Under intense security and the cover of night, President Barack Obama slipped into Afghanistan today to sign an agreement cementing a U.S. commitment to the nation after the long and unpopular war comes to an end.
Obama was to be on the ground for about seven hours in Afghanistan, where the United States has been engaged in war for more than a decade following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The trip carries major symbolic significance for a president seeking a second term and allows him to showcase what the White House considers the fruit of Obama's refocused war effort: the killing a year ago of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Air Force One touched down late at night local time at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base here.
Media traveling with Obama on the 13-hour flight had to agree to keep it secret until Obama had safely finished a helicopter flight to the nation's capital, Kabul, where Taliban insurgents still launch lethal attacks.
Obama is joining Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the agreement that will broadly govern the U.S. role in Afghanistan after the American combat mission stops at the end of 2014 -- 13 years after it began.
Obama will also give a speech designed to reach Americans in the U.S. dinnertime hour of 7:30 p.m. EDT (4 a.m. in Kabul).
His war address will come exactly one year after special forces, on his order, began the raid that led to the killing of bin Laden in Pakistan.
Ed will have full coverage of the president's surprise visit to Afghanistan, including reaction and analysis, after the president's speech tonight on The Ed Show at 8pET on msnbc!
Also, the president's speech will be seen live on msnbc and right here on The Ed Show blog, starting at 7:30pET.