President Donald Trump made an unannounced Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Thursday and announced a renewed push for peace.
Air Force One landed at Bagram Airfield after secretly departing Florida in the dark of night. The president was accompanied by a small group of aides and Secret Service agents.
Trump served turkey and mashed potatoes to troops fighting America’s longest-running room. He then ate, mingled and posed for photographs before giving a speech championing the U.S. military.
“When our enemies hear the sound of your jets … their terrorist blood runs cold because they know their demise is near,” he told the troops.
Trump talks peace talks during surprise Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan
Trump’s first visit to the country had a political purpose, too. A week after a prisoner swap between Washington and Kabul, he met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and said he had restarted peace negotiations with the Taliban
“The Taliban wants to make a deal, and we’re meeting with them,” he said. “We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make to make a deal very badly.
Trump reaffirmed his desire to reduce America’s troop presence to 8,600, down from about 12,000 to 13,000. Nineteen U.S. service members have been killed this year in Afghanistan by hostile forces, an increase from 2018.
Last Thursday, the president traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive the remains of two American soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
Trump has repeatedly questioned why U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan after two decades of fighting, costing more than 2,000 U.S. military lives and billions of dollars of aid have left the United States and the Taliban in an extended stalemate.
In September, Trump nixed the previous round of peace talks. But on Thursday he said the Taliban is now willing to agree to a ceasefire, a concession they have long resisted and Ghani’s government has demanded.
This was the president’s second visit to a combat zone. Last year, he visited the troops in Iraq the day after Christmas.
Vice President Pence made a surprise trip on Saturday to Al Asad air base in Iraq, where he served turkey and greeted troops.