Under intense security and the cover of night, President Barack Obama slipped into Afghanistan on Tuesday. He's there to sign an agreement aimed at cementing a lasting U.S. commitment to the nation after the long and unpopular war comes to an end.
Officials said the administration wanted to have the agreement signed prior to the NATO Summit in Chicago later this month.
The United States, of course, is a major force within NATO and an agreement will set the stage for discussions when international leaders meet in Chicago on May 20 and 21.
Obama is joining Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign an agreement that will broadly govern the U.S. role in Afghanistan after the American combat mission stops at the end of 2014 -- 13 years after it began.
For about seven hours, Obama is to be on the ground in Afghanistan, where the United States has been engaged in war in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks more than decade ago. The trip carries major symbolic significance for the president as U.S. commander in chief. And it allows him to showcase what the White House considers the fruit of Obama's refocused war effort: the killing a year ago of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Air Force One touched down late at night local time at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan.
Media traveling with Obama on the 13-hour flight had to agree to keep it secret until Obama had safely finished a helicopter flight to the nation's capital, Kabul, where Taliban insurgents still launch lethal attacks.
The president's address from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan: