President Obama Makes Secret Trip to Afghanistan to Thank Troops, Sign Strategic Partnership Agreement

Image Credit: Charles Dharapak / AP Photo

President Obama has arrived at the Afghan Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan for meetings with President Karzai and to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement, outlining the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship over the next decade.

The president will then fly to Bagram Air Field to speak with US troops and address the nation in a speech that is scheduled to begin at 7:31:30 ET, and last 10-11 minutes.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement provides the framework for the U.S./Afghanistan partnership after the transition and drawdown of US forces, from 2014-2024. The agreement will detail how the partnership will be normalized as the war comes to an end, senior administration officials told pool reporters traveling on Air Force Once. Afghan forces are scheduled to take the lead on security in 2013, with U.S. troops scheduled to withdrawal from the country in 2014.

Force and funding levels will not be determined in Afghanistan, senior administration officials said, but will be determined by the U.S. in consultation with its allies.

That this announcement is taking place today, on the one year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, is not an accident. "This is a resonant day for the Afghan people and the American people," an official said.

Senior administration officials argued that the Agreement learns the lessons from mistakes made by the U.S. after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and the U.S. largely moved on, though the U.S. government had been funding mujahideen groups fighting the U.S.S.R. The ensuing chaos led to civil war then the rise of the Taliban, a group that allowed a haven from which Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda launched the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"We won't repeat that mistake," a senior administration official said, adding that the Agreement, which plans a partnership with the Afghan government through 2024, "sends a message to the Taliban that they can't wait us out."

The president arrived at Joint Base Andrews a little before midnight on Monday. Air Force One was wheels up at 12:09 a.m. Tuesday morning. The plane landed at Bagram Air Field at 10:20 p.m. local time/1:50 p.m. ET, where the president and his team were greeted by U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and ISAF Joint Command and Deputy Commander Lieutenant General Curtis "Mike" Scaparrotti greeted the President and transferred immediately to waiting helicopters.

The president landed in Kabul at 11:09 p.m. local time/2:39 p.m. ET and motorcaded to the Afghan Presidential Palace.

-Richard Coolidge and Jake Tapper