Obama Makes Secret Visit To Afghanistan On Anniversary Of Osama Death; Will Designate Country Major Non-NATO Ally
Just when we thought the president didn't have any tricks left up his pre-election sleeve on the anniversary of Osama's death announcement, here he comes and surprises everyone with what has just been disclosed as a secret visit to Afghanistan, where in a televised statement at 7:30 pm Eastern, the president will announce a strategic partnership with president Karzai, and where he will designate Afghanistan a major non-Nato ally - the "first such designation of the Obama presidency."
President Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan on Tuesday to sign an agreement charting future relations with the country, making the secret trip on the first anniversary of the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Obama plans to deliver a televised address to Americans later on Tuesday.
The U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement will set conditions for a U.S. presence there after a 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of most NATO combat forces.
As he fights for his re-election, Obama is seeking to portray his foreign policy record as a success.
His re-election campaign has made bin Laden's death a key part of that argument, and the president's visit to the country where militants hatched the September 11, 2001 attacks will reinforce that message. It also opens him up to criticism from Republicans, who say Obama has politicized bin Laden's death.
After leaving Washington under cover of darkness late on Monday and flying overnight, Obama arrived at Bagram Air Base before visiting Kabul.
He planned to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his palace and will later make remarks to troops at Bagram. From Bagram, he also plans to deliver formal remarks about the Afghanistan war at 7:30 p.m. EDT (2330 GMT).
Obama's speech will focus on the strategic partnership agreement and is likely to put an emphasis on his plans to wind down the costly and unpopular Afghanistan war where nearly 3,000 U.S. and NATO soldiers have died since the country was invaded in 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.
That's all great. Our only concern is for the secret service: considering the local conservative agenda, will there be enough entertainment for Obama's sworn protectors to distract themselves in the time before and after the president declares his foreign policy an epic success?
Well, there are always poppy seeds...