White House says Afghanistan trip not political
May 1st, 2012
06:57 PM ET
11 years ago

White House says Afghanistan trip not political

Washington (CNN) – The White House strongly denied Tuesday that President Barack Obama's surprise trip to Afghanistan was executed for political motives, saying the visit was more than a year in the making.

On a conference call with reporters, a senior administration official speaking from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan was asked if the trip – made on the one-year anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden – was opening the president to charges of "craven politics."

"I think what could not be clearer is that for 20 months the United States and Afghanistan have been negotiating a strategic partnership agreement," the official said. "The negotiations were completed in recent weeks and then the documents for the strategic partnership went to the presidents for their review. The two presidents had set a clear goal for the agreement to be signed before the summit in Chicago."

NATO is slated to hold meetings in Chicago in mid-May.

Obama has come under fire in recent days by Republicans who say he is politicizing the one year anniversary of bin Laden's death ahead of November's general election. Obama's likely GOP rival Mitt Romney has said he is "disappointed" by the president's handling of the anniversary, though he has not made any public statement about Obama's trip.

In the call Tuesday, the administration official said Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai had been working for months to finalize the strategic partnership agreement, which provides a framework for U.S.-Afghanistan relations after the U.S. and allied troop withdrawal.

"We had a window of time here, a number of weeks, to sign the agreement," the official said. "It was the president's preference to sign that agreement on Afghan soil, it was President Karzai's preference to invite President Obama to sign that agreement on Afghan soil, because it's an indication of the progress that we have made together and the future that we are building together here in Afghanistan."

The anniversary of bin Laden's death was a "resonant day" for Obama to visit troops in Afghanistan, the official said, because of the hard work of the U.S. military in the raid that brought down the al Qaeda chief.

"It was always the president's intention to spend this anniversary with our troops, because it was an extraordinary group of U.S. service members who carried out that operation," the official said.

CNN White House Correspondent Brianna Keilar contributed to this report.

Filed under: Afghanistan • President Obama
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    And tonight my fellow Americans. If you STILL don't believe it is Bush fault. I am proposing to Congress a new economic plan called "Fools Gold For Rubes Act" that will grant me unlimited power to place "blame" on MORE past Presidents! ....For example; Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Jackson.....

    May 1, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  2. Ryan Wenzel

    EVERYTHING is political.

    May 1, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  3. diana williams

    I appreciate our president supporting unity peaceful future. Also I'm glad he is supporting our troops by being there. That shows social involvement. I have a son there too, who is a marine

    May 2, 2012 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  4. Name heidi guembel longo

    Obama has every right to go to Afghanistan for the one year anniversary ...we as Americans should be proud of what he did!

    May 2, 2012 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  5. Tom in San Diego

    I enjoy commenting on many of the stories and topics here on CNN. Although I don't agree that Mr. Obama possibly made this trip at this time as a non-politcally timed event, the part that bothers me is to see that several of my comments on the topic have been moderated off the column. Whether you agree with my style or not, to sensor any opinion of the reader, my retractors included is indicative of my point. To sensor, exclude or eliminate is indicative of showing the politicization of the entire process...

    May 2, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  6. SS. Washington

    99.99% it IS.

    May 2, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  7. Brent

    Brent Lowe
    OK, so can we stop criticizing the President for 'politicizing' the anniversary of Bin Laden's death... Of course it's political (the anniversary, not the military action). EVERYTHING is political. Healthcare, job growth, taxes, foreign policy, national security, IT'S ALL POLITICAL. Are we to believe that any other President at any other time would NOT make it political? The GOP would absolutely be blasting this accomplishment across every media venue they could count if Mr. Bush had been able to (oh wait...no, he couldn't find the...oh, nevermind...) President Obama and his team GOT IT DONE!! As they have with a number of other major issues, even in the face of bluntly fierce opposition from many of the very folks elected to work together for the common good... Expecting the administration not to use this accomplishment to their advantage, political or otherwise, would be like having Aaron Rodgers to throw a game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, but then running to the referee and demanding that they not put the points on the scoreboard!!

    May 2, 2012 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  8. Thomas

    White House says Afghanistan trip not political ?

    The President just needed a little RR , and what a cultural vacation hot spot Afghanistan is !

    May 2, 2012 03:50 am at 3:50 am |
  9. Brad

    Right! Not political! How stupid does somebody need to be to believe that?

    May 2, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  10. Hussein Obama

    EVERYTHING Obamao does is 'political'.

    May 2, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  11. W.G.

    How much did that ride in a Jet onto an Aircraft carrier Cost the U.S. when Bush Comically stated
    " Mission Accomplished " and we stayed there till Mr. Obama got us out of Iraq ? How much did it
    cost the U.S. When on 9/11 Pres. "W" Bush chartered a plane to fly the Bin Laden family out of the
    Country . How Much did it cost us to start a war in Iraq even though they weren´t involved in 9/11 ?
    Republicans are just big cry babies !

    May 2, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  12. Andrew

    I don't understand how it was not political. Everything that happens at/in/around the White House is by nature of politics, political! Just as you wouldn't want to associate yourself with a harmful story at any point . . .ever, you want to associate yourself with positive stories, at any point, all the time. Of course this is political. . . but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. The Obama administration completed the task of killing Bin Laden. Great! I'm glad it happened.

    May 2, 2012 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  13. Southerner01

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Not political. That's funny. Better than all the jokes he told at the correspondents' dinner combined.

    May 2, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  14. Angus

    Sure.... Didn't Obama think we would notice the timing of this.

    May 2, 2012 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  15. artist26

    Once again we get to see the lying Obama and the OBL bounce on the taxpayers dime. Funny how there are no speciifics on the treaty that was signed but you can bet, the US will be giving them tons of money, as that is the one thing Obama does really well-spend-spend-spend.

    May 2, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
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