President Barack Obama was cheered by soldiers during a surprise visit to Bagram Airfield outside Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.
Barack Obama has told US troops in Afghanistan that America’s longest war will come to “a responsible end” at the end of 2014.
It comes on the eve of Memorial Day, when Americans commemorate troops who have died in service.
Foreign combat troops are due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year.
The US is seeking to keep a small number of troops there to train Afghan security forces. But that plan depends on the next Afghan president – due to be elected next month – signing a bilateral security agreement that incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to authorize.
Barack Obama had invited his Afghan counterpart to the base but Hamid Karzai refused, saying he would only meet the US president at his palace in Kabul, officials said.
Instead, Barack Obama called the Afghan leader from Air Force One on his way back to the US, officials said, saying he would be in touch before announcing any decision on the planned US troop presence after 2014.
To cheers from the assembled troops, Barack Obama thanked them for their service, and promised to improve treatment for wounded veterans.
“By the end of this year… Afghans will take full responsibility for their security and our combat mission will be over. America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.”
Barack Obama said the US would remain committed to Afghanistan provided the incoming president signed the security agreement.
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