The FINANCIAL — According to RIA Novosti, U.S. President Barack Obama, who unexpectedly arrived in Afghanistan earlier on March 28 and met with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, said he wanted to see progress continue on Afghan efforts to tackle corruption and drug-trafficking, local radio reported.
The U.S. president's helicopter landed at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base at 7:25 p.m. local time (15:55 GMT), after a 12-hour and 46-minute nonstop overnight flight. Obama's first trip to Afghanistan as commander-in-chief was not previously announced due to security concerns.
About half an hour later, Obama's helicopter touched down at presidential palace in Kabul.
According to a pool report by Wall Street Journal correspondent Peter Spiegel, during a meeting with Karzai, the U.S. president reportedly intended to "make him understand that in his second term, there are certain things that have been not paid attention to", namely, a "merit-based system for appointment of key government officials, battling corruption, taking the fight to the narco-traffickers, which fuels, provides a lot of the economic engine for the insurgents."
Local radio reports said Obama invited Karzai to visit Washington for bilateral talks in May.
Karzai's relations with the West were strained last year by his fraud-tainted reelection in November. The U.S. has repeatedly called for the Afghan leader to take steps to clean up corruption in his government.
During the meeting with Obama, Karzai expressed his gratitude to the U.S. president over the assistance that the White House provides to the war-ravaged country, radio reports said.
Obama's visit took place amid an ongoing build-up of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. ISAF operates in the country under a UN mandate to give security support to the Afghan government and stop the flow of drugs from Afghanistan.
The international forces currently have some 90,000 troops in the country, with more than 50,000 troops contributed by the United States. Obama has pledged to send an additional 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan in the first part of 2010 to defeat the Taliban and establish law and order. Other NATO members have said they will send 7,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.