Published: Fri, November 29, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Donald Trump Makes Surprise Thanksgiving Visit to Afghanistan

Donald Trump Makes Surprise Thanksgiving Visit to Afghanistan

Speaking while on an unannounced Thanksgiving visit to United States troops in the country, where they have been fighting for 18 years, Trump said that his long-promised withdrawal from the country is underway.

The president and first lady made a similar trip previous year to Iraq on Christmas night - their first to an active conflict zone.

"The Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them and we are saying it has to be a ceasefire and they didn't want to do a ceasefire and now they do want to do a ceasefire, I believe".

The Trump administration appeared to be on the brink of striking a deal to jumpstart the peace process in September, when the president extended and then canceled an invitation for Taliban representatives to Camp David to cement an agreement to reduce USA forces.

"We say it has to be a ceasefire and they didn't want to do a ceasefire and now they want to do a ceasefire, I believe. It will probably work out that way", he told reporters.

Reporters were under strict instructions to keep the trip a secret.

Trump has long wanted to draw down forces in Afghanistan and his visit here comes as the Afghan government, together with a foreign force of around 15,000 US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops, is locked in an extended stalemate with the Taliban. "That was not meant to be the job of our Great Soldiers, the finest on earth", he wrote. "It's an honour to be here", he told them. He was greeted by U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, upon his arrival at the sprawling airfield.

Trump confirmed he'd like to reduce troop levels to about 8,600 in Afghanistan from 12,000 now, but would like to go lower without impacting operational duties.

Also, the Taliban has so far refused to talk to the Afghan government, which it says is a US puppet.

Trump has repeatedly questioned why the United States has kept troops in Afghanistan after almost two decades of fighting, billions of dollars in aid, and more than 2,000 USA military lives have failed to transform the country.

It's got to be a real deal, but we'll see.

The president is now on his way back to the United States.

The United States and the Taliban had been talking in a bid to put an end to the 18-year Afghan conflict for nearly a year before Trump called off the talks in September.

Weeks, 50, is believed to have arrived at Sydney Airport late on Thursday night after being transferred from a USA base in Germany.

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