President Barack Obama waves as he arrives for a troop rally after arriving at Bagram Air Field for an unannounced visit, north of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Eyder Peralta: On Memorial Day Eve, President Obama Visits Troops In Afghanistan
Under the cover of darkness and on the eve of Memorial Day, President Obama landed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan for a surprise visit with U.S. troops. After a concert from country music star Brad Paisley, Obama spoke before a rally of 32,000 Americans currently serving in Afghanistan. Obama made a bit of news, saying he was hopeful that a new president in Afghanistan would lead to a signed security agreement that would leave a small number of American troops in the country after 2014. That agreement has been elusive under the government of Hamid Karzai. Obama, however, mostly focused on thanking the troops and reminding them about the beginning of America’s longest-running war.
“To all of you, I’m here on a single mission and that is to thank you for your extraordinary service,” Obama said to resounding applause. Obama got a few laughs with references to sports and his singing, but toward the middle of the address he became serious. He said the U.S. is at a pivotal moment in its mission in Afghanistan. At the moment, U.S. forces are playing a support role to Afghan security forces. By the end of the year, the U.S. combat mission will come to an end. “For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan,” Obama said, again receiving a raucous applause.
A U.S. serviceman takes a photo of U.S. President Barack Obama as he speaks to troops deployed in Afghanistan
President Barack Obama is briefed by Marine General Joseph Dunford, commander of the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham
Reuters: Obama, In Afghanistan Says He Will Make Troop Announcement Soon
President Barack Obama, on a visit to Afghanistan, said on Sunday his administration would likely announce soon how many troops the United States will keep in the country, as it winds down its presence after nearly 13 years of war. Speaking at a briefing by military commanders at Bagram Air Base, Obama said one of the reasons for his visit was to discuss the U.S. footprint for the rest of this year – when the bulk of troops are scheduled to be withdrawn – and afterward. “We’ll probably be announcing some decisions fairly shortly,” said Obama, who flew into Bagram for a brief, surprise visit. At Bagram, Obama was briefed by Army General Joseph Dunford, who heads U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham.
Obama left Washington under cover of darkness on Saturday night and flew for more than 13 hours to arrive at Bagram on Sunday night local time. He brought with him country music star Brad Paisley to provide entertainment for the troops. Obama inherited two wars from his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, when he took office for his first term in 2009. He ended U.S. involvement in Iraq, a war he opposed, and his visit to Bagram was seen as a final trip to Afghanistan to salute American forces who are to leave soon. In recent months he has recognized the valor of troops who faced combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan and earlier this month he was on hand for the formal dedication of the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York at the site where the World Trade Center towers were brought down by hijacked-plane attackers in 2001.