While we’re on the subject of foreign policy…
President Obama left Andrews Air Force base just after midnight last night and arrived at the Bagram airbase just outside of Kabul, Afghanistan at 10:20 p.m. local time in a surprise visit to the war-torn country. During his visit, he is expected to sign a strategic partnership agreement shortly with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
He will make a live televised speech to the American people tonight just after 7:30 p.m. Eastern from Bagram airbase.
Presidents Obama and Karzai will reportedly sign a ten page strategic partnership agreement pledging US support for Afghanistan for a decade after 2014, the year NATO forces conclude their combat role in Afghanistan.
President Obama’s speech will be about 10 minutes long and will follow a meeting with US troops stationed at Bagram.
Senior administration officials said the timing of the trip was driven by the negotiations over the Strategic Partnership Agreement and by the desire of both presidents to sign the agreement in Afghanistan prior to the NATO summit in Chicago later this month. They acknowledged that it is also related, in part to the one year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Update: Presidents Obama and Karzai have signed the agreement. President Obama called it “a historic moment for our two nations.”
“I’m here to affirm the bond between our two countries and to thank Americans and Afghans who have sacrificed so much over these last ten years.
“Neither Americans nor the Afghan people asked for this war yet for a decade we’ve stood together. Today with the signing of the strategic partnership agreement we look forward to a future of peace. Today we’re agreeing to be long term partners.
“With this agreement the Afghan people and the world should know that Afghanistan has a partner in the United States….Mr. President, there will be difficult days ahead….as we move forward I’m confident Afghan forces will grow stronger and the afghan people will take control of their future….”
(From pool reports.)
[Image credit: Anne C. Savage, used with permission.]