Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Thursday, marking his first visit to the country under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Pence, whose trip was unannounced for security reasons, delivered a message from Trump to nearly 500 American troops in Afghanistan while speaking at the Bagram Airfield, north of Kabul.
“I bring greetings from your commander in chief,” Pence said. “Before I left the Oval Office yesterday, I asked the president if he had a message for the troops. He said, ‘Tell them I love them.'”
The vice president also insisted the United States military would no longer be “bound by arbitrary timetables” in Afghanistan.
“We’ve been on a long road together, but President Trump made it clear earlier this year that we are with you,” Pence said, before his meeting with Afghan leaders. “We are joined in resolve.”
“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.”
Before the speech, Pence arrived at a courtyard near the Presidential Palace in Kabul via helicopter and met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
The trip focused on the administration’s new strategy in Afghanistan, which focuses on sending more troops and presses for Pakistan’s support in controlling terrorist groups near the border.
“We believe that we are now on a path to achieve a lasting victory for freedom and security in Afghanistan,” Pence said at his meeting with Ghani. “We are grateful for your leadership and partnership in that effort.”
The vice president later tweeted that the meeting focused on reaffirming U.S. commitment to stand with Afghanistan and “stand up to terrorists that have found a safe haven here & to make it clear that the resolve of the U.S is firm.”
In August, Trump made a prime-time speech outlining the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan — revealing a conditional approach to the United States’ support for Kabul. It was later revealed an additional 4,000 American troops would be sent to the country.
“Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out,” Trump said in the speech. “I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”
By Sara Shayanian