As lawmakers on Capitol Hill take a break from the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, the commander in chief made a surprise visit to Afghanistan to check in with U.S. troops currently stationed there during the Thanksgiving holiday.
According to Politico, the visit to Afghanistan marks the president’s first trip to the country during his time in office. In addition, while meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the president announced major news that he had reinitialized peace talks with the Taliban — the predominant opposition force in the country.
During the meeting, Trump stated that he thinks Taliban forces are seeking a ceasefire to what has been a nearly two-decades-long war in the Middle East.
The president departed his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Wednesday night to make the roughly 16-hour trip to the region, which is also the second time he’s visited a Middle Eastern war zone during a major American holiday. Last Christmas, he dropped in on U.S. troops serving in Iraq.
The trip to Afghanistan was intentionally kept a secret, as the White House originally stated that the president would be spending the harvest holiday weekend at his Florida resort. A contingent of 13 members of the press traveled with Trump to Afghanistan with the condition that they not reveal the surprise trip ahead of time to mitigate any security concerns.
Trump has previously pushed to cut the number of U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan from the roughly 14,000 who are currently stationed there.
President Trump is speaking with U.S. troops in Afghanistan in a surprise visit for Thanksgiving: "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." pic.twitter.com/5AxUe1cSvU
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) November 28, 2019
The president’s trip comes in the wake of several days of controversy involving his intervention in the case of U.S. Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher’s push to maintain his SEAL status, despite previously being charged for war crimes.
In the dust-up, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was ousted from his prominent leadership position after he initially refused to let Gallagher keep his status. The former Navy secretary slammed the president in a resignation letter, saying he didn’t have “the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline.”
As Politico reported, the situation spurred rumors that other top U.S. military leaders who weren’t happy with Trump’s intervention could also leave their positions.
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, also made a surprise trip to the Middle East in recent days, stopping at Al Asad Air Force Base in western Iraq to help serve a Thanksgiving lunch to troops while thanking them for their service. The vice president also took care of several orders of official business while in the country, including sending a message of reassurance to Kurdish allies that the United States still backs them.