The president has made an unscheduled trip to Afghanistan, which the New York Times describes as an attempt to "to smooth over a troubled relationship with President Hamid Karzai and take stock of a nine-year-old American-led war that he hopes to begin winding down next summer."

Wrapped in a tight security cocoon, Mr. Obama was scheduled to be on the ground for only a few hours, in his second trip in nine months to a country ravaged by war. But his arrival came at critical juncture, as he and other NATO allies put in place a transition plan meant to hand over control of the battlefield to Afghan forces. The intention is to formally end foreign combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Mr. Obama’s administration is also in the midst of its own review of the counterinsurgency strategy he approved a year ago, when he ordered the latest increase in troop strength. That step brought American forces in the country to about 100,000, or roughly triple the number there when he took office 22 months ago.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces, has highlighted signs of progress, but others have expressed skepticism. General Petraeus and the United States ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, met Mr. Obama when he stepped off Air Force One on Friday after the 13-hour flight.

It's heartening to see the president take interest in the war in Afghanistan. Although myriad issues, from taxes to New START, are currently consuming the president's time, his number one constitutional duty is to maintain the security of the United States. This is hopefully a sign that the president, even if it might be because he's stumbled on the domestic scene, understands that.

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