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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid