BAGRAM, Afghanistan — President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance on Bagram Airfield to speak with U.S. troops stationed here during his trip to Afghanistan .
At 1:30 a.m. Wednesday local time (Tuesday afternoon, Kansas time), in a flight hangar decorated in red, white and blue, Obama addressed more than 1,000 service members. Many were from the First Infantry Division headquarters, which is stationed at Bagram.
The president’s visit to the troops came only minutes after signing a strategic partnership agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.
“[This] signals the transition in which we are going to be turning over responsibility for Afghan security to the Afghans,” said Obama.
“We’re not going to do it overnight; we’re not going to do it irresponsibly,” he said. “We’re going to make sure the gains — the hard fought gains — that were made are preserved.”
More than he elaborated on the details of the partnership agreement though, Obama spoke in recognition of the sacrifices U.S. service members have made in Afghanistan over the last eleven years.
“Because of the sacrifices of a decade, and a new greatest generation, not only were we able to blunt the Taliban momentum, but slowly and systematically we were able to decimate the ranks of al Qaeda,” said Obama.
“A year ago we were able to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice,” continued Obama. “That could have only happened because each and every one of you in your own way were doing your jobs.”
The president also addressed the road ahead in Afghanistan, and while he spoke about the transition of responsibility to Afghan government, he acknowledged that there are hard days ahead for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“There’s going to be heart break and pain and difficulty ahead,” he said, “but there’s a light on the horizon because of the sacrifices you’ve made already.”
The writer is assigned to the First Infantry Division’s public affairs unit.