By Jueseppi B.
President Obama Slips Into Afghanistan to Visit US Troops
Published on May 25, 2014
President Barack Obama secretly slipped into Afghanistan under the cover of darkness Sunday for a weekend visit with U.S. troops serving in the closing months of America’s longest war. (May 25)
President Obama, in Afghanistan, says he will make troop announcement soon
(Reuters) – 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 reason for his trip was to discuss the U.S. footprint for the rest of this year – when the bulk of troops are scheduled to be withdrawn – and afterward.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 the main U.S. base in Afghanistan for a brief, surprise visit.
The trip on Memorial Day weekend, his fourth visit to Afghanistan, comes as Obama is buffeted by criticism at home that his handling of foreign policy has been too passive in dealing with crises from Syria to Ukraine and Russia. 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.” He was also set to visit wounded soldiers.
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.
Wearing an Air Force One bomber jacket, Obama was also joined by national security adviser Susan Rice and special counselor John Podesta, who has a son stationed in Afghanistan.
On Memorial Day Eve, President Obama Visits Troops In Afghanistan
By EYDER PERALTA
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.
He then brought the story full circle. He talked about visiting the Sept. 11 memorial in New York City.
“We resolved to never forget and do everything in our power to prevent this from happening again,” he said. “This is why you are here.”
Obama said that it was U.S. troops and American civilians that helped put al-Qaida on “its heels in this part of the world.” It was American intervention that brought democratic reform and advances in public health, literacy and education for women.
“Even with all the challenges,” Obama said, “more Afghans have hope for their future and that is because of you.”
NPR’s Scott Horsley, who is traveling with the president, reports Obama also received an on-site briefing from his military commanders and will visit wounded servicemen on the base.
“The show of support for men and women in uniform comes as Obama is trying to tamp down criticism at home over the treatment of veterans seeking care at VA hospitals. In his weekly address Saturday, the president said the nation must work harder to ensure that military veterans get the benefits they’ve earned. ‘They’ve done their duty,’ he said, ‘and they ask nothing more than that this country does ours.’
“On Wednesday, Obama is set to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. That’s the setting where in 2009 he announced a troop surge that pushed U.S. force levels in Afghanistan to a peak of 100,000, while also setting a timetable for withdrawal. The president now has to decide whether any U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, with the limited mission of supporting Afghan forces and battling terrorists. Any such residual force is contingent on agreement from the next Afghan president.”
The Los Angeles Times spoke to a “senior advisor” who gave the paper a preview of the speech Obama is expected to deliver on Wednesday.
The paper reports that Obama will outline a second-term foreign policy that is “interventionist and internationalist, but not isolationist or unilateral.”
The paper adds:
“Obama believes that ‘we need to put that to use in an international system that is sustainable and enduring,’ the advisor said, ‘and that can address challenges, from traditional ones like maritime and trade issues, to emerging ones like climate change.’
“Obama sees the U.S. moving out of a period of war and entering a new one marked by different global priorities, advisors say.”
Update at 3:05 p.m. ET. Additional Clarity To Come:
During a press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to Afghanistan, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said President Obama wanted to meet with his ambassador and general face-to-face before making a decision on what troop levels should look like after 2014.
Rhodes was asked if he had made a decision regarding the troop level. He said:
“He has not made the decision yet. Again, I think he wanted to — he’s been consulting with his national security team. We had a NSC meeting on this topic recently. Again, he’ll be meeting General Dunford and Ambassador Cunningham.
“I do think that — I’d say a number of things. Number one, of course we still need a BSA to have troops here post-2014, although, again, both candidates have expressed their support for such a BSA. Secondly, I think that you can expect to hear additional clarity from the President about his thinking on Afghanistan in the coming days. He obviously has a series of speeches and engagements on national security, and he’ll certainly want to talk about Afghanistan in the context of the future of America’s foreign policy and national security priorities. And there’s a NATO Defense Ministerial on June 4th, where we will be coordinating with the Alliance. So you should expect to hear more from the President on Afghanistan after this trip.”
President Obama to Make Decisions Soon on Afghanistan
Published on May 25, 2014
On a surprise visit to Afghanistan, President Barack Obama promised a decision soon on keeping a small contingent of troops in Afghanistan to help protect gains made over nearly 13 years of combat. (May 25)
President Obama Visits Troops In Afghanistan
Soldier documents fields of battle and of food in tintypes
Published on May 25, 2014
When Ed Drew was posted to Afghanistan, he took his tintype camera with him. Using the same techniques that created indelible images of the Civil War, Drew documented his colleagues in Afghanistan. Today, Drew chronicles a garden project for at-risk youth near his home town.
AP Top Stories for May 25….Love The AP minute:
Published on May 25, 2014
Here’s the latest news for Sunday, May 25, 2014: President Obama visits Afghanistan; manifes of suspected shooter Elliot Rodger; Pope Francis tours Holy Land tour; and on Memorial Day weekend, Rolling Thunder Review roars through Washington.
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