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

Sambisa Forest Stands Between Nigeria, Victory Over Boko Haram

Military takes back nearly all towns, villages in northeast, except for massive expanse of forest that spreads thousands of square kilometers over several states More

Islamic State Recruiting Stokes Fears for Parents in Georgia

Chechens are a notable part of Islamic State's gains in Syria and Iraq, and analysts fear what might happen if those fighters return to the Caucasus More

Yarmouk Camp Becomes Distant Memory for Palestinian Diaspora

Once thriving capital of Palestinian diaspora, after siege by Syrian government forces and Islamic State group, camp becomes 'deepest circle of hell' 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.
Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'i
X
Sharon Behn
April 21, 2015 9:18 PM
A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten. Sharon Behn reports on the politics of the word genocide on the 100th anniversary of the events.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video German Program Helps Migrants Overcome Traumatic Experience at Sea

Migrants fleeing poverty and violence in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia risk life and limb to reach safety in Europe. Those who have made it to European shores are traumatized by the experience. A program in Germany helps survivors overcome the trauma by giving a new perspective to their catastrophic experience. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs