President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanstan today. This is his first visit to the country since becoming president, and he said, "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. They make tremendous sacrifices far away from home, and I want to make sure they know how proud their commander-in-chief is of them."
Last December, Obama announced he would send 30,000 more troops to the country and wanted to withdraw starting by July 2011. When speaking with about 2,000 troops, Obama said, "I know it's not easy. You're far away from home. You miss your kids, you miss your spouses, your family, your friends...If I thought for a minute that America's vital interests were not served, were not at stake here in Afghanistan, I would order all of you home right away." He also spoke about progress fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban, "All of that makes America safer, and we are going to keep them on the run. Because that is what is going to be required in order to ensure that our families back home have the security that they need."
Another reason for the visit was to meet with Afghanistan's leader, President Hamid Karzai . The NY Times reports, "White House officials said before the meeting that Mr. Obama planned to press Mr. Karzai on a number of concerns, in particular the failure of Mr. Karzai to make good on promises he made to the international community on anti-corruption, governance and even reintegration with certain reconcilable members of the Taliban insurgency."
Politico gave details about the secrecy and safety concerns of the trip, "In a measure of the security challenges still facing the country, Obama left Camp David secretly Saturday night and arrived at Bagram Air Base near Kabul under cover of darkness Sunday evening. Photographers were ordered not to use flashes as Obama came off Air Force One. The small group of journalists traveling with Obama was not permitted to report on the journey until he arrived via helicopter at Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s palace in the center of Kabul."