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. Phil

    Just another photo op from a grandstanding, miserable failure. If this Dbag is so serious about ending the military presence if Afghanistan; let his sorry butt stay there and be the last man out.

    May 25, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  2. Bill inVA

    Good move on his part. Probably safer than going to a VA hospital these days.

    May 25, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  3. phantom235

    Incompetent buffoon.
    Still trying to end wars with his personal fiat. LOL
    Enemy gets a vote.

    May 25, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  4. dmhennen

    Coincidence? Opium harvest season....checking on the crop?

    May 25, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. dave

    Ever hear of Bin Laden? Alive under Bush dead under Obama.

    May 25, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. O'Failed again

    News flash! Mid-term elections coming up,
    That's the only reason he dragged himself away from the golf course!.................that and he's fundraising to BUY Democrat seats in November that they've no hope of winning by normal voting!

    May 25, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    LoL. Afghanistan is still struck with the same level of violence it had long before the US Military even set foot on Afghan soil.
    Obama is full of crap. You guys achieved absolutely nothing over there.

    May 25, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  8. Bill Davis

    Come on home and enjoy your VA have we got a Surprise for you.,,,

    May 25, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  9. davecu

    Is he going to have to come back?

    May 25, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  10. Jack Jackson

    This dud, he does not have a clue. Cannot deliver a eulogy without a teleprompter. Isn't this the genius that the left elected. He is not as smart as stupid.

    May 25, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    Leave him there

    May 25, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  12. Marie MD

    @lex? Idiot president? Harvard educated lawyers are laughing at you.

    May 25, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  13. steve coster

    when George Bush did this, it was "classy". This guy? just a lame attempt to duplicate and pretend.

    May 25, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  14. jonquil123

    Thank you, Mr. President. You are representing us well, today. Thanks Mr. Paisley and everyone else on board, there for the support of our troops.

    May 25, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  15. Jack Jackson

    To NameLinda: Gerorge Washington is working on it.Do we need to go back further?

    May 25, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  16. Jack Jackson

    Mr. President head to Ukraine on Air Force One to congratulate their new leader Ask if they have a permanent residence.

    May 25, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  17. Tex A. Montana

    At great taxpayer expense, Obama flies half way around the planet for a photo op. What can he tell our troops? Great job now I am going to throw you out of the service due to my reckless cuts to our military. As soldiers you are to become eligible to be killed by scandal ridden VA hospitals. A more cost effective ruse would have been fanny dancing on top of a bar for his imbecilic admirers. His only talent is dancing with his butt down to a fine art.

    May 25, 2014 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  18. Uncle Al

    Barack Obama, Al Qaeda is on its heels … "except in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Lebanon, Gaza, Nigeria, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Kenya...Boston...where Al Qaeda is on its toes. Board an airplane in the domestic US – who won?

    May 25, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  19. August

    Granted these issues were there before he took office. BUT...GW left him info about the problems and his press secretary just said that he's "Angry as Hell"....after 6 years. Gommon...Yes, he and the politicians have done some things during the last 6 years. But not enough.

    May 25, 2014 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  20. wes

    Just looking at the over all hate for obama. Its really sad an by now these folks still have so much hate in them. look at these posts. I am so happy to have a person in off that actually understands my life an my family faces. Thank you for caring about us all even when most dont

    May 25, 2014 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  21. STN

    I like to come on here and read these message boards to remind me that people in general are idiots.

    May 25, 2014 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  22. Spgfld Tom

    So, Obama was in Afghanistan for a fundraiser and decided to stop in and visit the troops? The nation has never had a President that has nothing but contempt for our military. Did the Prez meet with all the troops or just the LGBT personnel?

    May 25, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  23. Priscilla

    Shame........forgot the reason why Afghanistan ? Bush went after Iraq first for non existent WMD instead of dealing with the real problem.

    May 25, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  24. tiredofitall

    Where is the lowest low for this guy??? they must have asked for volunteers to listen to his BS.. BO knows no shame......

    May 25, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  25. Ward Cleaver

    Thank you Mr. President. Don't let the Faux "News" jerks and unpatriotic Republicans get you down.

    May 25, 2014 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
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