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Sunday, March 28, 2010


President Obama visits troops in Afghanistan

President Obama praises U.S. troops during surprise Afghanistan visit; meets with Karzai

James Gordon Meek


Originally Published:Sunday, March 28th 2010, 11:53 AM
Updated: Sunday, March 28th 2010, 1:03 PM


President Obama addresses troops at Bagram Air Base. Watson/Getty

President Obama addresses troops at Bagram Air Base.

President Obama meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul.


Dharapak/APPresident Obama meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul.

WASHINGTON - President Obama flew into Afghanistan under cover of darkness Sunday for a surprise meeting with President Hamid Karzai and a pep talk for GI's.

The two leaders met in Karzai's heavily fortified presidential palace in Kabul, emerging briefly to walk a red carpet so Obama could review an Afghan honor guard standing at attention.

He later thanked U.S. troops for putting their lives on the line.

"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. "I want to make sure they know how proud their commander in chief is of them."

It was the President's first trip to wartorn Afghanistan since he was a senator running for the White House in 2008.

As President, Obama has dramatically escalated the war by adding more than 70,000 U.S. troops to the long fight, which has seen little progress since the post-Sept. 11 invasion.

Karzai said he wanted to "express the gratitude of our people for the help that America has given us for the last eight years."

Obama said Americans "are encouraged by the progress that's been made," but made it clear he also expects Karzai's government "to continue to make progress on the civilian process."

Those were code words for corruption, a topic Obama also raised in a private 30-minute face to face meeting.

Afghanistan has been looted by greedy Karzai cronies - many of whom are widely believed to be heroin traffickers.

Obama flew directly from Andrews Air Force Base in Washington to Bagram Air Base, which is 50 miles north of Kabul, the danger-fraught capital known to many foreign journalists and aid workers as "Kaboom."

He then took a chopper to the palace, touching down in Kabul around 8 p.m. local time, where he emerged with war boss Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. National Security Advisor James Jones told reporters aboard Air Force One that the President would press Karzai to clamp down on rampant corruption.

Karzai's own reelection to a new term in office recently, which disappointed the White House, was widely denounced for corruption in the balloting.

Obama will make him understand "that there are certain things he has to do as the president of his country to battle the things that have not been paid attention to almost since day one."

The two allies also will discuss reconciliation with elements of the Taliban, Jones added. The White House also said that Karzai will join Obama in Washington for talks on May 12.

There are now about 100,000 U.S. forces in the Afghan war, along with up to 40,000 NAT troops and tens of thousands of military contractors.

Obama addressed soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are part of a force that has mounted a major - and so far successful - offensive in Marjah, a Taliban-friendly town in the southern province of Helmand.

Next up, according to Gen. McChrystal, is an offensive in neighboring Kandahar, the seat of power for Mullah Omhrs Taliban.


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