Vice President Pence makes surprise trip to Afghanistan to visit soldiers

Lester Mason
December 22, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence is visiting troops in Afghanistan.

Pence met with Ghani in Germany in February and has spoken frequently with the Afghan president by phone or video conference. The troops were under strict orders not to share news of Pence's presence until he had left.

Echoing Trump's comments when he unveiled the new strategy, Pence had sharp words for neighbouring Pakistan, which he said had provided safe haven to the Taliban and other groups for too long.

The vice president will be meeting with service members and receive a briefing on the USA support for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. They must never believe they can wait us out. "A relentless pursuit of victory will guide us and nothing else".

He arrived in Afghanistan exactly four months after Trump announced plans to beef up the United States military presence in Afghanistan, signing off on a modest surge of several thousand more United States troops tasked primarily with conducting counterterrorism missions and training Afghan security forces. Weeks later, Defense Secretary James Mattis signed an order to increase USA troop levels there.

Two White House officials confirmed the changed schedule, which they say is unrelated to to protests in the region over the administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence walks past an honor guard with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani second from right and Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah third from right upon arrival at the President Palace in Kabul Afghanistan on Thursday Dec. 21 2017. (Ma
Vice President Pence makes surprise trip to Afghanistan to visit soldiers

"The American people deserve to know that with the courage of everyone gathered here, we're making real progress in this fight for freedom in Afghanistan", Pence told the troops.

Pence on Thursday delivered a pre-Christmas address to soldiers serving in Afghanistan and pointed to the president's new strategy in the country. The US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation coalition and Afghan troops are still battling the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but are now also fighting ISIS, where a regional affiliate of the terrorist group known as ISIS-K has established a foothold in recent years. Pence says that, because of that decision, the US has been sending more resources and troops into Afghanistan. A day earlier, there were separate attacks on a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation convoy and a police checkpoint in southern Afghanistan.

He joined Mr Ghani and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah for a Thursday evening meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul.

Pence flew in late Thursday night on a military plane landing at Bagram Airfield, the largest United States airfield in the country, according to Reuters.

The planning for Pence's trip to Afghanistan began quietly this fall, with only a handful of White House aides in the loop.

Pence, who coordinated the process that resulted in Trump's new Afghanistan policy, has been one of the main interlocutors between the White House and the Afghan leadership since Trump entered office in January.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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