Obama makes surprise Afghan trip


US president Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan today to sign an agreement charting future relations with the country, making the secret trip on the first anniversary of the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Mr Obama plans to deliver a televised address to Americans later today.

He signed a strategic partnership accord with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that charts the future of US-Afghan relations beyond the end of the Nato combat mission in the country.

He acknowledged that there will be difficult days ahead for Afghanistan, but said the Afghan people were taking control of their own future.

"The wages of war have been great for both our nations," Mr Obama said, adding that he looked forward to a future of peace.The two leaders shook hands after the signing, which took place in Mr Karzai's palace in the Afghan capital.

As he fights for his re-election, Mr Obama is seeking to portray his foreign policy record as a success.

His re-election campaign has made bin Laden's death a key part of that argument, and the president's visit to the country where militants hatched the September 11 2001 attacks will reinforce that message. It also opens him up to criticism from Republicans, who say Obama has politicized bin Laden's death.

Mitt Romney tried for the second day to push back against claims by the Obama camp that he might not
have given the order to kill bin Laden if he had been president.

"I think it was very disappointing for the president to make this a political item by suggesting that I wouldn't have ordered such a raid. Of course I would have. Any American, any thinking American, would have ordered exactly the same  thing," Mr Romney told CBS.

Later, he told reporters, "Had I been president of the United States, I would have made the same decision as the president made."
After leaving Washington under cover of darkness late last night and flying overnight, Obama arrived at Bagram Air Base before visiting Kabul.

After a US troop increase that Mr Obama ordered in late 2009, US and Nato forces have managed to weaken Taliban militants, but the movement is far from defeated.

The White House wants to paint Mr Obama's strategy in Afghanistan as successful, despite continued violence there and problems with corruption that have raised concerns about the country's future stability.

Mr Romney has criticized Mr Obama's handling of Afghanistan, saying the timeline for a withdrawal will only embolden militants and could leave the country vulnerable to a return to power of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan prior to the US-led invasion.