During the visit, Obama was due to speak to troops, make a visit to a base hospital and meet with military officials to discuss troop presence in Afghanistan as the country’s longest war comes to a close. Country singer Brad Paisley flew with Obama on Air Force One to perform for the troops.
“I was in the neighborhood, thought I’d stop by,” Obama said. “I’m here on a single mission and that’s to say thank you for your extraordinary service … I’m also here representing 300 million Americans who want to say thank you as well.”
The president called it a “pivotal moment” for the war in Afghanistan, with U.S. forces preparing to end their combat role by the end of the year as Afghan forces take the lead in securing the country’s safety. “By the end of this year the transition will be complete… and our combat mission will be over,” said Obama, to some of the loudest applause of the speech. “America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.”
He ended his remarks with a promise to shake every hand in the room. “Though I may not be able to take a selfie with everybody,” he added.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said the Obama administration felt the Memorial Day-weekend trip was “an opportunity for the president to thank American troops and civilians for their service.”
There are no meetings scheduled with Afghanistan’s outgoing president, Hamid Karzai, or either of the leading candidates in the country’s ongoing presidential election.
The visit comes as the Obama administration is withdrawing most U.S. troops in the region, though it hopes to keep a small troop presence in the country after the year’s end. Afghanistan’s two run-off presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, have both said they would support an agreement allowing some U.S. soldiers to stay.
Source: time.com by Nolan Feeney