President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today for a firsthand look at the eight-year-old war he inherited and dramatically escalated.
After an overnight flight from Washington, the president landed in Afghanistan for a stay of just a few hours, all in darkness. He flew by helicopter from Bagram Air Field to the capital, where he was meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and with his Cabinet, at the presidential palace.
It was Obama's second stop in a war zone as commander in chief, coming about a year after a similarly secretive trip to Iraq. Karzai was notified about Obama's visit just an hour before he arrived, the White House said.
This trip, its secrecy forced by security concerns, was an extraordinary capstone to a momentous week in Obama's presidency. He achieved the most ambitious domestic policy initiative in decades with a historic health care overhaul and scored first major foreign policy achievement with a significant new arms control treaty with Russia.
In December, Obama ordered 30,000 additional forces into the fight against an entrenched Taliban insurgency that seeks to retake the control of Afghanistan that the militant group lost when the US invaded in 2001. Those new US troops are still arriving and most are expected to be in place by summer, for a full force of roughly 100,000 US troops. There were about 34,000 when Obama took office. AP