EL PASO, Texas -- President Obama spoke to soldiers at Fort Bliss on Friday, reiterating this Administration's commitment to the military and military veterans. There was a roundtable discussion held just before the official speech in which the president fielded concerns from a limited number of military personnel.
During fiscal year 2008, the combined number of "boots on the ground" in Iraq and Afghanistan reached a peak level of 187,900, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
Following a gradual drawdown in Iraq and an initial troop surge of more than 30,000 in Afghanistan, Obama says troop levels have decreased by nearly 66%.
"This past December, under Gen. Austin's leadership, the last American troops came home (from Iraq)" the president told the crowd.
The president tiptoed around continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, however, acknowledging that the war there is "still a tough fight." Still promising a "complete transition" by 2014 (an end to all combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan), the president was greeted by a chorus of "HUA's" (Heard Understood Acknowledged) from the gathering.
Obama also mentioned the continued reduction in number of troops in all branches of the military and the administrations focus on special operations.
"We will be a leaner military by the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars...(but) the U.S. will always maintain military superiority," he said.
Veterans' mental health, jobs for returning vets and continued funding for veteran education also were highlighted points during the president's 45-minute speech.
The total projected defense spending for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, approved along with a host of other controversial items in last years defense spending bill, seem to support the president's words.
But when the number's are crunched, only $32.7 million of the more than $60 billion in funds are directed toward "veteran employment and education counselors." The bulk of the funds are distributed among veteran medical facilities and medical care for vets.
The bill, which extended Bush-era executive branch liberties (and in many cases expanded them) has drawn the ire of many, both on Capitol Hill and in the country at large.
"He (Obama) ordered the killing of two U.S. citizens as (the) primary targets (in a counter-terrorism strike) and has then gone forward and put out a policy that allows him to kill any American citizen when he unilaterally determines them to be a terrorist threat," Georgetown University Law Professor John Turley told actor in an August 2012 phone interview
Turley is referring to the September 30, 2011, CIA orchestrated assasinations of American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both men were linked to al-Qaeda operations in government intelligence reports, but were never tried in court.
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Written By Benjamin Burton Jr.