After protestations that included a tweet from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul saying “reports that President Obama is in Kabul are false,” the White House announced a short time ago that Obama is indeed at President Hamid Karzai’s palace and will deliver a televised address to the American people tonight.
“Our previous tweet that Obama was not in Afghanistan was true; he has since arrived to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement,” the Embassy followed up on Twitter.
The White House pool report noted that press were directed to assemble at Andrews Air Force Base last night but were under an embargo from reporting about the trip until after Obama arrived in Afghanistan.
The president, whose schedule just indicated a day of meetings at the White House, left shortly after midnight and arrived at Bagram air base after 10 p.m. local time. He then flew by helicopter to the presidential palace in Kabul.
Obama’s speech will be at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.
For all of the secrecy imposed on the trip, local Afghan TV announced Obama’s visit hours before the White House lifted its embargo.
Senior administration officials “said the timing of the trip was driven by the negotiations over the Strategic Partnership Agreement and by the desire of both presidents to sign the agreement in Afghanistan prior to the NATO summit in Chicago later this month,” according to the pool report. “However, the officials also acknowledged that the timing coincides with the first anniversary of the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.”
His address tonight is expected to mention the bin Laden raid.
Some lawmakers came along for the ride: The office of Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) just notified that the senator is in Afghanistan with Obama “and will witness the signing ceremony of an historic partnership with Afghanistan.”