While most of the nation thought President Obama was resting up from a busy legislative week with a visit to Camp David, he was secretly flying to Afghanistan, the new focus of American military effort. This was only the second visit by the President to the war zone — he visited troops in Iraq last year under similar circumstances. In addition to visiting with the troops, the President was scheduled to spend several hours with Karzai, talking about topics the Afghan president would rather not talk about. The White House agenda for the meeting included corruption, nepotism and other stuff that makes Karzai's government unpopular at home and aboard.
From the Washington Post:
White House officials said the president had sought the trip for months following his decision last December to add 30,000 new U.S. troops to combat Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. After a lengthy review of the eight-year conflict, Obama concluded that only by roughly doubling the troop level could the United States stabilize the region enough to begin withdrawing in the years ahead.
Upon arrival, Obama met Karzai at the presidential palace and was treated to a red-carpeted welcoming ceremony, with an Afghan color guard on display. The two leaders retreated for talks, which were expected to last several hours and to include members of Karzai's cabinet and Obama's traveling contingent.
The trip halfway around the globe capped a triumphant week for Obama in which he signed landmark health care legislation into law, revamped higher education funding and announced a new arms treaty with Russia.
Arriving late on Palm Sunday, Obama also planned to visit with U.S. troops. He has made only one other war-zone trip, visiting Iraq under similar secrecy last year. White House officials did not disclose the president's whereabouts until he had landed in Afghanistan, telling reporters that he was spending the weekend at Camp David, where his movements are easy to disguise. The press pool traveling with him was required to keep the visit secret for security reasons. He will leave after just a few hours, officials said, returning home Monday.
Accompanying Obama on the trip were chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, senior adviser David Axelrod and deputies Tom Donilon, Douglas Lute and Denis McDonough, officials said. Obama was joined at the palace by U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the U.S. forces on the ground.