Donald Trump Surprises Troops in Afghanistan for Thanksgiving

US President Donald Trump serves Thanksgiving dinner to US troops at Bagram Air Field during a surprise visit on November 28, 2019 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump has made a surprise visit to Afghanistan to address U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Thursday.

The president arrived at Bagram Air Field around 8:30 p.m. local time and spent roughly two-and-a-half hours in the war-torn country. The media was under “strict instructions” to keep the visit under wraps for security reasons, CBS News reports.

Daniel Scavino Jr., the White House’s Director of Social Media, tweeted a pair of videos of the president’s arrival at the military base and his introduction for his speech before the troops.

Before his speech, President Trump and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley served turkey to around two dozen troops at a dining area covered with Thanksgiving-themed decorations.

“There’s nowhere I’d rather spend Thanksgiving than with the toughest, fiercest warriors,” the president said in his remarks. “I’m here to say Happy Thanksgiving and thank you very much. As president of the United States, I have no higher honor than serving as commander-in-chief.”

“We will continue to work tirelessly for the day when all of you can go home to your families, and that day is coming very soon,” he added.

Accompanying President Trump was acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

US President Donald Trump serves Thanksgiving dinner to US troops at Bagram Air Field during a surprise visit on November 28, 2019 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump serves Thanksgiving dinner to US troops at Bagram Air Field during a surprise visit on November 28, 2019 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump serves Thanksgiving dinner to US troops at Bagram Air Field during a surprise visit on November 28, 2019 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump serves Thanksgiving dinner to US troops at Bagram Air Field during a surprise visit on November 28, 2019 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump speaks to the troops during a surprise Thanksgiving day visit at Bagram Air Field, on November 28, 2019 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Soldiers take pictures of US President Donald Trump (unseen) during a Thanksgiving dinner to US troops at Bagram Air Field during a surprise visit on November 28, 2019 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump speaks to the troops during a surprise Thanksgiving day visit at Bagram Air Field, on November 28, 2019 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Grisham told reporters that the trip had been weeks in the making.

“It’s a dangerous area and he wants to support the troops,” she said. “He and Mrs. Trump recognize that there’s a lot of people who are away from their families during the holidays and we thought it’d be a nice surprise.”

President Trump was scheduled to spend Thanksgiving at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence made a surprise visit last week to address troops at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq. Last year, the president made a surprise visit to troops stationed in Iraq.

The surprise trip comes two months after President Trump ended peace talks with the Taliban in response to the terror group’s bombing in Kabul, which took the lives of 12 people, including one U.S. soldier.

During his brief trip, the president met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and announced that the U.S. has restarted negotiations with the Taliban.

“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,” the president said.

 “The Taliban wants to make a deal and we’re meeting with them and we’re saying it has 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,” he added. “I believe it’ll probably work out that way.”

Trump ran his 2016 campaign promising to end the nation’s “endless wars” and has been pushing to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and in the Middle East, despite protests from top U.S. officials, Trump’s Republican allies in Washington and many U.S. allies abroad. For months now, he has described American forces as “policemen” and argued that other countries’ wars should be theirs to wage.

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and more than 2,400 American service members have been killed since the war began 18 years ago.

Just last week, Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to oversee the transfer of remains of two Army officers killed when their helicopter crashed as they provided security for troops on the ground in Logar Province in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban still controls or holds sway over about half of the country, staging near-daily attacks targeting Afghan forces and government officials.

The U.S. has around 12,000 forces in Afghanistan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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