BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) – The Latest on President Donald Trump’s first visit to Afghanistan (all times local):
President Donald Trump is thanking U.S. troops in Afghanistan during a surprise visit to Bagram Air Field in his first trip to the site of America’s longest war.
He says he flew 8,331 miles to be there to tell them the U.S. has never been stronger. He says, “There is nowhere I’d rather celebrate Thanksgiving.”
Trump spoke to a crowd of about 1,500 troops gathered in a hangar on the base. He stood behind a podium surrounded by army green sandbags and flanked by military equipment.
Trump at one point invited Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to join him onstage. Ghani wished the troops a “Happy Thanksgiving” and commended Trump for his leadership.
Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and more than 2,400 American service members have been killed since America’s longest war began 18 years ago.
President Donald Trump had a Thanksgiving meal with U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, where he traveled secretly Thursday.
Trump’s first stop was a dining hall decked out in paper Thanksgiving decorations where he plated turkey for the troops at the largest U.S. base in the country.
He was then greeted by a round of loud cheers as he headed into a main dining area and sat down for a meal, chatted and posed for photos.
He also thanked the troops and joked that, “It’s a long flight, but we love it.”
The meal included turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and candied yams. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, Entertainment Tonight and a Harry Potter movie played on dining hall TVs.
President Donald Trump is making a surprise visit to Afghanistan to spend time with U.S. troops on Thanksgiving.
Trump arrived at Bagram Air Field shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time and spent more than two-and-a-half hours on the ground. Reporters were under strict instructions to keep the trip a secret to ensure his safety.
The visit comes more than two months after Trump abruptly broke off peace talks with the Taliban after a bombing in Kabul killed 12 people, including an American soldier.
And it comes at a pivotal moment in Trump’s presidency, with the impeachment inquiry moving quickly.
The president and first lady made a similar trip last year to Iraq on Christmas night – their first to an active conflict zone.
Vice President Mike Pence also visited troops in Iraq this week.
The White House went to great lengths to keep the president’s surprise Thanksgiving trip to Afghanistan secret after his cover was blown last year.
Cell phones were confiscated from everyone traveling aboard Air Force One to Bagram Air Field. And Thanksgiving-themed tweets were teed up to publish ahead of time from the president’s account to prevent suspicions arising about his silence.
The president first flew back to the Washington area secretly from Florida, where reporters had been told he’d be spending Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, the plane he’d flown to Florida remained parked on the tarmac at West Palm Beach Airport to avoid revealing the president’s movement.
Last year, Air Force One was spotted en route to Iraq by an amateur British flight watcher.