Obama lands in Afghanistan on surprise visit

Obama lands in Afghanistan on surprise visit
Ties between the two countries have frayed under the administration of President Barack Obama.

Afghanistan - President Barack Obama Sunday promised a decision on post-2014 troop numbers in Afghanistan "fairly shortly", after swooping out of the night sky on a surprise visit to soldiers fighting the last battles of America's longest war.

Obama made a covert night time trip from the White House to Bagram Air Base aboard a darkened Air Force One on a visit meant to hail the sacrifices of US soldiers in Afghanistan ahead of the US Memorial Day weekend.

But his visit of only a few hours provoked a new spat with outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai with whom Obama has an extremely strained relationship.

US officials said Obama offered to see the Afghan leader at the sprawling Bagram base but decided not to go to his palace in central Kabul. They did not say how much notice they had given the Afghan leader of Obama's arrival.

Karzai interpreted Obama's invitation as a snub, saying in a pointed statement that "the government of Afghanistan is prepared to warmly welcome the US president in the presidential palace, but it does not intend to go to Bagram to meet Obama." A US official summed up the latest disconnect in the dysfunctional relationship between Washington and a man it once hailed as Afghanistan's saviour, by saying: "We're not surprised that it didn't work on short notice." Obama also avoided Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the two candidates in a June runoff election to become the next president, with aides saying that he did not want to insert himself in Afghanistan's "election season."

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