Obama secretly flies to Kabul to sign a partnership deal with Karzai and give a nationally televised speech. How did he keep the trip under wraps?
President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan Tuesday, in a globe-spanning trip that was shrouded in secrecy, and which coincides with the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. After landing, Obama met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign an agreement outlining the prolonged cooperation between the two countries, even after the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2014. Obama is also set to make a televised address to Americans at 7:30 p.m. EST. Here’s what you should know about Obama’s Afghanistan trip:
Why exactly is he there?
Obama isn’t just a commander-in-chief, says Ben Feller of theAssociated Press. He’s also “an incumbent president in the the early stages of a tough re-election campaign.” Obama will officially launch his re-election bid on Saturday, and this trip is a shrewd reminder to voters that since taking office, Obama has ended the war in Iraq and strategized an orderly finish to U.S. combat in Afghanistan, too. Timing the visit to the one-year anniversary of the daring Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden can also be read as a political move, especially after his campaign used the raid to attack GOP rival Mitt Romney. Of course, the president is also in Afghanistan to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement.
What is this agreement?
The deal is “designed to send a strong message” that, though the U.S. is reducing its footprint in Afghanistan, it is not abandoning the region, says ABC News. And while the deal is “more symbolic than substantive,” says Mark Landler at The New York Times, it nonetheless marks a crucial transition in America’s thorny relationship with “a staunch, if faraway and complicated, ally.” And remember, says Feller, that the agreement, while light on details, allows the U.S. to potentially keep troops in Afghanistan to train Afghan forces and target al Qaeda.
How did the White House keep this visit a secret?
As is routine for presidential trips to war zones, a sparse team of White House officials and select members of the press corps were instructed to keep the visit a “closely guarded secret,” says Zeke Miller at BuzzFeed. The group boarded Air Force One very early Tuesday morning, landing at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Field at 10:20 p.m. local time. “Flying under the cover of darkness,” saysABC News, Obama boarded a waiting helicopter and flew the 40 minutes to Kabul to meet with Karzai. After signing the agreement, he flew back to Bagram, where he will make his speech to Americans. It will be 4 a.m. in Afghanistan when the president speaks.
Did anybody find out about the trip in advance?
“Almost everyone in the U.S. media knew about this six hours” before the White House gave official word, says Dylan Byers at Politico. A local Afghan news organization called TOLONews tweeted that Obama landed in Afghanistan at 9:19 a.m. EST, and several Western media outlets picked up the news, including The Huffington Post and New York Post. The White House quickly scrambled to squash the reports, frantic “to keep word of Obama’s trip out of the press until he was out of harm’s way,” says Miller. Officials began issuing stern denials, demanding that all related posts and tweets be taken down.
Did media outlets oblige?
For the most part, and to a “remarkable degree,” says Byers. The Post was among the last news outlets to take its post down, though the newspaper leaked a self-congratulatory statement from its editor in chief: “With due respect to the White House and out of an abundance of caution, the Post removed the story from its website. We are impressed the White House believes the Taliban, while hiding in caves and dodging American drones, are, like millions of others, avid readers of nypost.com.”
Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden – a milestone accomplishment for President Barack Obama who ordered a top-secret Navy SEALs raid of the Al Qaeda leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Here’s POLITICO’s look back at what political figures have said about the killing of the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that shocked the nation more than a decade ago:
1. “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda. … Today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people. – President Barack Obama, announcing bin Laden’s death in East Room of the White House (May 1, 2011)
2. “Osama bin Laden is dead, and the World Trade Center site is teeming with new life. Osama bin Laden is dead and lower Manhattan is pulsing with new activity. Osama bin Laden is dead, and New York City’s spirit has never been stronger.” – New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (May 2011)
3. “When I found out it was bin Laden being captured, there was a certain sense of relief and a sense of satisfaction that justice has been brought to this man who has done unspeakable horror and evils. It may seem like it took a long time, but sometimes justice takes a while.” – Rudy Giuliani, who was New York City mayor at the time of Sept. 11 attacks (May 2011)
4. “I give the president full credit for this, it took a lot of guts. … He’s the commander-in-chief, he was the guy who put it on the line. There was no guarantee — none — that this would work.” – Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee (May 2011)
5. “You can go back 500 years. You cannot find a more audacious plan. Never knowing for certain. We never had more than a 48 percent probability that he was there.” – Vice President Joe Biden at a fundraiser in New Jersey on the decision to kill bin Laden (March 2012)
6. “The world is a better and more just place now that Osama bin Laden is no longer in it. I hope the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks will sleep easier tonight and every night hence knowing that justice has been done.” – Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) (May 2011)
7. “This was a ‘mission accomplished’ moment President Bush could have only dreamed of.” – Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) (May 2011)
8. “This is a great victory for lovers of freedom and justice everywhere. Congratulations to our intelligence community, our military and the president. My thoughts are with the families of Osama bin Laden’s many thousands of victims, and the brave servicemen and women who have laid down their lives in pursuit of this murderous terrorist.” – Mitt Romney (May 2011)
9. “Our message to the Taliban remains the same, but today, it may have even greater resonance. You cannot wait us out. You cannot defeat us …” – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Treaty Room of the State Department (May 2, 2011)
10. “I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude … The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.” – Former President George W. Bush on his phone call with Obama after bin Laden’s death (May 2011)
11. “There is hardly a life that has gone untouched in New Jersey by the horrifying assault on American soil that took place on September 11th and today, after years of waiting, justice has finally been delivered.” – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (May 2011)
12. “Look, he knew what would happen. Suppose the Navy SEALs had gone in there and it hadn’t been bin Laden. Suppose they’d been captured and killed … He took the harder and the more honorable path and the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result.” – Former President Bill Clinton in an Obama campaign video (April 2012)
14. “Just imagine, a small group of brave men, dropped by helicopter, half a world away in the dead of night … into unknown danger inside the lair of the most sought after man in the world.” – First lady Michelle Obama on the Navy SEALs who captured bin Laden in a commencement address at the University of Northern Iowa (May 2011)
Setting the record straight…
Obama: “I Said That We’d Go After bin Laden if We Had a Clear Shot at Him and I Did.”
