Obama visits Kabul one year on from Bin Laden hit
US President Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan yesterday on an unannounced trip to sign a partnership agreement with the Afghan government ahead of a military withdrawal from the decade-long war.
The accord outlining future US support for Afghanistan took a year of negotiations and marks a milestone for the administration's goal of handing over security responsibility to local forces by the end of 2014.
The trip also comes a year after the president authorised the raid that killed al-Qa'ida leader Osama bin Laden.
He arrived in Afghanistan as the US Defence Department released a report saying the effort in Afghanistan faces "long-term and acute challenges" from militant sanctuaries in neighbouring Pakistan and "widespread corruption" in the Afghan government.
As the president highlights the eventual transfer of authority to Afghanistan, the administration is seeking to temper expectations of what will be left behind when US and coalition forces withdraw over the next couple of years.
After more than 10 years of a sustained military presence, US relations with the Afghan government as well as with Pakistan have soured.
The Taliban continues to pose a security threat, even with the gains that have been made since Mr Obama's revamped war strategy in 2010.
"The insurgency remains a resilient and determined enemy and will likely attempt to regain lost ground and influence this spring and summer," the Defence Department wrote in the semi-annual report sent to Congress and released in Washington yesterday.
"Additionally, the Afghan government continues to face widespread corruption that limits its effectiveness and legitimacy."
The war has cost $443bn (€335bn), according to figures from the Defence Department.
The future of Afghanistan will be one of the main topics of discussion when NATO leaders meet this month in Chicago.
The trip was cloaked in secrecy for security reasons. The White House released a schedule for the president that listed separate closed meetings with senior advisers in the US.
But instead, he left aboard Air Force One at 12.09am Washington time and flew through the night to Bagram, where he boarded a helicopter to Kabul ahead of a meeting with Afghan president Hamid Karzai.
This is Mr Obama's third trip to Afghanistan as president.