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Taliban taunt Obama over night Afghan visit


U.S. President Barack Obama inspects a guard of honor with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, March 28, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young
U.S. President Barack Obama inspects a guard of honor with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, March 28, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban mocked U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday for visiting Afghanistan like a "thief" in the night, saying the world leader was too frightened to arrive during the day because of the threat from insurgents.

Obama on Sunday made his first visit to Kabul since taking office nearly 15 months ago, arriving and leaving under the cover of darkness.

Obama landed in the main U.S. air base in Bagram, north of Kabul, and was flown by helicopter to the capital, landing in the heavily fortified presidential palace to meet his counterpart, Hamid Karzai.

After a one-to-one meeting with Karzai, lasting only 25 minutes, and a brief handshake with Karzai's cabinet, Obama was flown to Bagram where he spoke to U.S. troops, ending the whirlwind six-hour trip.

"By making a six-hour unannounced trip to Afghanistan ..., Obama proved that his military strategy and surge of 30,000 troops, his morale-boosting propaganda, have all failed to make a dent," the Taliban said in a statement on their website.

"The mujahideen have driven the enemy further into the corner, to the extent that he (Obama) is now not able to visit Afghanistan in daylight. He comes during the night and hurries back in darkness, ironically acting like a thief."

During his visit, Obama said the Taliban, removed from power by U.S.-backed forces in 2001, were "hunkered down" but that they and their al Qaeda allies were a determined enemy.

"Obama's admission that the Taliban are a determined force in fact exposes the invading Americans' acknowledgement of the fact that the Taliban are waging a resolute struggle with unwavering determination," the Taliban said.

In December, Obama ordered 30,000 extra U.S. troops to Afghanistan to try and turn the tide against the Taliban who have made a comeback in recent years, inflicting heavy losses on foreign and Afghan troops.

Obama had been expected to come to Kabul for some time since his inauguration in January 2009. White House officials said weather and logistical reasons hampered previous efforts.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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