obama in afghanastan
*(Via MSN News/Reuters) – President Barack Obama slipped into Afghanistan for a surprise visit Sunday and made clear that the U.S. will likely maintain a limited role here even after its combat mission ends this year and America’s longest war comes to a close.

“America’s commitment to the people of Afghanistan will endure,” he pledged.

Speaking to troops gathered in an airplane hangar on this sprawling military base, Obama said the war had reached a pivotal point, with Afghan forces assuming primary responsibility for their country’s security. But while many of the 32,800 U.S. forces now in Afghanistan will leave in the coming months, Obama said a continued military presence could help protect gains made during nearly 13 years of fighting.

“After all the sacrifices we’ve made, we want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win and we’re going to make sure that Afghanistan can never again, ever, be used again to launch an attack against our country,” Obama declared.

Obama was accompanied by a few advisers, including senior counselor John Podesta, whose son is serving in Afghanistan. Country singer Brad Paisley joined Obama on Air Force One and entertained the troops as they waited for the president.

As is typical of recent presidential trips to war zones, the White House did not announce Obama’s visit in advance. Media traveling with Obama for the 13-hour flight had to agree to keep the trip secret until the president had arrived.

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