WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday with troops stationed in Afghanistan, saying during his surprise visit that American and Afghan soldiers were making the Taliban more eager to reach a peace agreement.
In a video on Trump’s Twitter account, the president can be seen making a speech with a dozen US troops and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani standing behind him.
Trump’s visit to the Bagram Airfield in the northeastern province of Parwan marked his first trip to this Islamic country, where the US is fighting the longest war in its history.
“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,” Trump told the American soldiers.
“And they only want to make a deal because you’re doing a great job ... So I want to thank you and I want to thank the Afghan soldiers. I’ve spoken to a lot of you today and you say they’re really fighting hard. I was very impressed with that actually.”
The US president abruptly broke off talks with the Taliban in early September after that insurgent group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a US soldier.
Before breaking off the negotiations in September Trump had been on the verge of receiving the Taliban leaders and Ghani at the US president’s country retreat at Camp David in Maryland, an idea that sparked criticism in Washington given that the Taliban had harbored Osama bin Laden and the talks would have taken place near the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Taliban, which the US has labeled a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity, control a large swath of Afghanistan.
Trump gave his speech inside a hangar at the Bagram Airfield before joining the troops for a Thanksgiving dinner.
“There’s nowhere I’d rather celebrate this Thanksgiving than right here with the toughest, strongest, best and bravest warriors on the face of the Earth. You are indeed that,” the president said.
Roughly 13,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.
Less than a year ago, Trump made his first trip to a conflict zone when he and his wife, Melania, met with American soldiers in Iraq on the day after Christmas.