President Obama landed at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan at 10:35 am ET – 8:35 pm local time – after a 13-hour nonstop trip from Andrews Air Force Base. While on the ground, the president will met with U.S. troops, made a speech to them, talked to their commanders, and spoke by phone with Afghan President Hamid Karzai .
NOTE: Regularly refresh this page as I will continue to update it as I get more info.
Obama went in part to meet with Karzai, but amazingly, due to weather, they had to speak by phone, a call lasting only 15 minutes. Technical difficulties prevented even a teleconference hookup. He was going to chopper to Kabul for dinner with Karzai, but that’s off, so a six hour stop in Afghanistan is being reduced to three hours.
Obama visited wounded personnel, meeting five soldiers and three contractors, and awarding four Purple Hearts. He wanted to see the troops during the holidays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, an aide said.
An Obama-ordered look at Afghan strategy is due to be finished this month – with the president expected to talk about it before leaving Dec. 18 for Hawaii – but aides say the trip is not really related to the review.
Prior to the president’s appearance before troops, a speaker held a practice run for the entrance of president, and had to try twice to gin up an enthusiastic cheer. Same for Afghan Commander Gen. David Petraeus. He sid after the second time, “We’re good,” but it didn’t sound like it. The leader of a band entertaining the troops also couldn’t get an enthusiastic response when she asked if the troops are excited the prez is coming.
The first speaker warns troops to stay put if they get fired at.
“If we get indirect fire while this ceremony is going on, stay put, do not go anywhere. If you have to do anything, drop where you are – do not leave this building,” he said. He suggested that this is to keep people from trampling on each other, which I suppose is part of the reason. But the other part is that I’m sure they wanted to get the president out first.
Upon introduction, seemed Obama got a very warm reception. Petraeus presented him with two “manly man” Air Force T shirts so “no one will mess with you” in the future, a reference to him being hit in the lip last week during a basketball game.
Obama went heavy on the mushy stuff.
“As we begin this holiday season, there’s no place Id rather be,m than to be here with you,” he said “On behalf me, on behalf of Michelle, and on behalf of Malia and Sasha, on behalf of 300 million Americans, we are here to say thank you for everything you do . . . everybody is behind you.”
He told the soldiers that they were now taking it to the Taliban. “You’re going on the offense – tired of playing defense – targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds.”
Obama emphasized importance of the mission, telling troops, “You must succeed,” even as his polices create a timetable for a drawdown to begin and handover to Afghanistan to occur without regard to whether we are succeeding or not.
All in all a nicely delivered speech commending and rallying the troops. “In your service, you demonstrate the content of the American character,” he said.
And then lots of handshaking.
Here’s some video of Obama’s arrival at Bagram: