WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit on Thursday to Afghanistan, where he met with Afghan leaders and reviewed US troops deployed there.
Pence left Washington on Wednesday afternoon on a military jet, arriving at the Bagram air base near Kabul, from where he was taken by helicopter to the presidential palace in the Afghan capital, where he met with President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah.
“I hope my presence here is tangible evidence” of the Donald Trump administration’s commitment to Afghanistan, Pence told the reporters accompanying him to the meeting.
After speaking with the Afghan leaders, Pence returned to Bagram to address some 500 US soldiers.
“I believe victory is closer than ever before,” Pence told the troops.
“It’s because of all of you that we’re safe. It’s because of you that we’re free. It’s because of you that freedom has a future in Afghanistan and America and all across the wider world,” the vice president said.
Pence, in addition, said that as long as Trump is president US troops will remain in Afghanistan.
“The United States of America will no longer be bound by arbitrary timetables in Afghanistan. As the President said, America’s enemies must never know our plans. They must never believe they can wait us out. Instead our decisions will be based on an objective assessment of conditions on the ground,” he said, adding that “A relentless pursuit of victory will guide us and nothing else.”
Pence’s visit lasted about 7˝ hours and he has now left Afghan soil, according to US reporters covering the trip.
This is Pence’s first visit to a combat theater, whereas Trump – although he has been in the White House for 11 months – still has not traveled to any war zones.
The US went to war in Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks more than 16 years ago.
Washington has some 14,000 troops in the Central Asian nation, most of them integrated into the NATO operation there.
About 2,400 US troops have died in Afghanistan since the US invaded the country to topple the Taliban government.