May 25th, 2014
12:05 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama thanks troops in Afghanistan, says 'Al Qaeda is on its heels … because of you'

Updated 10:24 p.m. ET, 5/25/2014

(CNN) - President Barack Obama spent just over four hours in Afghanistan Sunday on an unannounced trip to visit with U.S. forces during the Memorial Day weekend. He 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.

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He quickly added, "Everyone knows Afghanistan is still a very dangerous place."

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for more than 12 years, which is the U.S.'s longest war. "Last year marked a major milestone," the President said, as Afghan forces took increased responsibility for securing the country.

"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."

This was his fourth trip to the country, with his last being on May 1, 2012, when he made an address to Americans about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

Country music star Brad Paisley traveled aboard Air Force One with the President this weekend. He performed for some of the 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan at a major rally.

After the event, Obama went to a hospital to visit troops.

Air Force One left for Afghanistan late Saturday night and arrived at Bagram Airfield on Sunday morning Eastern time.

Also traveling with Obama was national security adviser Susan Rice and adviser John Podesta, whose son is currently serving in Afghanistan. Others aboard Air Force One included senior aide Dan Pfeiffer and deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

Obama’s trip comes as his administration is facing criticism over how the Veterans Administration has handled prolonged wait times and other health care issues for veterans.

Speaking to reporters en route to Bagram, Rhodes 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.

While Obama didn't address the scandal, he did praise veterans, promising to help members of the U.S. military transition into civilian life.

If you want to get something done, "hire a vet," he said, reiterating that taking care of U.S. veterans is Americans’ “sacred obligation.”

Obama did not meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai or with Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani, who are campaigning for a June 14 runoff election to succeed Karzai. Rhodes said Obama “didn’t want to get in the middle of election season.”

President Obama did, however, call President Karzai while at Bagram to praise him for the progress made by Afghan security forces and for the successful conduction of the country’s first-round elections. He also expressed support for recent reconciliation efforts with the Taliban.

The Obama administration is also still deciding whether any U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Obama plans to address foreign policy later this week in a speech at West Point, where he's set to lay out his vision for how the U.S. should apply force around the world.

CNN's Jim Acosta, Ashley Killough and Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.

Filed under: Afghanistan • President Obama
soundoff (295 Responses)
  1. anon

    And the only person there that respects Obama, was Obama.

    May 25, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  2. Thatguy371

    Good to see our fine President is supporting our fine troops. Too bad the ultra rightie wackos can't seem to get past their hatred for the African American gentleman in the White House. Obviously they never grew up.

    May 25, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  3. Debbie

    Democrat brown nosing for votes. He's had almost 6 years to fix it but said he just recently heard about the problem on TV. Whose head is in the sand???

    May 25, 2014 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  4. bob

    And the troops respond with 'and the VA is on it's heels ... because of you!'.

    May 25, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  5. SoreLosers

    Still stinging over the POTUS winning two elections, the ACA, and executive actions in spite of GOP obstructionism. The Internet is the only place the haters have to vent. Here's a prediction for you. You're going to be really disappointed AGAIN in November.

    May 25, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  6. Your Voice of Reason

    So, is this President Obama's "Mission Accomplished" Moment?

    May 25, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  7. Joe

    Does this pathetic excuse for a president ever do any sort of speech without having dozens of "supporters" standing behind him to cheer him on during his staged photo op. Obama has repeatedly degraded the military by cutting funding, firing commanders who don't agree with him, and knowing about the VA scandal for YEARS and doing nothing about it. It sickens me that this piece of human excrement is the commander in chief of these upstanding men and women in uniform.

    May 25, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  8. koedo

    Nothing surprising here about this visit. In fact, it's completely predictable. Trouble at home with the VA scandal so Obama does what he does best, he makes a carefully calculated political decision; visit the troops. Obama promised transparency and this trip is so very transparent.

    May 25, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  9. bob

    If you want to get something done, "hire a vet," Obama said, reiterating that taking care of U.S. veterans is Americans’ “sacred obligation.” I sure hope he's going to hire some vets to fix the Veterans Administration then.

    May 25, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  10. koedo

    Obama did promise transparency and this trip is so very transparent.

    May 25, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  11. foreverflag

    What a joke, anything to get some decent press

    May 25, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  12. gstlab3

    the president is a liar about the terrorists being on their heels., no way man!

    May 25, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  13. gstlab3

    president Obama has got to be the smartest bravest guy ever.,terrorism is on its heels!

    May 25, 2014 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  14. Wallaceboy

    He hates the military and could care less. His poll numbers are dropping due to the VA issue. This guy is not about "right and wrong" or "doing the right thing" – he is about politics! He is a democrat through and through and one like we have never seen before. We all know why he is there. The Kool-aid drinkers will say "well done". So what else is new. And so it goes...

    May 25, 2014 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  15. loke

    He was at the airforce base, they dont know what danger is he should have visit an army or marines base they are the ones doing most of the fighting

    May 25, 2014 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |

    -> not even sure the black soldiers will be voting for his party next time around.

    ^ As long as GOP is represented by racists like you, you will never win the votes of African Americans, or Hispanics, or Asians, or Jews.

    Your post is a perfect example of why you can't win the vote of anyone other than aging white male bigots.

    May 25, 2014 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  17. mrc

    surprise, your loser community organizer is coming for a visit.

    May 25, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  18. rite99

    Long way and a lot of tax dollars for a photo-op.

    May 25, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  19. George Haricote

    Notice that the media don't bother to explain our Afghanistan involvement or give any context. In the corporate media, things just happen as if by magic, which is why American voters are among the most ignorant and confused in the world. People should appreciate that America has wasted 13 years, thousands of lives and perhaps $1 trillion tax dollars there accomplishing nothing. Afghanistan is actually in worse shape than when we arrived. Even the opium production is at a record high, even after the U.S. spent billions supposedly trying to reduce it. In all it's been a disaster, but the corporate media won't tell you that or even hint at it. Some big advertiser might become annoyed, heaven forbid.

    May 25, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  20. Rocky Green

    Once again you show what a great Commander- In- Chief you are. Thank you Mr. President.

    May 25, 2014 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  21. maxmaxwell

    That's right boys and men you did it, now you get to come on home to broken promises, a job at home depot, and little or no medical help through the VA system.

    May 25, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  22. Smitty

    What a creep the pres is. Thought the war was over, another lie, Terrorist on the run, another lie, gitmo well you get the point. This holiday isn't about THE BIGGEST LIAR of THE YEAR. Just go hide behind the wookie!!!!

    May 25, 2014 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  23. Smitty

    He already broke his oath of the pres, Ben Ghazi, now the va mess, you just cant make this stuff up.

    May 25, 2014 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  24. Smitty

    Didn't we hear on the run b-4, right b-4 ben ghazi !!! Does us a favor Obumbles take the wookie and leave the usa.

    May 25, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  25. Chris

    From a veteran...the best present the President can give me, stay at the White House. I have to follow orders but I don't have to respect the person issuing them.

    May 25, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
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