President Trump arrived in Florida early Friday morning following his surprise trip to Afghanistan to see U.S. troops on Thanksgiving, his second visit to a combat zone as president and his first to Afghanistan.
Trump’s plane touched down at Palm Beach International Airport shortly before 7 a.m. on Friday. Trump sported a red “Keep America Great” hat and open-collar dress shirt when departing the presidential aircraft, before taking a short drive to his Mar-a-Lago resort.
The president had quietly left the estate on Wednesday night, boarding a military plane at an undisclosed airport and heading to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, D.C., where he transferred to a second Air Force One 747 that flew to Bagram Airfield north of Kabul.
Details about U.S. leaders’ visits to combat areas are tightly held until they leave. News of Trump’s visit to Afghanistan came at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, when reporters traveling with the president were given authorization to report on visit. Reporters were given the go-ahead minutes before Air Force One lifted off from Bagram.
The White House said that an identical presidential aircraft remained in Florida at the airport in Palm Beach while Trump traveled to Afghanistan. That plane then flew to Germany on Thursday to pick up the president for the second leg of his trip back.
Trump arrived in Afghanistan shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time on Thursday. Within two hours, he met and took photos with troops at a dining hall, held a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and delivered a speech to service members that wrapped up shortly after 11 p.m. local time. Air Force One left Bagram at midnight.
During the visit, Trump announced that he has resumed peace talks with the Taliban, nearly three months after he declared talks “dead” following a scrapped secret meeting with members of the Taliban and officials from the Afghan government at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.
Trump at the time blamed the canceled visit on an attack in Kabul days earlier that left 12 people dead, including a U.S. service member, saying, “When I heard very simply that they killed one of our soldiers and 12 other innocent people, I said there’s no way I’m meeting.”
The president said Thursday that he believes the Taliban are ready for a cease-fire, and announced that he would like to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from less than 14,000 to 8,600.
“The Taliban wants to make a deal — we’ll see if they make a deal. If they do they do, and if they don’t they don’t. That’s fine,” Trump said during his meeting with Ghani.
“The Taliban wants to make a deal and we’re meeting with them and we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire and they didn’t want to do a cease fire and now they do want to do a cease-fire,” he added. “I believe it’ll probably work out that way.
Trump’s trip to Afghanistan marked his second visit to a combat zone since taking office. He also traveled to Iraq the day after Christmas last year, resuming a White House tradition of making a visit to a conflict zone during the holiday season.