Obama arrives in Afghanistan on surprise visit to sign pullout deal
KABUL: US President Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan late Tuesday on a surprise visit a year after American elite Navy SEALs killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a raid inside Pakistan.
Obama was expected to sign a strategic partnership on future US-Afghan ties once American troops have pulled out of Afghanistan in 2014, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, White House officials told AFP.
The US president, making only his third trip to Afghanistan since taking over as commander-in-chief in 2009, arrived at 10:20 pm and was also to address the American people from Bagram airbase at 2330 GMT, an official said.
Obama’s last trip in December 2010 lasted only a few hours when he flew into Bagram air base, outside Kabul, to meet US troops but he did not meet with Karzai.
Ties between Kabul and Washington have strained since last May amid a series of bloody massacres and incidents by US troops against Afghan civilians as a 130,000-strong US-led NATO force fights a fierce Taliban insurgency.
The last of the remaining 87,000 American troops in the country are due to pull out by the end of 2014, some 13 years after a US-led campaign in late 2001 to oust the Taliban regime accused of harbouring bin Laden.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States also plunged over the May 2, 2011 raid that killed bin Laden, tracked down to a compound in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad after a decade-long global manhunt.
Obama’s campaign last week released a video to mark the anniversary and suggested bin Laden might be alive today had Romney been in the White House.
US Senator John McCain, who lost to Obama in the 2008 elections and who remains one of his most dogged critics, has said the advertisement politicised an issue that should not be fodder for November’s presidential campaign.
“Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of September 11th and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning it into a cheap political attack ad,” he said.