WASHINGTON – KABUL – INTERNATIONAL NEWS – President Barack Obama marked Memorial Day with a visit to U.S. leaders and service members at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Obama arrived for the unannounced visit last night and is already on his way back to Washington. It was his fourth trip to Afghanistan since taking office, White House officials said. He last visited the country in 2012.
The president met with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. Dunford gave the president a battlefield update. Officials on the trip said the president also discussed U.S. troop levels for the NATO follow-on operation Resolute Support and other post-2014 plans.
The president met with service members and visited wounded troops in the military hospital at Bagram. Brad Paisley, a country singer who accompanied the president, warmed up the crowd for Obama, officials said.
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, spoke to reporters on the flight over, according to a pool report from Air Force One.
Rhodes said that the administration saw the trip as “an opportunity for the president to thank American troops and civilians for their service.”
There were no meetings scheduled with either Afghan President Hamid Karzai or the two candidates in the run-off elections in Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani. Rhodes said that the White House wanted to make sure the trip focused solely on the troops and not internal Afghan politics.
“We have been looking for some period of time to come to Afghanistan,” Rhodes said. “After the first round of the election, we thought it would be a good time to come for a troop-focused visit.”
Rhodes said the president will provide some additional clarity on his thinking about Afghanistan in the next few days.