Vice President of the United States Mike Pence made a highly secretive visit to Afghanistan on Thursday to meet with U.S. troops, as well as with senior Afghan leaders to discuss Trump’s strategy for the region.
Thursday night saw Pence arrive in a nondescript aircraft at the Bagram Airfield near Kabul. He went in a C-17 rather than the traditionally-dubbed Air Force Two.
From there he was whisked away by helicopter – not without incident as low visibility made a landing uncertain – to the Presidential Palace in Kabul, where he met with President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, his top contacts in Afghanistan on Trump’s behalf.
The meeting was apparently a token visit to show Trump’s continued commitment to the problems in Afghanistan after more than a decade and a half since the war on terrorism began under President George W. Bush.
At the opening of his 45-minute conversation with the senior Afghan statesmen, he said he hoped that his presence would be taken as “tangible evidence” of the Trump administration’s attention to the region.
Pence then proceeded back to the airfield where he spoke to about 500 soldiers for 20 minutes, basically conveying Trump’s greetings for the season and alluding to the fact that the fight is not over yet:
“Under President Donald Trump, the armed forces of the United States will remain engaged in Afghanistan until we eliminate the terrorist threat to our homeland, to our people, once and for all.”
Members of the press who travelled with Pence were under a strict embargo not to publish any details until an hour after the Vice President had left the location early on Friday morning local time.
Pence will next be traveling to the Middle East around the middle of January, per senior White House officials. His original trip to Egypt and Israel was slated for this week, but those plans were cancelled amidst continuing uproar over Trump’s controversial declaration about Jerusalem, and after several leaders in the region cancelling their meetings with Pence.
Trump is yet to make a trip to either Afghanistan or Iraq.
Within the first two months as President, former President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Baghdad, and visited Afghanistan a total of four times during his two-term presidency.
His predecessor, former President George W. Bush, made a total of six trips to war-torn regions, including four trips to Iraq and two to Afghanistan.
In stark contrast, despite several international trips in the past year, Trump is yet to visit the front lines after almost a year of being Commander-in-Chief.
One of the reasons could be that the 16-years-long war in Afghanistan is now merely a memory in the American people’s minds, and the country is of little political value to be of interest to politicians on either side of the party line.
With Syria and North Korea now taking front seats, polls show that most Americans just want the conflict in Afghanistan to be over and done with.
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