatives that the White House has designed to help returning veterans find jobs.  The “Returning Heroes Tax Credit” would benefit companies that hire unemployed veterans and another tax credit would aide companies that hire disabled veterans. 

“When Congress returns from recess, this needs to be at the top of their agenda,” he said. “For the sake of our veterans, for the sake of our economy, we need these veterans working and contributing and creating the new jobs and industries that will keep America competitive in the 21st Century.”

When acknowledging the upcoming 10th anniversary of Sept. 11th, he asked for those who’ve served in Afghanistan and Iraq to stand and promised to end the Iraq war by the close of 2011.

And the president received his largest reaction, from a fairly calm crowd, when he spoke of sending condolence letters to the families of service members who’ve committed suicide.

“The days when depression and PTSD were stigmatized, those days must end,” Obama said. “That's why I made the decision to start sending condolence letters to the families of service members who take their lives while deployed in a combat zone. These Americans did not die because they were weak. They were warriors.”