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Victory 'within reach', says Obama

President Barack Obama has declared that the defeat of the terrorists who attacked the US on September 11, 2001, is finally "within reach".

In an address to America from Afghanistan, Mr Obama said the tide of the war and US forces have "devastated" al Qaida's leadership. He singled out the US troops that launched the operation one year ago that killed Osama bin Laden.

Shortly after arriving in Afghanistan, Mr Obama signed a joint agreement with Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The president said the deal outlines "a future in which the war ends".

Mr Obama's speech - and his entire trip - were aimed at a domestic audience in an election year.

We can see the light of a new day on the horizon," Mr Obama said. "Our goal is to destroy al Qaida, and we are on a path to do exactly that."

The president landed in Bagram in darkness, and his helicopter roared to Kabul for the meeting with Mr Karzai, under close guard, with only the outlines of the nearby mountains visible. Later, back at the base, he was surrounded by US troops, shaking every hand.

He ended his lightning visit with the speech delivered straight to the television camera - and the voters he was trying to reach back home.

"This time of war began in Afghanistan," he said. "With faith in each other, and our eyes fixed on the future, let us finish the work at hand and forge a just and lasting peace."

It was Mr Obama's fourth trip to Afghanistan, his third as commander in chief. He was about seven hours on the ground in all. He also visited troops at a hospital at the Bagram base, awarding 10 Purple Hearts.

The written agreement that he and Mr Karzai signed is to cover the decade after the planned final withdrawal of US combat troops in 2014.

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