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Obama meets Karzai, US troops in surprise Afghan visit

US President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Kabul on Sunday night and met President Hamid Karzai and also spoke to American troops, saying difficult days lie ahead in the bloody eight-year-old war.

world Updated: Mar 29, 2010 01:20 IST

US President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Kabul tonight and met President Hamid Karzai and also spoke to American troops, saying difficult days lie ahead in the bloody eight-year-old war.

The visit, which came three months after he ordered a surge of 30,000 troops, was shrouded in secrecy for security reasons as he landed in darkness after an overnight flight from Washington and flew into the capital from Bagram airfield.

During the meeting, Obama put across the urgency to crack down on corruption, and make a concerted effort in improving the judicial system and governance.

Later addressing about 2500 US forces, Obama said difficult days lie ahead in the 8-year-old war. He also said that there will be "setbacks" but the US will not quit and will prevail.

A top aide of Obama said the talks were aimed at discussing with Karzai a whole range of issues including benchmarks set for the reintegration and reconciliation process, besides underlining the need for cracking down on corruption and cutting the money-flow from drug trafficking which is sustaining the insurgency.

The Afghan president assured Obama that his country "would move forward into the future" to eventually take over its own security.

Karzai thanked Obama for the US intervention in his country and for helping "the rebuilding and reestablishing" of the civilian institutions and his government.

The White House said later than Karzai will come to Washington on May 12 for more talks.

The US and NATO have about 1.21 lakh troops in Afghan which will go up to over 1.5 lakh with the additional 30,000 US troops by August as part of the reworked strategy to stop the Taliban momentum and seek an early end to the war.

Obama's meeting with Karzai comes two weeks after he held a video call with the Afghan leader during which he discussed the war on the Taliban and steps taken towards eliminating corruption.

The White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the Afghan government was informed of Obama’s impending trip on Thursday.

Obama arrived at the Bagram Air Force Base at 7.25 pm local time after 12hr, 46 min nonstop overnight flight from Andrews Air Force Base.

Shortly after landing, he met Gen Stanley McChrystal, the US and NATO Commander in Afghanistan, and Karl Eikenberry, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan. From Bagram Air Force Base, Obama went to the Presidential Palace in Kabul on a copter.

According to a White House pool report, Obama and Karzai emerged from the presidential palace along red carpet to parade grounds in middle of palace complex.

After the respective national anthems were played, the two Presidents stepped down from platform and reviewed troops. Whole welcoming ceremony lasted about 10 mins.

Soon thereafter the two presidents had one-to-one meeting. Later on Obama was joined by Jones, Eikenberry and the Deputy National Security Advisor, McDonough.