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. Viking77

    You can fly across the planet for photo op, but you can't make a phone call to President of Mexico and get our Marine back. Yeah, you care.

    May 25, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  2. Lew

    Where's Al Sharpton and Abraham Foxman??? They OWE their freedom to USA Troops and are obligated to publicly support our Veterans through substantial monetary and lobbying efforts! They should be standing beside their leader in allegiance to our Nation's efforts to keep their little countries safe.

    May 25, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    Obama got us out of Iraq AND Afghanistan , something the GOP wouldn't do , we still have our drowns and bombers to take care of this teliban and alcada GARBAGE and I'm sure the troops will be happy to see him because HE is the ONE SENDING them home, be safe!!!!!

    May 25, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. Howard521

    SECRET TRIP ??? ... obama has purposely leaked news of this trip
    to the entire mainstream news media ... in a deliberate attempt to repair his
    damaged image, for treating our wounded warriors like crap ... however,
    the American people now know this bait n' switch liar for who he really is ...
    even if he spends millions more of OUR dollars, to try to deceive us ... AGAIN.
    It's time to kick this lying TRAITOR out of OUR White House ... and, begin to repair
    all of the damage he has done to OUR country.

    May 25, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. Rick Patel

    Mission accomplished.

    May 25, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Diane Z.

    What happened to saluting your Commander In Chief as you greet him at Air Force One in Afghanistan? Disgraceful!

    May 25, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. WOW

    ...when all else fails, ROAD TRIP!!!

    May 25, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  8. john roach

    He has destored america and destored bussinesses and has gone against the bible and GOD.. no he is a terriable president.

    May 25, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. joeamerican

    An abominaion a leather jacket. He loves our military so much! A teleprompter reading radical phony...

    May 25, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. Hector Slagg

    Harry Truman used to say, If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Obama has left the kitchen. Don't be surprised if you don't see him again until things cool down. When will that be? 2017 or after.

    May 25, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  11. usmarine

    I can't believe that people still believe in this liar.

    May 25, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  12. liberal disease

    they have golf course there?

    May 25, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  13. jp

    Just a PR spin to increase his numbers in the polls. Vets should be Mad as hell Obama has known about problems since day one in WH by the transition team. There were addition reports of problems made through the years.

    May 25, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  14. joeamerican

    Roll out the red carpet for illegals to overrun our country Barry........give them even more social benefits

    May 25, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  15. sad leadership

    what is the point...
    get the photo op .. usa today love story.. loving cnn coverage of you in your jacket..
    then fly away to fundraisers . while vets die in hospitals.

    May 25, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  16. James

    love you mr. president

    May 25, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  17. Todd

    This is a beautifully written speech. Great job Mr. President. Keep on truckin'.

    May 25, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  18. Dale

    Just a another campaign trip, but in this case, it's for the military vote.

    May 25, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  19. Dora

    Why is the VA problem not only blamed on the present administration but also put in the lap of the Republican majority of House of Representatives that has consistently voted against more funds for veterans? How can we deliver services if there is not enough money for staff and facilities? Railing against "big government" spending but expecting miracles from an underfunded agency that has to take care of the sick and injured from the Vietnam era to present day Iraq and Afghanistan...

    May 25, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  20. rjsenterp

    Why? He has never supported the war or the people that serve in the military. Just another in a long line of political stunts by Obama.

    May 25, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  21. Socrates

    He looks like Bush.

    May 25, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  22. jeremy

    hey cheney and gw, get out there and uniform up and fight the war you started. wouldn't that be great.

    May 25, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  23. Bob

    He visits the troops while his wife is shopping in Paris.

    May 25, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. tellingitlikeitis

    At least the Prez didn't land on an aircraft carrier and thumped his chest like someone we know, and proclaim the war is over.

    May 25, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  25. Jack Brute

    I love this guy, what a comedian, lol, " I was in the neighborhood, so i decided to stop by ! ", lol, wooohoo, thanks Prez for a good laugh.

    But, um, why are dead Veterans still sitting in a morgue for a year?

    May 25, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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