AFGHANISTAN: US President Donald Trump on Thursday night made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, for a surprise Thanksgiving visit with troops engaged in America’s longest-ever military conflict.
Trump’s visit was his first to Afghanistan since becoming president and came a week after a prisoner swap between Washington and Kabul that has raised hopes for a long elusive peace deal.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! pic.twitter.com/7SGZnHindW
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 28, 2019
“The Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them,” Trump told reporters after arriving in Afghanistan after an overnight flight from the United States, kept secret for security reasons.
“We say it has to be a ceasefire and they didn’t want to do a ceasefire and now they want to do a ceasefire, I believe. It will probably work out that way.”
Taliban leaders have told Reuters that the group has again been holding meetings with senior US officials in Doha since last weekend, adding they could soon resume formal peace talks.
The Air Force One presidential plane touched down at Bagram Airfield late in the evening on Thursday, with White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien, a small group of aides and Secret Service agents. Two surveillance blimps flew overhead.
Trump met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and served turkey to some US troops before sitting down to eat Thanksgiving dinner with them. He chatted and had his picture taken with some of the US forces deployed there.
Rare war zone visit
It was only the second trip to a war zone by a US president who never served in the military and has often derided US engagement in foreign conflicts as costly blunders. He traveled to Iraq in 2018 for a Christmas holiday visit with troops.
Trump was greeted upon his arrival by US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley said on Wednesday that a successful outcome from peace talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan could happen in the “near term.”
Trump has wanted to end US involvement in Afghanistan since his days as a presidential candidate.
But talks between the Taliban and the United States collapsed in September after Trump called off a planned meeting with Taliban leaders at the US Camp David presidential retreat, citing a surge in Taliban violence.
The US military says it has ramped up strikes and raids on the Taliban since then, in a bid to pressure the insurgents back to the negotiating table.
Hopes for peace rose earlier this month, when the Taliban released American and Australian hostages.
— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) November 28, 2019