In honor of Memorial Day, MaddowBlog will likely be pretty quiet today, but will be back to normal tomorrow.
In the meantime, though, there was some unexpected holiday-related news yesterday, when President Obama made a previously unannounced trip to Afghanistan to visit with U.S. troops.
“I thank you as your Commander-in-Chief because you inspire me,” Obama said. “Your willingness to serve, to step forward at a time of war, and say ‘send me,’ is the reason the United States stays strong and free. Of all the honors that I have serving as president, nothing matches serving as your Commander-in-Chief.”
Conspicuous in its absence was Afghan President Hamid Karzai from the president’s schedule – the two did not meet in person despite Obama being in the country.
White House officials later said the two spoke by phone for 15 to 20 minutes before Obama left the country.
Of course, Karzai won’t be the Afghan leader much longer, with Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani poised to face off in a June 14 primary, and with Karzai leaving office soon after. For the U.S. administration, this offers a new, separate opportunity to negotiate a status-of-forces agreement that’s proven elusive.
“Once Afghanistan has sworn in its new president, I’m hopeful we will sign a bilateral security agreement that lets us move forward,” Obama said yesterday.
The surprise trip came against the backdrop of a controversy surrounding veterans’ care though the VA, which the president referenced in his remarks:
“We’re going to stay strong by taking care of our wounded warriors and our veterans. Because helping our wounded warriors and veterans heal isn’t just a promise, it’s a sacred obligation.“As you come home, some of you will return to civilian life, and we want to make sure you can enjoy the American Dream that you helped to defend. So with the transition assistance to help you begin the next chapter of your life – that’s going to keep America strong. The credentials and licenses to help you find a job worthy of your incredible skills – that will keep America strong. Making sure the Post-9/11 GI Bill is in place and delivering for you the kind of education that you have earned – that will keep America strong.”
After his speech, Obama said he wanted to shake hands with everyone in the room. From there, he visited with wounded troops in the military hospital at Bagram Air Base.