Bad weather turned what was supposed to be the President’s previously unpublicized trip to Afghanistan to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai into a visit with troops.
According to the White House, wind, dust and cloud cover made it unsafe for President Obama to fly by helicopter from the Bagram Air Field to Karzai’s presidential palace in Kabul. As such, the proposed face-to-face meeting turned into a simple call.
The detour gave the president the opportunity to meet with soldiers at the military complex during the late hours and give a speech at approximately 10:30 pm their time, Friday.
“I know it’s not easy for all of you to be away from home, especially during the holidays,” the President said. “And I know it’s hard on your families. They’ve got an empty seat at the dinner table. Sometimes during the holiday season that’s when you feel the absence of somebody you love most acutely.”
The speech, given in a brown leather bomber style jacket, was at times emotional and encouraging.
Referencing the bravery of soldiers from earlier eras and wars, the President told the troops he understood why they have chosen to go to battle.
“They did it for the same reason that all of you do — because the freedom and the liberty that we treasure, that’s not simply a birthright,” he said. “It has to be earned by the sacrifices of generations — generations of patriots, men and women who step forward and say, send me. I know somebody has got to do it, and I’m willing to serve. Men and women who are willing to risk all and some who gave all to keep us safe, to keep us free.”
The secret trip that sent the media into a frenzy this past week wasn’t that much of a surprise. Apparently, it had been planned for over a month, with the President targeting a visit to Karzi between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes, said the cancellation of the visit to the palace wasn’t of tremendous importance, because the president and Karzai spoke at a NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, a few weeks ago
While in Afghanistan, the president also visited injured and sick soldiers and awarded medals to others. The visit came one year after the president ordered 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.