Obama caps quiet Christmas Saturday with a surprise visit to a Marine base to thank U.S. troops for the sacrifices they’ve made, including being away from their families at the holidays.

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan crisscrossed the country on Saturday, making a Christmas visit to coalition troops at some of the main battle fronts in a show of appreciation and support in the tenth year of the war against the Taliban.

Gen. David Petraeus started his visit by traveling in a C-130 cargo plane from the capital, Kabul, to the northern province of Kunduz, telling troops with the U.S. Army’s 1-87, 10th Mountain Division that on this day, there was “no place that (he) would rather be than here” where the “focus of our effort” was.

The northern part of the country has seen increased fighting, with the Taliban stepping up their attacks as NATO focuses its sights on the militant movement’s southern strongholds. Petraeus was briefed on the situation in the region by German Maj. Gen. Hans-Werner Fritz, the commander of NATO’s northern regional command.

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