[Dehai-WN] Defense.gov: Panetta Issues Message to Troops Following Overseas Trip

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2011 15:36:57 +0100

Panetta Issues Message to Troops Following Overseas Trip

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2011 - Returning from a trip that included stops in
Afghanistan, Iraq, Djibouti, Lybia and Turkey, Defense Secretary Leon E.
Panetta today issued a message in which he praised the contribution of U.S.
troops and thanked them for their service.

Here is the secretary's message:

I've just returned from an extraordinary week-long trip that took me to
Djibouti, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Libya. This trip gave me the
opportunity to personally meet and thank more than 1,000 troops serving in
harm's way for their hard work and sacrifices, and to wish them all of the
best for a Happy Holidays, including a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I wish I could have had the opportunity during my first Holiday Season as
Secretary of Defense to personally meet and thank each and every one of you
who serves in this Department for everything you do to keep our country
strong and safe. With this message, I want to extend my very best for a
warm, joyous, and safe Holidays to you and your families on behalf of a
grateful nation.

As this year draws to a close, it is an opportunity to reflect on the
significant progress we have made over the last twelve months in our mission
to protect America and her interests - from the mountains of Afghanistan to
the shores of Tripoli. During my recent trip, I had the chance to see
first-hand how, because of your efforts, this year has been a turning point
for our nation, and our military, after a decade of war. All of you are
truly part of the next greatest generation that has bravely served this
nation in battle.

We have dealt heavy blows to al Qaeda and its militant allies this year -
taking down Bin Laden, Awlaki, and other top leaders and significantly
degrading their ability to launch another attack on our homeland. At Camp
Lemonier in Djibouti, I had the opportunity to thank those serving in one of
the central locations in our fight against violent extremism. Living in
austere conditions far away from home, our men and women serving in Djibouti
are helping to ensure that al Qaeda and its allies have no place to hide in
that part of the world.

The continued progress of our campaign in Afghanistan is also helping to
ensure that al Qaeda does not regain a foothold in the country where they
plotted the 9/11 attacks. During my visit to Afghanistan, I had the honor
of visiting with the soldiers of Task Force Blackhawk at FOB Sharana in
Paktika Province, an area of growing focus for our campaign against the
Taliban insurgency. In tough conditions in the dead of winter, these men
and women are taking the fight to our enemies and building up the Afghan
National Security Forces. In my conversations with these soldiers, the
sense of progress was palpable. I came away inspired by their profound
commitment to this effort - a commitment matched by the dedicated leaders of
the civil-military effort, General Allen and Ambassador Crocker.

Thanks to their efforts, we are on track and are making progress in the
transition to Afghan security lead throughout the country. Indeed, with
President Karzai's recent announcement of a second tranche of areas to
complete transition, more than 50 percent of the Afghan population will soon
live and work under the blanket of Afghan protection. I truly believe that
2011 will be seen as a critical year, having brought us closer to the common
goal of an Afghanistan that can govern and secure itself.

From Afghanistan I traveled to Iraq, where the dream of an independent and
sovereign nation has now been realized. In Baghdad, I had the profound
honor of presiding over the End of Mission ceremony, where we cased the
colors of the U.S. Forces-Iraq flag and brought the war to an honorable and
responsible end. In the company of General Dempsey, General Mattis, General
Allen and Ambassador Jeffrey, the ceremony paid tribute to the nearly 4,500
Americans who gave their lives so that Iraq could be free, and to the
sacrifices of the more than 1 million men and women in uniform who have
deployed to Iraq. This was a day to honor them, and to celebrate the new
chapter in the history of Iraq and the United States - a chapter that they
wrote oftentimes in their own blood. Iraq will be tested in the days ahead,
but they now have the opportunity to forge ahead on the path to security and
prosperity. For our part, the United States will now focus our energies on
developing a long-term strategic partnership with Iraq, one based on mutual
respect, friendship and shared interests in the region.

This has been a year of profound change not only in Iraq, but in the entire
Middle East and North Africa, where the Arab awakening has brought with it
the promise of democratic change and the prospect of turmoil and
uncertainty. From Baghdad, I traveled to Ankara to meet with the leaders of
Turkey, who have been among our most important partners in supporting the
change sweeping the region. Turkey is a key NATO ally, and I had very
productive conversations about a wide range of topics, including our efforts
to support change in Egypt and Libya, to confront the Assad regime in Syria,
and to better equip the NATO alliance to meet emerging threats.

The final stop of my trip, Tripoli, gave me an opportunity to visit the very
heart of the Arab awakening, and to pay tribute to the successful efforts of
the U.S. Armed Forces, working through NATO, to protect and support the
Libyan people in their efforts to achieve freedom from a tyrannical regime.
It was a deeply moving experience to be the first Secretary of Defense to
visit Libya, and to do so at such an important moment of transition and hope
for the Libyan people. I offered them the support of the American people in
their efforts to achieve representative government, and conveyed that
message directly to the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. My
experience in Tripoli, coupled with my visits to Iraq and Afghanistan, left
me encouraged that after ten years of war, the United States is making gains
diplomatically and militarily that strengthen the view that the best course
is to encourage and entrust nations to determine how best to govern and
secure themselves.

While in Tripoli, I also had the opportunity to visit the cemetery where the
remains of American sailors from the Intrepid who served in the Barbary Wars
more than 200 years ago are interred. The final resting place of these
heroes overlooks the shores of Tripoli - a location far from home that has
long been emblazoned in our nation's conscience.

Looking over the bustling Tripoli harbor, my thoughts turned to the profound
change that has occurred in the past year, and the essential role that all
of YOU played in helping bring these changes about. Thanks to your efforts,
and your sacrifices, the American people can gather this holiday season
knowing that the world is a more hopeful and safer place.

May God bless all of you, and the nation we serve, and may all of you and
your families have the happiest of Holidays and a Happy New Year.

 <http://www.defense.gov/bios/biographydetail.aspx?biographyid=310> Leon E.

Related Sites:
 <http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2011/1211_panetta1/> Special Report:
Travels with Panetta

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Received on Tue Dec 20 2011 - 09:36:57 EST
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