Mar 28, 2010 12:40 PM by Associated Press

Obama makes surprise trip to Afghanistan

President Barack Obama has arrived in Afghanistan for a surprise visit, his first in-person view as commander in chief of the war he dramatically escalated.

Obama landed at night and for a stay of just a few hours. He flew by helicopter from Bagram Air Field to the capital.

Obama's brief stop will include a one-on-one meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, an expanded meeting with Karzai's cabinet and U.S. officials, and a speech to American military personnel.

It is Obama's second stop in a war zone as commander in chief, coming about a year after a similarly secretive trip to Iraq. Karzai was notified about Obama's visit just an hour before he arrived, the White House said.

A White House official said Obama wanted to get an "on the ground update" about the war from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander, as well as Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador.

Last year, Obama ordered the deployment of an extra 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan and set a mid-2011 target to begin withdrawal. He is expected to greet U.S. troops and meet diplomats during the visit.

Obama's domestic victory on healthcare reform last week gives him political space to turn his attention to the Afghan war, which has mixed support from the American public amid rising U.S. casualties, costs, and corruption among Afghan leaders.

The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan has roughly doubled in the first three months of 2010 compared to the same period last year.

Those deaths have been accompanied by a dramatic spike in the number of wounded, with injuries more than tripling in the first two months of the year and trending in the same direction based on the latest available data for March.



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