The official reason for the trip is to sign the new strategic partnership agreement with Karzai, but of course that doesn’t require his physical presence in Afghanistan. We all know why he’s there and why he chose today to visit. One word: Scoreboard.
Hope he has a giant photo of Bin Laden with his eyeball hanging out set up as a backdrop for the speech, just in case the very low-information voters watching at home are slow on the uptake about what they’re supposed to glean from this speech.
President Barack Obama is in Afghanistan for a whirlwind visit that will culminate in a live, televised address to the American people.
Obama is expected to sign a strategic partnership agreement shortly with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.Obama’s scheduled to speak to the nation just after 7:30 p.m., eastern time, from Bagram airbase.
Pool, which assembled Monday night at Andrews, has been under an embargo preventing reporting of the trip up til now.
Obama left at 12:09 AM Tuesday morning. And arrived at Bagram at 10:20 pm local time.
It was smart to key this to the partnership agreement since now he’ll have a big stage to announce a significant drawdown of American troops, which should please swing voters. You can see the political message coming: We won in Afghanistan by killing Bin Laden and destroying his network so now we can responsibly and victoriously withdraw. It’s a two-fer — an end-zone dance over Al Qaeda’s deterioration and an unofficial declaration that the war is ending and the boys are coming home. Shrewd politics. If he pulls out Bin Laden’s empty skull and sets it on the podium, you can probably call the election right now.
Stand by for updates.
Update: Before he declares victory, can we get a final accounting on just how many Afghan soldiers have fired at their American mentors? According to the AP, the Pentagon’s been conspicuously quiet about non-lethal “green on blue” attacks.
I’d be keen to hear O’s and Panetta’s reaction to this Guardian piece too before those ephemeral peace talks with the Taliban start heating up again:
Documents found in the house where Osama bin Laden was killed a year ago show a close working relationship between top al-Qaida leaders and Mullah Omar, the overall commander of the Taliban, including frequent discussions of joint operations against Nato forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government and targets in Pakistan…
The news will undermine hopes of a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, where the key debate among analysts and policymakers is whether the Taliban – seen by many as following an Afghan nationalist agenda – might once again offer a safe haven to al-Qaida or like-minded militants, or whether they can be persuaded to renounce terrorism…
“Questions and issues come up. They don’t see eye to eye on everything but it’s clear they understand they have an interest in co-operating [on attacks against Nato, Afghan government and Pakistani targets],” the source said. “Of those engaged in the conversation, two [Zawahiri and Omar] are still alive today and there is no reason to believe that either has substantially changed his views in the last year.”
The Taliban’s never going to turn on Al Qaeda.
Update: BuzzFeed’s Michael Hastings hears from some SEALs that they’re getting tired of Obama’s end-zone dance:
The frustration—or, even anger—within the SEAL community is real, and has been brewing for months, particularly among a politically conservative core of operators. It started immediately after the raid, with questions among the Special Forces and intelligence community of whether the president should have waited to announce the kill to exploit the intelligence cache at Osama’s compound. It simmered after a Chinook helicopter was shot down, killing 30 Americans, 22 of them Navy SEALs from Team Six…
Over the past few days, I’ve reached out to a number of SEALs, both active duty and former. Most active duty SEALs were reluctant to go on the record venting or praising their boss, but one of the most interesting responses I received from an operator was to direct me to Leif Babin, a SEAL who left active duty last year.
Babin, who runs the consulting firm Echelon Front, wrote a little noticed op-ed in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal four months ago. The headline: OBAMA EXPLOITS THE NAVY SEALS. Babin took aim at “the president and his advisors, writing: “It is infuriating to see political gain put above the safety and security of our brave warriors and our long-term strategic goals.”
Update: Obama, Biden, Panetta, Hillary, Jack Lew, Ryan Crocker: Imagine it.