Obama’s Surprise Afghanistan Visit: Thanks Troops for ‘Tremendous Sacrifices’
March 28, 2010
(ChattahBox)— As far as reporters knew, President Obama and his family were spending a quiet weekend at Camp David. But in reality, Obama and a contingent of aides, including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod made a surprise visit to Afghanistan. Obama met with President Karzai for talks and he addressed the troops, telling them, “There is no visit I consider more important than the visit I am making right now.”
When the president arrived in Kabul, he was greeted with a red-carpet ceremony, including an Afghan color guard. Both Obama and Karzai made brief statements from the presidential palace. Karzai thanked Obama for making the trip, saying he wanted to “express the gratitude of our people for the help that America has given us for the last eight years.”
President Obama, said Americans are “encouraged by the progress that’s been made” in Afghanistan, pointing out the increased electricity production.
This is Obama’s first visit to Afghanistan as president and White House officials say he had been planning for the trip, since he deployed an additional 30,000 troops to the region in December.
According to the Washington Post, the purpose of the trip was to thank the troops for their sacrifices, as Commander-in-Chief and to exert additional pressure on Karzai to put together a full cabinet:
“National Security adviser Jim Jones, who is on the trip, said Obama would “engage President Karzai” after his recent re-election “to make him understand that in his second term, there are certain things that have been not paid attention to, almost since day one.” Among those items, Jones said, are “a merit-based system for appointment of key government officials, battling corruption, taking the fight to the narco-traffickers, which … provides a lot of the economic engine for the insurgents.”‘
When addressing the troops, President Obama mentioned the contentious political debates at home over other matters, such as healthcare, but assured the men and women in uniform their welfare remains his top priority:
“I know that sometimes, when you’re watching TV, the politics may look a little messy and people are yelling and hollering Democrats this and Republicans that,” aid Obama to the assembled troops. “I want all of you to understand there’s no daylight when it comes to supporting you. There’s no daylight when it comes to supporting our troops.”
Obama thanked the armed forces stationed in Afghanistan for their service and reminded them of their vital mission:
“One of the main reasons I’m here is to just say thank you for the incredible efforts of our U.S. troops and our coalition partners,” Obama said. “They make tremendous sacrifices far away from home, and I want to make sure they know how proud their commander-in-chief is of them, said Obama.
“We are going to disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy Al Qaeda and its extremist allies. That is our mission,” he said.
During his trip, Obama also met with U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the U.S. forces.
President Obama invited President Karzai to a state visit to the White House on May 12.
Photo Credit: AFP Photo/Jim Watson