President Trump sitting with troops in Afghanistan
Published: 14:03 EST, 28 November 2019 | Updated: 16:34 EST, 28 November 2019
- President Trump made surprise Thanksgiving Day trip to Afghanistan
- It is his first visit to the country
- He served Thanksgiving dinner to the troops and thanked them for their service
- ‘There is nowhere that I’d rather celebrate this Thanksgiving than right here with the toughest, strongest best and bravest warriors on the face of the Earth’
- He joined them for a meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and cornbread
- He also met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to discuss a Taliban ceasefire
It is his first visit to that country.
‘There is nowhere that I’d rather celebrate this Thanksgiving than right here with the toughest, strongest best and bravest warriors on the face of the Earth,’ Trump told the soldiers at Bagram Air Field.
President Donald Trump shakes hands during a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit
President Trump visited Bagram Air Base, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan
‘We flew 8331 miles to be here tonight for one simple reason, to tell you in person that this Thanksgiving is a special Thanksgiving,’ Trump said in his remarks. ‘We’re doing so well. Our country is the strongest economically it has ever been.’
He also talked about his campaign promise to end needless wars that he says America is involved in.
‘I want peace more than anybody,’ he said.
He also vowed to bring American troops home.
‘We will continue to work tirelessly until the day when we can bring each and every one of you home and safe to your family – and that day is coming,’ he added.
The president landed at Bagram Air Field, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan, in the cover of darkness early Thursday morning local time. The first lady did not join him. He made a surprise visit to Iraq last Christmas with first lady Melania Trump.
The White House went to great lengths to keep the visit a secret after his Christmas visit to Iraq was blown when Air Force One was spotted en route by an amateur British flight watcher.
Cell phones, hotspots and other devices emitting a signal were confiscated from reporters traveling with the president, who were not told the destination of the trip until Air Force One was in the air and on route.
The White House arranged in advance for the president’s Twitter account to remain active during his travel. A Thanksgiving message was tweeted from it Thursday morning.
Trump’s Afghanistan visit was kept a secret so it wouldn’t be revealed unlike his Christmas visit to Iraq, which was blown when Air Force One was spotted in the air
Trump’s plane on the tarmac of Bagram Air Field
The president was escorted for his visit by heavily armed soldiers.
He served turkey to the troops in a cafeteria, posed for photos with them and delivered brief remarks.
Upon his arrival, Trump went behind a serving counter to distribute turkey on a plate and then handed plates to troops.
He praised the food to the soldiers and told them: ‘You’ll come back’.
And the room was ready for the holidays, decorated with paper turkeys, paper pumpkins and paper leaves decorated the walls with paper streamers and lanterns in red, orange and yellow on the ceiling.
After he spent some time serving meals, the president sat down at a table of soldiers, taking a plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and cornbread.
But it turns out he didn’t have time to eat.
‘I sat down, had a gorgeous piece of turkey. And I was all set to go and I had some of the mashed potatoes. I had a bite of mash potatoes and I never got to the turkey because the general said come on over and let’s take some pictures,’ Trump told the troops in his remarks.
‘First time I’ve never had any turkey at Thanksgiving. But that is okay. But it looked about good. I should have started with that instead of the mashed potatoes. I made a mistake,’ he added.
President Trump served Thanksgiving dinner to the troops
Trump, seated next to Sen. John Barrasso, enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal
President Trump poses for pictures with the troops
Soldiers take pictures of President Trump
Military personnel said there were about 500 troops in the rooms to greet the president.
Additionally, during his time on the ground, President Trump held a bilateral meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in which he announced he has restarted peace negotiations with the Taliban.
Trump said that he believes the Taliban wants a ceasefire.
‘The Taliban wants to make a deal — we’ll see if they make a deal. If they do they do, and if they don’t they don’t. That’s fine,’ he said.
‘The Taliban wants to make a deal and we’re meeting with them and we’re saying it has s to be a cease fire and they didn’t want to do a cease fire and now they do want to do a cease fire. I believe it’ll probably work out that way,’ he noted.
Trump abruptly broke off peace talks with the Taliban more than two months ago after a bombing in Kabul killed 12 people, including an American soldier.
Trump waves as he serves dinner to the troops
He also addressed soldiers, thanking them for their service
Trump told the troops there was no place he’d rather be on Thanksgiving
Trump also said he would like to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 8,600.
Air Force One left the United States Wednesday night from Joint Base Andrews and landed at Bagram Air Base Thursday morning local time. Trump had flown up from Florida, where he was scheduled to spend Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago, to make the overseas trip.
His plane landed with the interior lights off and shades drawn. Trump was greeted on the tarmac by Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday.
The president was joined by Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Sen. John Barrasso, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Dan Walsh, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, Deputy White House Press Secretary Judd Deere and social media director Dan Scavino.
‘It’s a dangerous area and he wants to support the troops,’ Grisham said of the presidential visit. ‘He and Mrs. Trump recognize that there’s a lot of people far away from their families during the holidays and we thought it’d be a nice surprise.’
‘It’s truly about Thanksgiving and supporting the troops,’ Grisham said when asked about the political message of the trip.
Trump joined the troops for a meal, eating turkey, cornbread and mashed potatoes
Trump speaks to troops in Afghanistan
Trump made his first visit to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving
Trump joked he didn’t have time to eat any turkey during his visit
When asked how the president was feeling, Grisham responded: ‘He’s good. He’s excited.’
Grisham told reporters traveling with the president that the trip has been planned for weeks.
Trump invited Barrasso, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who regularly travels to Afghanistan, on the trip when the two saw each other recently in New York, she said.