May 25th, 2014
12:05 PM ET
6 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.

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. CrankyMaddog

    Next up on Fox "news": President Obama landed in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit. Is he giving Al Qaeda orders on where to attack next?

    May 25, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  2. Wade

    Can he pleaseeeeee stay there Pleaseeeee!

    May 25, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. ironman666

    maybe if we are lucky they keep there and not let him come back we can only hope

    May 25, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  4. Redeye Dog

    "The VA Scandal was not a factor in the planning of his trip." Yeah, right-just like the guy that says, "I didn't fart!"

    May 25, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  5. Joyce

    Talk is cheap..and actions speak louder then words.

    May 25, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. Rowland

    Job well done mr president

    May 25, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  7. jn122736

    It is amazing how many posters are complaining about the cost for this trip. But I agree that we can hardly afford these trips anymore since the Reagan/Bush tax cutting, borrow and spend (trickle-down), policies have actually resulted in a $9trillion TAX INCREASE in the form of interest accumulated on the national debt since Reagan cut the top tax rate from 72% to as low as 28% all the while assuring American that “THE DEBT DOESN'T MATTER”.

    The current national debt now stands at $17.5 trillion, $9 trillion of that is due to the annual interest that MUST be paid on the national debt every year regardless of who the president is.

    May 25, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. Lot and lots of Scandals

    That'll show the world he cares about our veterans.

    May 25, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  9. Obama should hero

    Yeah, deflect another scandal by flying out to do nothing but a bs photo op & to lie to the troops about how much he supports them. Absolutely no substance to this administration. Briefing, yeah right, could have been done w/o trip, but he obviously really things this will make people think he cares. Only those on the Kool-Aid.

    May 25, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  10. mariam

    Thank you to all the men and women who help my country be free of Taliban. Please do not give up on us (Afghans).

    May 25, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  11. Bobbo

    He's probably just checking out the new golf course starting up over there - paid for with US taxpayer funds.

    May 25, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  12. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @YerMom
    @Jeff Brown Are you left wing psychos going to praise this decade+ war on nothing?

    No, I condemn any war that your psychotic heroes, Bush and Cheney started to prop up the war profiteers. No go and wave your flags that were made in China while I visit the graves of my friends and relatives who died in combat.

    May 25, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  13. Charlie

    there must be an interior motive for Mr. Obama to go. Oh yes, he knew he will get lots of media coverage. Bush went in and out before the media knew. Mr. Obama is a complete a_shole! I hope they keep him there. he is useless. I have no respect for this man.

    May 25, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. yakimo

    Please respect the president of the United States, and leave him in peace to perform his duties as he deserves,for,uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.Human beings will never be satisfied with whatever the president does,no matter how hard he tries,there will always be grumbling and gnashing of teeth.Those neverdowells, who would never attain that office of president of the United States,are most often the ones that make the most noise,no matter what step the president takes.

    May 25, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. anthony78

    The VA has been a mess for over 40 years. Where was the outcry then?
    Republicans vetoed VA funding. Where was the outcry then?
    Bush had at least 13 "Benghazi's" and one 9-11 occur. Where was the outcry then?
    Some people saying the President visiting those fighting for our freedom in foreign land on Memorial Day is wasting tax payer dollars, but somehow spending trillions on 2 wars is okay?

    You people just wreak of hate and hypocrisy.

    May 25, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  16. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @Ddtgwt
    Jeff only in you dreams, Obama will go down in history as the most racist, divisive and incompetent president ever.

    Sorry, his predecessor holds that honor.

    May 25, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. Lizzie

    Just
    Who forced him into doing that?
    -–Valerie Jarrett

    May 25, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  18. Gary

    Now if he was a Republican President, and actually started this war, he'd be a hero to you righties.

    May 25, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  19. Gh.R.A

    I am from Afghanistan, because I am not able to meet President Obama , via this page I welcome for him also i highly appreciate him, USA troops and US people for all their support and helps .Because of your helps and support , now my country is improve and has more achievement in every section . .Afghan people are not forget USA supports and sacrifices.GOD Bless USA army and US people.

    May 25, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. jn122736

    It is amazing how many posters are complaining about the cost for this trip. But I agree that we can hardly afford these trips anymore since the Reagan/Bush tax cutting, borrow and spend (trickle-down), policies have actually resulted in a $9trillion TAX INCREASE in the form of interest accumulated on the national debt since Reagan cut the top tax rate from 72% to as low as 28% all the while assuring American that “THE DEBT DOESN”T MATTER”. The current national debt now stands at $17.5 trillion, $9 trillion of that is due to the annual interest that MUST be paid on the national debt every year regardless of who the president is.

    May 25, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  21. thomas

    I'll bet the Troops are really impressed...lol

    May 25, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  22. Chris-E...al

    I bet he just went to see Bin Kazie ?

    May 25, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  23. rla

    The man has no shame nor self respect- Smart/??? PLEASE!

    May 25, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. nwcommenter

    The President is doing his job; whereas the House GOP is not.

    May 25, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  25. srcactus

    Another crisis, another speech, bigger crisis, bigger photo op required.
    That said; it is good to see Obama pay attention to the guys and gals defending our rights to comment.

    May 25, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
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