President George W. Bush got a firsthand look Tuesday at the deteriorating situation in the seven-year-old Afghanistan war, amid preparations to hand a broad strategy overhaul to President-elect Barack Obama and to significantly increase the US troop presence. Bush spoke to US soldiers and Marines stationed in Afghanistan at a hangar on the tarmac at Bagram Air Base. The rally for over a thousand military personnel took place in the dark, cold pre-dawn hours - it was about 5:30 a.m. local time when the president strode into the hangar to loud cheers. "Afghanistan is a dramatically different country than it was eight years ago," he said. "We are making hopeful gains." Bush then took a helicopter ride to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's palace in Kabul - the portion of the 40-hour journey that made his security detail the most nervous. At the compound, Bush and Karzai reviewed an honor guard dressed in long tunic coats of dusty blue and olive with yellow belts and epaulets.