Barack Obama had a busy few hours in Afghanistan today, meeting with Afghan president Hamad Karzai and then addressing American troops at a pep rally at Bagram Air Base.
Though the content of the Obama-Karzai private meeting wasn’t revealed, the president stood next to Karzai at the presidential palace and said the “American people are encouraged by the progress that has been made,” though he referred to the issues that have cropped up along the way. The unannounced visit, the first Obama has made in his presidency, was viewed as a message to Karazi to clean up the court system and crack down on government corruption in the country, as well as cut off the opium trade that has been providing funds for the insurgents.
After his meeting with Karzai, he spoke to about 2,500 troops, emphasizing that Taliban control of the country would put U.S. lives at risk.
“Al Qaeda and their extremist allies are a threat to the people of Afghanistan and a threat to the people of America, but they’re also a threat to people around the world,” Obama said. “My main job here today is to say thank you on behalf of the entire American people. You are part of the finest military in the history of the world. And we are proud of you.”
White House officials had given no advance notice of the trip, and even sneakily told reporters Obama would be spending the weekend at Camp David with his family.
In Afghanistan, Obama Presses Karzai to Fight Corruption [NYT]