US President Barack Obama travelled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware early Thursday morning to pay his respects as the bodies of 18 American troops killed this week in Afghanistan returned home.
The unannounced trip was symbolic intended to convey the gravity of Obamas decision as he moves closer to announcing whether he will send more troops to Afghanistan,where America is currently passing through its worst time in eight years of war. Fifty-four soldiers have died in October,the most ever in a month.
Some time after Obamas Marine One landed at 12.34 am,18 flag-covered transfer cases containing the bodies were unloaded from a cargo C-17 aircraft. Obama stood watch as soldiers carried the cases out with sorrowful precision.
Earlier,Obama met with several family members in the chapel of the base. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the recent rise in violence would not influence his strategy in Afghanistan,but it was weighing on him.
The hardest task that he has on any given day is signing the condolence letter to a loved one whos lost a son or a daughter or a husband,a wife,in Iraq or Afghanistan,or serving our country overseas, Gibbs said.
Obama was scheduled to return to Washington before sunrise Thursday morning. He meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff Friday,his seventh major session on Afghanistan since beginning his review.