Under the cover of darkness and on the eve of Memorial Day, President Obama landed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan for a surprise visit with U.S. troops.
According to a pool report by NPR's Scott Horsley, Obama is expected to get an on-site briefing from his military commanders and visit wounded servicemen on the base.
"The centerpiece of the trip is a rally with some of the 32,000 Americans who are currently serving in Afghanistan — a war the president is committed to winding down by year's end. A performance by country music star Brad Paisley, who traveled with the president, will set the tone for the event, expected to be long on thanks for the troops and short on foreign policy pronouncements.
"The show of support for men and women in uniform comes as Obama is trying to tamp down criticism at home over the treatment of veterans seeking care at VA hospitals. In his weekly address Saturday, the president said the nation must work harder to ensure that military veterans get the benefits they've earned. 'They've done their duty,' he said, 'and they ask nothing more than that this country does ours.'
"On Wednesday, Obama is set to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. That's the setting where in 2009 he announced a troop surge that pushed U.S. force levels in Afghanistan to a peak of 100,000, while also setting a timetable for withdrawal. The president now has to decide whether any U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, with the limited mission of supporting Afghan forces and battling terrorists. Any such residual force is contingent on agreement from the next Afghan president."
The Los Angeles Times spoke to a "senior advisor" who gave the paper a preview of the speech Obama is expected to deliver on Wednesday.
The paper reports that Obama will outline a second-term foreign policy that is "interventionist and internationalist, but not isolationist or unilateral."
The paper adds:
"Obama believes that 'we need to put that to use in an international system that is sustainable and enduring,' the advisor said, 'and that can address challenges, from traditional ones like maritime and trade issues, to emerging ones like climate change.'
"Obama sees the U.S. moving out of a period of war and entering a new one marked by different global priorities, advisors say."