News / USA

Obama Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

Watch related video report by VOA's Michael Bowman

President Obama Makes Unannounced Trip to Afghanistani
X
Michael Bowman
May 25, 2014 9:34 PM
President Barack Obama marked America’s Memorial Day holiday with an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, where he addressed U.S. troops and met with commanders. He spent four hours meeting with troops in Afghanistan before flying to Germany to visit patients at a U.S. military hospital. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports that his trip Sunday came as America’s combat mission in Afghanistan is ending and Obama prepares to speak out on America’s future role on the world stage.
Watch related video report by VOA's Michael Bowman
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama has left Afghanistan after a 4-hour surprise visit to see American troops during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Speaking late Sunday at Bagram Airfield, the president told troops he is thankful for their service. He called them "real heroes." He also pledged to bring a “responsible end” to America’s longest war. He promised to announce “fairly shortly” how many U.S. troops will remain in the country after the current combat mission is concluded at end of this year.

Memorial Day is a time when Americans honor the country's war dead.

Obama said they are completing the U.S. mission in Afghanistan by decimating al-Qaida leaders in the tribal regions, reversing the Taliban's momentum and protecting lives back home by preventing attacks from the region.

He also said he hopes a U.S.-Afghan security agreement will be signed once a new Afghan president is sworn in.

Before leaving Afghanistan, Obama called President Hamid Karzai to praise the progress being made by security forces and the successful first round of presidential elections, and to express support for an Afghan-led reconciliation process with the Taliban. The call lasted 15 to 20 minutes according to a senior administration official.

International combat troops are set to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year. Some forces could remain in the country after December 2014 in a training and advisory role, if Afghan leaders approve the bilateral security agreement.

Country music star Brad Paisley kicked off the president's rally with a performance for some of the 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan. Paisley traveled to Bagram Airfield with the president.

Path forward

Obama said 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.
 
“For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan, and by the end of this year the transition will be complete and Afghans will take full responsibility for their security and our combat mission will be over. America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end,” said the president.
 
Obama defended his military drawdown plans, but said a smaller American military presence in Afghanistan is needed to preserve gains the country has made over the past decade in areas such as education, health, politics and security. He praised the U.S. military for playing a central role in the progress Afghans have made over the past decade.  
 
“Think about last month’s [presidential] election. Despite all the threats from the Taliban, the Afghan people refused to be terrorized," said Obama. "They registered to vote. Afghan security forces secured thousands of polling places. Then millions of Afghans lined up to cast their ballot. And next month’s run-off [election] will be another step toward the first democratic transfer of power in the history of this nation.”
 
'Passive' policy criticized

The trip comes as Obama is being hit by criticism at home that his handling of foreign policy has been too passive in dealing with crises from Syria to Ukraine and Russia.
 
U.S. President Barack Obama greets U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (C) and Gen. Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, during a surprise visit to the troops at Bagram Air Field, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014.U.S. President Barack Obama greets U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (C) and Gen. Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, during a surprise visit to the troops at Bagram Air Field, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014.
x
U.S. President Barack Obama greets U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (C) and Gen. Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, during a surprise visit to the troops at Bagram Air Field, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama greets U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (C) and Gen. Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, during a surprise visit to the troops at Bagram Air Field, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014.
He is to respond to the criticism in a speech on Wednesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
 
Obama also delivered remarks to troops at Bagram, getting hollers from the crowd as he told them, “I'm here on a single mission and that is to thank you for your extraordinary service.”
 
The president said, "Of all the honors I have as serving as president, nothing matches serving as your commander in chief. But I’m also here representing 300 million Americans who say thank you as well."
 
"When it comes to supporting you and your families, the American people stand united. We support you. We are proud of you. We stand in awe of your service," he said in a news conference monitored by VOA.
 
The president will not make a hospital visit at Ramstein air base in Germany on his return trip, as had been reported. It is a refueling stop only, and was never planned to be a hospital visit
 
Criticism leveled at administration

His trip was bound to be seen by some critics as an attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of military veterans who are alarmed at allegations that government-run medical facilities in the United States have not provided timely care for veterans.
 
At Bagram, Obama was briefed by Army Gen. 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 said the war had reached a pivotal point, with Afghan forces assuming primary responsibility for their country's security. By 2015, many of the 32,800 American forces now in Afghanistan will depart.
 
“For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan,” Obama said as hundreds of U.S. troops inside an airplane hangar erupted in applause.
 
“America's war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end,” he said.
Some information for this report was provided by VOA's Ayaz Gul in Islamabad, AP, AFP and Reuters.
 

 

 

 

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rick from: WV
May 25, 2014 6:45 PM
As a vet, I supported Obama. The little devil on one shoulder says I wish I had not because he has made the US weaker in the eyes of the world and the little angel on the other says I wish I had not because he has made the US weaker in the eyes of our own citizens. GET OUT OF Afgahnistan. To stay there to keep what little we gained is an insult. The LIES which got US there is an insult. To leave is an insult but is the ONLY option which gurantees that no more Americans are killed helping a country who WILL NOT help themselves.

by: kdl from: sw
May 25, 2014 3:24 PM
Really? Isn't it just a little insulting to be speaking publicly to veterans, given the events of the last 5 years (and more recently)? Oh wait, I almost forgot. Elections in November. Yeah. See you soon.

by: Anonymous
May 25, 2014 2:56 PM
"Once that agreement was signed, Obama said the U.S. could plan to keep a limited military presence in the country to preserve the gains U.S. forces have made after more than a decade of war."

That's not what we want Mr. President. We want an end to the wars. We want our troops pulled back to defend our own borders from a very real invasion that is happening right now. We want a sane foreign policy that doesn't get us entangled in the internal affairs of every other country in the world. We want more responsible spending from our government. We want to invest OUR tax money into OUR country - not Iraq, not Afghanistan, not Israel, or anywhere else. We need to start looking after ourselves and minding our own business.

by: Gruner from: Oklahoma
May 25, 2014 2:52 PM
Never lets an opportunity go to waste
Always decides on the basis of politcal and base messaging and benefif
Please mr obama do your job and keep your promises
You have replaces school children audiences with compelled photo ops with our troops

by: RLB from: Florida
May 25, 2014 2:49 PM
It was nothing more than a political trip. I watched the lip-service and hope that those military in Afghanistan don't expect much in support when they return because if Obama holds true to course, they'll get nothing.

by: powerandprivilege from: USA
May 25, 2014 1:09 PM
What a wonderful gesture!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More