*President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Sunday for a firsthand look at the 8-year-old war he inherited and dramatically escalated.
After an overnight flight from Washington, the president landed in Afghanistan for a stay of just a few hours, all in darkness. He flew by helicopter from Bagram Air Field to the capital, where he was greeted at the presidential palace by Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, given just an hour’s notice of Obama arrival. A military honor guard stood at attention as Obama walked across red carpets.
It was Obama’s second stop in a war zone as commander in chief, coming about a year after a similarly secretive trip to Iraq.
The Afghanistan trip was intended to let Obama tell Karzai that he must crack down on corruption and cut the flow of money from poppy production and drug trafficking that is sustaining the insurgency. The U.S. also wants Karzai to halt cronyism and rewards for warlords in government hiring and to create an effective, credible judicial system.
“This is something that simply has to be done,” said Obama’s national security adviser, Jim Jones. “Both presidents have to be on the same wavelength.”
The White House insisted that Karzai’s Cabinet participate in most of the meetings with Obama, making the point that Karzai must work with his ministers.
This trip, its secrecy forced by security concerns, was an extraordinary capstone to a momentous week in Obama’s presidency. He achieved the most ambitious domestic policy initiative in decades with a historic health care overhaul and scored first major foreign policy achievement with a significant new arms control treaty with Russia.
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