WASHINGTON: In a letter to the American people, US President Barack Obama said on Thursday that at the end of his two four-year terms, he was confident what he was leaving behind was better than what he inherited.
“This is where America stands after eight years of progress. By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started – a situation I’m proud to leave for my successor,” he said.
In the letter, Mr Obama highlighted the 2011 commando raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden as one of the major achievements of his eight-year rule.
The outgoing US president will hand over power to president-elect Donald Trump at the swearing-in ceremony in Washington on Jan 20.
Mr Obama recalled that when he took over on Jan 20, 2009, nearly 180,000 American troops were serving in in Iraq and Afghanistan, and “the mastermind of the worst terror attack on American soil remained at large.”
Mr Obama recalled that his administration reduced US military deployment in war zones from 180,000 troops to just 15,000 and despite this reduction, the United States and its allies have successfully engaged terrorists on every front.
“Over the past eight years, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland. Plots have been disrupted. Terrorists like Osama bin Laden have been taken off the battlefield,” he said.
Mr Obama told his nation how his administration set up a coalition of more than 70 nations to fight terrorist groups like the militant Islamic State group.
“With a relentless campaign of more than 16,000 air strikes so far, we are breaking the back of ISIL (Islamic State) and taking away its safe havens, and we’ve accomplished this at a cost of $10 billion over two years – the same amount that we spent in one month at the height of the Iraq War.”
Mr Obama said that his administration also used diplomacy to reduce threats and forge new relations.
“Through diplomacy, we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our kids,” he said.
Mr Obama also took credit for turning around a shrinking US economy, which is growing at more than three percent as he prepares to leave.
“Last year, the poverty rate fell at the fastest rate in almost fifty years while the median household income grew at the fastest rate on record,” he said.
The outgoing president also defended his signature Affordable Care Act, noting that it provided health care to millions of Americans who were denied such facilities in the previous system.
“For the first time ever, more than ninety percent of Americans are insured – the highest rate ever,” he said.
“Every American with insurance is covered by the strongest set of consumer protections in history and free from the fear that illness or accident will derail your dreams.”
Such claims, however, had little impact on Mr. Trump who has pledged to undo the facility, also known as ObamaCare, as soon as he takes charge.
In a message he tweeted on Thursday, Mr. Trump reiterated his promise. “The fact is, ObamaCare was a lie from the beginning,” he said. President Obama also took credit for reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil by more than half, and for doubling the production of renewable energy.
“In many places across the country, clean energy from the wind is now cheaper than dirtier sources of energy, and solar now employs more Americans than coal mining in jobs that pay better than average and can’t be outsourced,” he said.