President Trump made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan to visit American troops stationed at Bagram Air Base over the Thanksgiving holiday.
According to The Washington Post, Trump departed on Air Force One from Florida on Wednesday, speaking to troops assembled in an airplane hangar on Thursday with a happy Thanksgiving message.
“We are winning like we have not won in a long time, we were respected like we have not been respected in a long time,” Trump told the troops, reports the Post. “Our citizens know that we are standing guard, crushing our enemies … I am here today to just really say, happy Thanksgiving, but also thank you very much.”
“There is nowhere I’d rather celebrate this Thanksgiving than right here,” said Trump, who proceeded to call the troops the “toughest, strongest, best and bravest warriors on the face of the earth,” according to the Associated Press.
Trump also announced during the trip that the U.S. had resumed peace negotiations with the Taliban, saying that “the Taliban wants to make a deal. We’ll see if they want to make a deal. It’s got to be a real deal, but we’ll see. But they want to make a deal,” according to CNN.
The Associated Press reports that Trump also mentioned that he wants to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 12,000 to 8,600. Peace negotiations with the Taliban were previously paused in September.
Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, told the news agency that Thanksgiving trip had been planned nearly a month in advance, and that Trump wanted to personally thank the troops because “it’s a dangerous area and he wants to support the troops.”
For security reasons, the trip was kept secret from all but a select group of reporters, and the White House prepared tweets in advance so as to not draw suspicion about the president’s whereabouts, according to the news agency.
This is President Trump’s second trip official trip to visit troops in an active combat zone over the holiday season. The first was last year, when Trump traveled to Iraq the day after Christmas along with First Lady Melania Trump.
As the BBC reported last December, Trump was greeted by troops with a standing ovation, and personally thanked the troops for their role in helping to diminish the influence of the Islamic State in the region. “Two years ago, when I became president, they were a very dominant group, today they’re not so dominant any more. Great job,” said Trump.
Last week, Vice President Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence made their own trip to the Middle East, greeting troops stationed at Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq, according to NPR. Similar to Trump, Pence had the opportunity to serve turkey to American troops and thank them for the work they do in keeping the world safe and secure.
“The armed forces of the United States are the greatest force for good that the world has ever known, and you are that force,” said Pence, reports the news agency.