President Obama Surprises U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

Pays a visit to thank armed forces before Memorial Day.

Posted: 05/25/2014 04:03 PM EDT

President Barack Obama made an unannounced visit to U.S. forces in Afghanistian on Sunday, surprising troops over Memorial Day weekend. The president, shortly after landing at Bagram Airfield just outside the capital of Kabul, thanked the troops for their service as the United States hands over responsibility to Afghan forces.

"Al Qaeda is on its heels in this part of the world, and that's because of you," Obama said, adding, "Everyone knows Afghanistan is still a very dangerous place."

This was the president's first visit to Afghanistan since 2012, when he signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Afghan government to bring the war to an end and hand over control of the region.

"For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan," Obama said to applause.

"And by the end of this year, the transition will be complete, and Afghans will take full responsibility for their security, and our combat mission will be over. America's war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end." 

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for more than 12 years, making it the U.S.'s longest war. 

The address was followed by a major rally for the 32,000 American troops serving in the desert region. Country music star Brad Paisley, who traveled aboard Air Force One with the president, performed.

Obama was scheduled to visit injured troops at a hospital after the event. The trip comes as the administration is facing criticism over how the Veterans Administration has handled prolonged wait times and other health care issues for veterans.

An aide said the VA scandal was not “a factor in the planning of this trip,” but said Obama would talk to veterans about support that troops and vets will have once they return home.


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