Obama Makes Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

Unannounced trip focused on signing an agreement defining the role of U.S. forces over next 10 years.

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President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai emerge from their meeting before signing a strategic partnership agreement at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 1, 2012.

President Obama gave Mitt Romney and his other Republican critics a powerful lesson on the power of incumbency Tuesday with his surprise visit to Afghanistan.

Obama's White House staff put out a bogus schedule designed to deceive those who might want to harm the president, arguing that security concerns demanded the deception. The trip to Afghanistan wasn't mentioned on his roster of events. And while this subterfuge was likely to ruffle feathers in the press corps, the result was a public relations coup for the administration.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Afghanistan.]

While Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and other GOP leaders were complaining that Obama had been politicizing the one-year anniversary of the death of terrorist Osama bin Laden, Obama was opening another foreign-policy chapter. His unannounced visit to Kabul and his meeting with President Hamid Karzai was focused on Obama's signing of a 10-year agreement spelling out the role of U.S. forces beyond the projected end of U.S. combat involvement in the Afghan war in 2014.

Obama was also scheduled to address U.S. troops and make a televised speech Tuesday night.

The episode shows how an incumbent president has many opportunities to out-maneuver his political opponents, dominate news coverage, and capture the attention of the nation and the world.

[Read Obama, Bill Clinton Drop Personal Issues for Political Gain.]

Earlier Tuesday, Romney was still complaining about Obama's comments that the president proved his decisiveness by ordering the mission that killed bin Laden while there is no guarantee that Romney would have done the same thing. Romney told "CBS This Morning": "I think them taking credit for the right decision is entirely appropriate. I think trying to attack me on that basis is disappointing and the wrong course." Romney said he would have ordered the bin Laden mission under similar circumstances.

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  • See photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.