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Trump Says He Reopened Peace Talks with Taliban in Surprise Trip to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving

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Trump Says He Reopened Peace Talks with Taliban in Surprise Trip to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving

2019-11-29 17:32:571 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump in Afghanistan (Image source: Screenshot)

After much criticism from all sides, Donald Trump canceled plans to have the Taliban and Afghanistan leaders meet with him at Camp David. This isn't something he's willing to let go, however, as he made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving and said he has reopened talks for peace while also greeting U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East country.

Trump had been vacationing with his family this week at his Palm Beach, Florida, resort, Mar-a-Lago. On Wednesday night he flew from Florida to Joint Base Andrews near Washington and boarded Air Force One to make the trip to Afghanistan. Adding to the secrecy, the plane didn't use lights when taking off and closed the cabin window shades. White House staff tweeted from Trump's Twitter account to disguise that he was not available. Once he touched down at the Bagram airbase at 8:30 p.m. local time, he was surrounded by troops carrying rifles and wearing night-vision goggles. 

Melania Trump did not join him on this trip and stayed in Florida. Instead, he was joined by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and senior aides. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, who had already been traveling in the region, joined him as well.

"The Taliban wants to make a deal, and we're meeting with them, and we're saying it has to be a cease-fire, and they didn't want to do a cease-fire, and now they do want to do a cease-fire," he told the 1,500 military personnel who had gathered in an airport hangar. "I believe it'll probably work out that way.    

"We are winning like we haven't won in a long time," he continued, telling the crowd he wanted a military victory, and "we don't play for ties." He explained they wouldn't find success on the battlefield and that instead it would be determined by people in the region in "a political solution."

The president also served turkey to the troops gathered to see him in a cafeteria and pose for photos. 

Afghanistan leader Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai appeared with him as well. He took the stage and praised Trump as the strategist behind weakening the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. He also gave him credit for killing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He said this death was more important than the taking out of Osama bin Laden, who was seen as the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I'd like to thank you for your leadership, for your determination," Ghani to Trump and thanked him as well for his "very principled decisions regarding putting limits on the type of peace that will ensure the gains of the past year and ensure your security and your security." 

This is Trump's second visit to a combat zone. Previously, he visited troops in Iraq on December 26 of last year. Last week Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Al Asad airbase in Iraq where he greeted troops and served turkey.

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