So the White House pulled off a big surprise, as the president secretly flew to Kabul late last night, where he will not only commemorate the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, but also sign an agreement intended to lay out a clear path to ending the U.S. combat role in the war. Mark Landler of the New York Times has the story:

President Obama landed here Tuesday, on a surprise visit, to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan meant to mark the beginning of the end of a war that has lasted for more than a decade.

Mr. Obama, arriving after nightfall under a veil of secrecy at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, flew by helicopter to the presidential palace, where he was to meet President Hamid Karzai before both leaders signed the pact. It is intended to be a road map for two nations lashed together by more than a decade of war and groping for a new relationship after the departure of American troops, scheduled for the end of 2014.

Mr. Obama was scheduled to address the American people from Afghanistan on Tuesday evening, which would be the middle of the night in Afghanistan. The address – on the first anniversary of the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan – will give Mr. Obama a new opportunity to make an election-year case that he has wound down two expensive and now unpopular wars, here and in Iraq.

Quite a complex maneuver, it seems. So I guess it would be too much for the president to mention in passing that he’s doing everything possible to avoid a third expensive and unpopular war with Iran, which Mitt Romney and much of the GOP seems committed to undertaking–or at least aggressively risking–if Obama is driven from the White House.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.