President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Sunday, slipping into the country for the first time since 2012. The unannounced trip involved Obama slipping out of the White House Saturday night “under cover of darkness” to arrive at the Bagram Air Base outside Kabul “under the same secrecy,” reports the Washington Post. It marks the president’s fourth trip to Afghanistan since he first took office. Although Obama wasn’t expected to make any announcements in the trip he did pledge to bring the war to a “responsible end” by the end of the year, reports the Associated Press. "I'm here on a single mission and it's to thank you for your extraordinary service," he said. Obama also vowed to make an announcement soon on how many troops the United States will keep in the country. "We'll probably be announcing some decisions fairly shortly," Obama said.
Obama is scheduled to give a speech on Wednesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he is expected to respond to some criticism about how he has handled foreign policy. The New York Times recalls that it was in that setting in 2009 that Obama chose to announce that he would be increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The trip to Afghanistan on Memorial Day weekend is also bound to be seen by Obama's critics “as an attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of military veterans” at a time of growing allegations of mismanagement at government-run health care facilities for veterans, notes Reuters.
The president took country music star Brad Paisley with him on the trip to provide entertainment for the troops. Paisley performed before Obama spoke to some 32,000 members of the military stationed in Afghanistan.