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. The president’s campaign has taken the opportunity to remind the American people of one of his greatest achievements, as well as Mitt Romney’s very different record on the issue. As a result, the Romney campaign and some in the media like Arianna Huffington have accused the president of “politicizing” the occasion.
Here are the facts.
Just a few months after we were attacked on 9/11, President Bush remarked:
Who knows if he’s hiding in some cave or not. We haven’t heard from him in a long time. The idea of focusing on one person really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission. Terror is bigger than one person. He’s just a person who’s been marginalized. … I don’t know where he is. I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.
The Bush administration, of course, blew a huge opportunity to capture bin Laden early in the War in Afghanistan when bin Laden was allowed to escape from Tora Bora after pleas from commanders and intelligence officials for more resources were rebuffed by top Bush national security officials. In 2005, Bush passed on a mission to capture “senior members of Al Qaeda” in 2005 because “it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan.” Later that year, the CIA shuttered its bin Laden unit entirely as part of a broader shift in resources toward Iraq.
During the 2008 campaign, the president promised that “if we have actionable intelligence about high-level al Qaeda targets in Pakistan’s border region, we must act if Pakistan will not or cannot.” During an October 2008 debate with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the president stated:
We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.
As he brought the Iraq War to a responsible end, the president refocused attention back toward the terrorists that attacked us on 9/11 and those who still seek to do us harm. Making good on his promise, President Obama made the decision to order a daring raid into Pakistan and brave members of our military killed Osama bin Laden.
In 2007, Mitt Romney injected himself into the Democratic primary campaign and criticized Barack Obama for vowing to go after “high-value intelligence targets” in Pakistan with or without permission. Romney said, “I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours.” Continue reading here…
This entire “secret plan” conspiracy that some truly brain-dead right-wingers believe about the president is illogical and senseless.
Check out the video on which the right-wing fear mongers base their conspiracy theories.
One word; seven letters; so much nefarious hidden meaning. The Obama campaign’s new slogan, “Forward,” may seem like a typically oblique and anodyne piece of political branding — but thankfully, right-wing bloggers are here to reveal its true meaning, and predictably, it involves socialism and Hitler.
The president’s reelection campaign unveiled the slogan yesterday in lengthy new web video, and while the obvious subtext is that presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney would take things backwards, there is so much more.
Breitbart.com’s Joel Pollak explained that the ‘Forward’ “borrows…from decades of communist iconography.” Pollak checks off a litany of scary historixcal world leaders whose lineage Obama is supposedly following, from Marx, Stalin, and Mao, to Benito Mussolini, to Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa. “Communist leaders frequently used — and still use — the word ‘forward,’” he notes.
The Washington Times also sees a “rich association with European Marxism,” quoting at length from Wikipedia to prove the point.
Meanwhile, ever-hyperbolic blogger Jim Hoft went straight for Hitler, writing that ‘Forward’ was a “marching song of the Hitler youth.” He added a helpful illustration of Hitler Youth wearing Obama pins.
Even the generally more staid Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard sees only one conceivable precedent for ‘Forward’: Mao. Along with a picture of Obama appearing to bow to Chinese President Hu Jin Tao, Kristol wonders, “So if ‘Forward’ is the slogan for the Obama campaign, would ‘Cultural Revolution’ be the slogan for the second term?”
Never mind that the fascist Hitler fought a war against communist Stalin, and killed leftists domestically — Obama is apparently uniquely able to bridge this ideological divide with a single word.
Of course, any reasonable observer knows Obama is not a communist or a facist, and that it’s ludicrous to ascribe so much meaning to a single, extremely common word. (It’s the 642th most common English word out of 868,000, according to WordCount.org, which put it in the top 1/10th of a percentile of commonality.)
It’s also the state motto of Wisconsin, so unless Kristol et. al. are willing to concede that Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the state’s 6 million residents are abiding the communist/fascist threat, the attack on Obama falls a bit flat.
Some on the left tried to make a similarly anachronistic claim about then-presidential candidate John McCain’s slogan in 2008, “Country First,” noting that it was similar to slogans used by American fascists in the 1930s, especially aviator Charles Lindbergh’s America First Committee. But that claim was as hollow and reaching as the charges against Obama’s current slogan are.