Obama makes surprise visit to Afghanistan to sign security agreement
On the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, U.S. President Obama lands in Afghanistan with plans to address soldiers and meet with government officials.
U.S. President Barack Obama arrivedin Afghanistan on Tuesday to sign an agreement charting futurerelations with the country, making the secret trip on the firstanniversary of the killing of Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Obama plans to deliver a televised address to Americanslater on Tuesday.
The U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement will setconditions for a U.S. presence there after a 2014 deadline forthe withdrawal of most NATO combat forces.
As he fights for his re-election, Obama is seeking toportray his foreign policy record as a success.
His re-election campaign has made bin Laden's death a keypart of that argument, and the president's visit to the countrywhere militants hatched the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks willreinforce that message. It also opens him up to criticism fromRepublicans, who say Obama has politicized bin Laden's death.
After leaving Washington under cover of darkness late onMonday and flying overnight, Obama arrived at Bagram Air Basebefore visiting Kabul.
He planned to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at hispalace and will later make remarks to troops at Bagram. FromBagram, he also plans to deliver formal remarks about theAfghanistan war.
Obama's speech will focus on the strategic partnershipagreement and is likely to put an emphasis on his plans to winddown the costly and unpopular Afghanistan war where nearly 3,000U.S. and NATO soldiers have died since the country was invadedin 2001.
After a U.S. troop increase that Obama ordered in late 2009,U.S. and NATO forces have managed to weaken Taliban militants,but the movement is far from defeated.
The White House wants to paint Obama's strategy inAfghanistan as successful, despite continued violence there andproblems with corruption that have raised concerns about thecountry's future stability
Republican Mitt Romney, Obama's likely opponent in theNovember election, has criticized Obama's handling ofAfghanistan, saying the timeline for a withdrawal will onlyembolden militants and could leave the country vulnerable to areturn to power of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan prior tothe U.S.-led invasion.
Obama plans to host NATO leaders in Chicago on May 20-21 fora summit to discuss the specifics of the troop withdrawals andlook at ways to ensure that Afghanistan does not collapse intocivil war when foreign forces leave.