President Obama Speaks To Troops In Afghanistan


President Obama fled the politics and bad economic news in Washington on Friday for the safety of war-torn Afghanistan, where he brought the U.S. forces some holiday cheer.

He got a rousing reception in return.

"I'm not here to give a long speech," a beaming Obama told the 3,850 military personnel jamming a hangar at Bagram Air base. "I want to shake as many hands as I can."

Then Obama proceeded to thank them for their service and to reassure them that "the American people are united in support or you and your families."

"You're achieving your objectives, you will succeed in your mission," he said. "We said we were going to break the Taliban's momentum and that's what you're doing."

Obama slipped into Afghanistan only hours after he presided over a Chanukah celebration at the White House - and as his administration back home was buffeted by a disappointing bad job growth report and battling the Republicans in Congress.

The troubled economy appeared to be on Obama's mind as he sought to reassure the troops that while he is freezing the pay of federal workers - he's not freezing their pay.

"All who wear the uniform of the United States of America are exempt from that action," he said.

"On behalf of more than 300 million Americans we are here to say thank you," he added. "We are here to say thank you for everything that you do."

Dressed in a leather bomber jacket, Obama spoke after visiting the wounded at the base hospital and handing out four Purple Heart medals.

Obama also spoke by secure videophone with Afghan president Hamid Karzai after his trip to Kabul was cancelled.

Bad weather was the official reason. But Obama landed in Afghanistan not long after the latest Wikileaks document dump which revealed the U.S. diplomats were concerned about the competence and widespread corruption in the Karzai administration.