Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan on Thursday, and he delivered a special message from their commander-in-chief.
Speaking at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, Afghanistan, Pence told the American service members, according to CNN, “It is humbling for me to address this force for freedom in this ancient land. And to each and every one of you, I bring greetings from your commander-in-chief, the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.”
After the applause, Pence continued, “Before I left the Oval Office yesterday, I asked the president if he had a message for our troops here in Afghanistan. And he looked at me without hesitation from behind Resolute Desk, and he said, ‘Tell ‘em I love ‘em.’”
“And during this special season, I know President Trump was speaking for every American,” Pence added before paraphrasing Romans 13:7. “You know, the Old Book says that, ‘If you owe debts, pay debts. If honor, then honor. If respect, then respect.’ And I’m here on behalf of your commander-in-chief and all of the American people to pay a debt of honor and respect and gratitude to each and every one of you for your service and your sacrifice.”
“Give yourself a round of applause,” Pence said, and the crowd immediately cheered. “We couldn’t be more proud of every one of you.”
The Trump administration received some criticism for sending 3,000 more troops in Afghanistan earlier this year, but Pence told the men and women at Bagram Thursday that, "The United States of America will no longer be bound by arbitrary timetables in Afghanistan. As the President said, America's enemies must never know our plans. They must never believe they can wait us out. Instead, our decisions will be based on an objective assessment of conditions on the ground.”
That strategy is a distinct difference from that of President Obama’s, who told our enemies in 2014 when to expect the U.S. to leave them alone, according to Foreign Policy.
"A relentless pursuit of victory will guide us and nothing else," Pence concluded.
The administration has not been clear on how many American troops are still in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there could be close to 16,000 in Afghanistan and more than 8,000 in Iraq, according to Business Insider. The battles against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS are ongoing.
CNN noted that Obama visited the troops in Afghanistan after only three months into his term in office, but Trump has yet to make his own trip over there. Pence’s surprise visit Thursday actually followed another surprise visit at the same base earlier this week.
Actor Gary Sinise, best known for his role as Lieutenant Dan in “Forrest Gump,” is a big supporter of the U.S. military and has a charitable foundation that supports active service members, veterans, and first responders. He’s been spending this week cheering up troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Watch a short clip from Pence’s speech to the troops below:
Please keep our service members in your prayers, especially as they’re away from their families and friends this Christmas. In other news, police are asking for the public’s help in finding a 14-year-old girl they believe was abducted by an armed and dangerous sex offender.