From: Anita Kumar
Date: November 28, 2019 at 1:56:03 PM EST
Subject: Foreign pool report #1/POTUS in Afghanistan
November 28, 2019
POTUS has landed at Bagram Air Field, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan.
He is expected to be on the ground for about two-and-half hours as a part of a surprise Thanksgiving trip to thank U.S. troops for their service. He served turkey to troops in a cafeteria, posed for photos with them and delivered brief remarks to them in a hanger.
POTUS also held a bilateral meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in which he announced he has restarted peace negotiations with the Taliban and said that he believes the Taliban wants a ceasefire. He also confirmed he would like to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 8,600.
The pool was barred from reporting on the trip for security reasons until after POTUS had landed and nearly completed his visit to Afghanistan. The embargo is now lifted.
Air Force One took off from Joint Base Andrews at 10:08 pm local time on Nov. 27 and landed at Bagram Air Base at 8:33 pm local time on Nov. 28. The plane took off and landed in the dark with interior lights off and shades drawn.
POTUS was greeted on the tarmac by Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had arrived in the country separately on Nov. 27.
POTUS was accompanied by Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Sen. John Barrasso, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Dan Walsh, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, Deputy White House Press Secretary Judd Deere and social media director Dan Scavino. First Lady Melania Trump is not on the trip.
O’Brien and Barrasso came back to the press cabin to say hello during the sometimes turbulent flight. Grisham gaggled briefly on the plane.
“It’s a dangerous area and he wants to support the troops,” Grisham said of POTUS. “He and Mrs. Trump recognize that there’s a lot of people far away from their families during the holidays and we thought it’d be a nice surprise.”
“It’s truly about Thanksgiving and supporting the troops,” Grisham responded when asked about the political message of the trip.
When asked how POTUS was feeling, Grisham responded: “He’s good. He’s excited.”
Grisham told reporters that the trip has been planned for weeks. Trump invited Barrasso, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who regularly travels to Afghanistan, on the trip when the two saw each other recently in New York, Grisham said.
The White House tried to ensure news of the trip did not leak before the embargo unlike his Christmas trip to Iraq in 2018.
Cell phones, hotspots and other devices emitting a signal were confiscated from everyone traveling on Air Force One before we boarded. The White House provided a filing center for the pool.
The White House arranged in advance for POTUS’ Twitter account to remain active during his travel.
Some background on our trip:
POTUS secretly flew from Florida to Andrews Air Force Base after night fell Wednesday, but the White House declined to release details of his trip. One member of the travel pool flew with him from Florida.
A second Air Force One – the one he had flown to Florida in on Tuesday – remains parked at Palm Beach International Airport.
The 12 other members of the 13-member travel pool met on the top floor of a parking garage near Joint Base Andrews at 7:15 pm Wednesday. We were not told our destination.
Two vans transported us to a parking lot at JBA, where we underwent security sweeps. Cell phones, hotspots and any device emitting a signal were confiscated at that time.
Just before 8 pm, the pool loaded back into vans and drove a short distance to a cavernous hanger where Air Force One was waiting. Photographers were told they couldn’t take photos in the hanger.
The pool boarded a hot, stuffy Air Force One to await POTUS’ arrival.
POTUS boarded Air Force One at JBA at about 9:49 pm. Air Force One took off at 10:08 pm.
The pool learned of our destination when Grisham gaggled with reporters about two hours before our arrival.
Thanks to co-pooler Michael Crowley of the New York Times.
White House Correspondent & Associate Editor