Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Thursday to meet with Afghan leaders and U.S. troops stationed overseas ahead of the holiday season.
Pence was greeted by Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, and chief executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, according to press pool reports.
The arrival of @VP Pence at the Presidential palace in Kabul. Both @ashrafghani & CEO Abdullah Abdullah met with him. Pence urged them to move forward with long stalled elections. #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/EdYuV0E6GC— margaret brennan (@margbrennan) December 21, 2017
Ghani offered brief remarks and lauded the partnership he has with Pence. Pence then offered remarks and noted the commitment the U.S. has to Afghanistan.
“We've been on a long road together but President Trump made it clear earlier this year that we are with you, we are joined in resolve,” Pence said. “We have both sacrificed much in this fight. But I hope my presence here is tangible evidence that the leadership of President Trump, our administration and the armed forces that we are here to see this through.”
Pence’s staff said Pence and Ghani "talk frequently and have a strong relationship," according to CNBC reporter Christina Wilkie.
The U.S. has had troops stationed in Afghanistan for more than 16 years.
“I look forward to being with our military tonight and an opportunity to extend to them the gratitude of the American people,” Pence added. “But please extend to your forces the admiration and gratitude of the American people for all they have sacrificed. We believe that we are now on a path to achieve a lasting victory for freedom and security in Afghanistan.”
Pence later addressed more than 500 troops in front of a large American flag in a hangar.
BREAKING: VP Mike Pence is on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan. He met today in Kabul with President Ghani. Per Pence staff, the "two talk frequently and have a strong relationship."— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) December 21, 2017
“You are heroes …You are the best of us,” he said. “The armed forces of the United States are the world’s greatest force for good.”
He also shared why the U.S. entered the Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — to help the people of Afghanistan and to keep the U.S. safe from future terrorists. Additionally, he reiterated that the U.S. would remain in Afghanistan until the treats cease to exist.
“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,” Pence said.
Pence has never traveled to a war zone during his first year as vice president, and is ahead of President Trump, who hasn't made a trip to a war zone during his time in office so far.
Pence left Washington, D.C., Wednesday afternoon, following an event at the White House to commemorate the final passage of the GOP tax reform effort.
Originally, Pence was scheduled to travel to Egypt and Israel this week, but he rescheduled his plans to visit later in January so he could remain in Washington in the event he needed to break a tie in the Senate concerning the tax reform legislation.
Former President Barack Obama visited Afghanistan four times, and former President George W. Bush made two trips.