President Obama made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Friday as he sought to smooth over a troubled relationship with President Hamid Karzai and take stock of a nine-year-old American-led war that he hopes to begin winding down next summer.
Mr. Obama planned to travel to Kabul and head to the presidential palace to meet with Mr. Karzai, who has complained vocally about American military tactics in recent weeks. The president also planned to consult with his commanding general and visit American troops heading into another holiday season far from home. But due to weather concerns, the president is expected to stay at Bagram Air Field and conduct meetings from there.
Wrapped in a tight security cocoon, Mr. Obama is scheduled to be on the ground only for several hours in his second trip in nine months to a country ravaged by war. But his arrival came at critical juncture as he and other NATO allies are putting in place a transition plan intended to hand over control of the battlefield to Afghan forces starting in the new year with the hope of formally ending foreign combat operations there by the end of 2014.
The fact that 2014 is our goal for ending the war is a pretty stark reminder of just how much of a disaster the conflict has been for our country. By 2014, the war will have been dragging on for thirteen years. Thirteen! If it ends up lasting that long, there will be American soldiers fighting in it who were five years old when the war began.
In perhaps a fitting symbol of just how impossibly difficult this war has been, bad weather forced the cancellation of a planned meeting between President Obama and Hamid Karzai.
The White House said rough weather forced the president to abruptly drop plans to meet Karzai in Kabul. The White House determined the wind, dust and cloud cover made it unsafe for the president to fly by helicopter from the huge military complex here to the presidential palace.
In a rapidly changing sequence of events, the White House then said they would speak by secure videoconference — but later said that, too, was dropped. Instead, the two leaders were expected to speak by phone.
President Obama is addressing the troops at Bagram, but it he has to be a bit disappointed to travel halfway across the world to make a phone call.