President Obama made a surprise visit to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan today, according to the Associated Press. The visit comes a day prior to the Memorial Day holiday, which remembers those who have died in service to our country.
At Bagram Airfield, the president spoke to around 3,000 troops, thanking them for their service and promising a “responsible end” to the war in Afghanistan by the close of this year. The war began over a decade ago, and has claimed the lives of 2,184 U.S. Military service members, as of May 23, 4014, according to a report from Defense.gov.
“I thank you as your commander in chief because you inspire me,” President Obama said, according to the New York Times. “I’m here to say thank you. And I’m here to say how proud I am of you.”
President Obama would not be meeting with outgoing Afghanistan president, Hamid Karzai during the trip. A presidential election is scheduled for June 14 of this year, and Obama has said he’ll work with either of the candidates in the future.
“Once Afghanistan has sworn in its new president, I’m hopeful we will sign a bilateral security agreement that lets us move forward,” Obama said, the Times reported. “And with that bilateral security agreement, assuming it is signed, we can plan for a limited military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.”
“America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end,” said President Obama, to immense applause. He did not however, lay out and specific policy in the speech. According to the New York Times, the president was also met with cheers when he told troops that he tells corporate leaders, “If you want somebody who can get the job done, hire a vet.”
In 2009 the president escalated the war in Afghanistan with a surge of 30,000 troops.
This visit also comes in the midst of a healthcare scandal at the Veterans Administration. The VA misconduct included allegedly covering up the long waiting times that veterans had to wait for healthcare. The scandal has produced outrage on both sides of the aisle, and calls for the resignation of the secretary of the VA, retired four-star general Eric Shinseki.
More details about Afghanistan are likely to emerge once President Obama returns to the U.S, and according to the Times, he is scheduled to give the commencement speech at West Point on Wednesday.
h/t New York Times, Associated Press