Saturday, November 30, 2019

President Trump Makes Surprise Thanksgiving Day Trip to Afghanistan to Visit US Troops

Office of the Press Secretary

President Trump Makes Surprise Thanksgiving Day Trip to Afghanistan to Visit US Troops

Thursday, November 28, 2019

President Donald J. Trump disembarks Air Force One at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, ahead of a surprise Thanksgiving visit with United States troops. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump prepares to enter the Presidential limousine after arriving at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, ahead of a surprise Thanksgiving visit with United States troops. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump serves Thanksgiving dinner to United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Afghanistan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump, joined by Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., talks with United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump poses for a photo with United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit.  (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump, joined by United States military leaders and White House staff, meets with the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.  (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump applauds as he arrives to deliver remarks to United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan applaud as President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan hold United States and Texas State flags as they listen to President Donald J. Trump deliver remarks Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump greets United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks to United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks to United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks to United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump shakes hands with the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit with United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.  (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


President Donald J. Trump poses for a photo with United States service members deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during a surprise Thanksgiving visit.  (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)


Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding the Visit of the Permanent Representatives of the United Nations Security Council

Office of the Press Secretary
Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding the Visit of the Permanent Representatives of the United Nations Security Council
President Donald J. Trump will welcome the Permanent Representatives of the United Nations Security Council to the White House on December 5, 2019. This visit will coincide with the United States assumption of the Presidency of the Security Council for December.  President Trump will highlight the United States leadership of the United Nations Security Council and will urge Permanent Representatives to work together to address challenges to international peace and security. 


Office of the Press Secretary


Via Telephone

11:04 A.M. EST

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  I just want to thank everyone for being here today, Friday after Thanksgiving.

     Just up front, this call is going to be on background, attribution to a senior administration official, and there will be an embargo on the contents of this call until it's completed.

     Here's the run of show for today.  Our first -- our speaker will be [senior administration official], and he will provide an overview of the President's trip.  And I will follow with an overview of the President's key events and bilats.  And after that, we'll take some questions.

     So with that, over to you.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, and thanks everyone for listening in.  This is a celebratory Leaders Meeting, in many ways.  The President is greatly looking forward to it.  This is the most successful alliance in history.  It remains instrumental in guaranteeing the security and prosperity and freedom of our allies.

     The President, as you know, has been committed to making NATO stronger and ready to face today's threats and tomorrow's challenges.  This is why he places such an emphasis on encouraging all allies to live up to their commitments and increase defense spending, in line with their Wales commitments.
I have to say, for a priority that United States has had for -- since at least the 1960s -- the President has been spectacularly successful.  Since he has taken office, the Allies have added over $100 billion in new spending.  In 2016, only four Allies spent 2 percent of GDP on defense.  Now, there are nine, and following through their implementation plans to get the 2 percent, we expect there to be eighteen by 2024.  This is tremendous progress, and I think it is due to the President's diplomatic work.

     However, there are continuing challenges that NATO needs to face: China, above all.  China is actively seeking a great presence and more influence across the globe, including in NATO's area of responsibility.  It is offering cheap money, cheap investment, and critical infrastructure, including ports and electricity grids.  It is seeking to trap nations in debt, and thus bring diplomatic concessions that way.  And it is looking to undermine the rules-based international order and skirting, in some cases, (inaudible).

     5G, as you know, is another area where NATO has to be vigilant.  This is a priority of the President.  Trading security of our telecommunications networks and privacy of our personal data for savings is not in any of the Allies’ interests.  This is an issue we continue to socialize and raise with our NATO partners, and we will certainly be discussing it at the summit today.

     Lastly, while we welcome our European Allies doing more and spending more on defense, we have to continue to socialize that EU defense initiatives not undermine or duplicate those of NATO, and that procurement and defense industrial issues are open to United States and U.S. companies.

     We are stronger together.  The transatlantic relationship is in a very, very healthy place.  And I think that will be the message, loud and clear, at this 70th anniversary of NATO.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay, thank you.  Before we go into Q&A, I just want to provide an overview of the President's key events and bilateral meetings.  So -- and I will speak slowly so that folks can take notes.

     On Tuesday, December the 3rd, the President will have a working breakfast with NATO (inaudible) -- with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg.  We will be having a bilateral meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France, and we'll be going in that evening to the NATO Leaders Reception, hosted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

     On the 4th, we are looking at the official welcome ceremony.  The NATO Leaders Meeting Plenary Session, a bilat with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and then a working lunch with representatives of the following nations: Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and the United Kingdom.

     Additionally, we're looking at meetings with Prime Minister Frederiksen of Denmark and Prime Minister Conte of Italy.  And I just want to -- I just want to also caveat that we are also working on additional bilats, and those will be announced once they are confirmed.

     Okay, that's all I have.  And so at this time, Operator, I'll go and hand off you for moderating Q&A.

     Q    Hi, thank you.  Christina Anderson.  Thank you for doing this call.  Kristina Anderson, AWPS News.  Last week, the NATO ministers voted to declare space another domain, along with the other standard domains: air, land, and sea, and cyber.  Will there be discussion about space as a domain and the framework to promote cooperation between the NATO Allies going forward?  Will this take place at the Leaders Meeting also?  Thank you.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   Hey, Christina, thanks for that.  No, I think this is a really interesting and exciting point.  As you know, the President has stressed space as a domain in his administration.  NATO's adaptation of it is one more example of NATO addressing new challenges.  We have already been discussing with our Allies how this works, how this looks, some of the conceptual issues.  I expect -- yes, I expect that it will come up during the Leaders Summit.

     Q    Good morning.  Thank you for doing the call.  This is Dmitry Kirsanov with TASS.  I wanted to ask if there will be a discussion at the NATO Summit about (inaudible) relations with Russia.  And if that's going to be the case, and if President Trump is going to raise this issue during his bilats what is he going -- what is he planning to tell his counterparts?  Thanks so much.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, thanks, Dmitry.  I suspect NATO's relationship with Russia will certainly come up.  You know, none of NATO's measures are intended as a threat to Russia.  For example, you know, the four NATO battle groups in the eastern part of the Alliance are relatively modest in size and can't compare to the very large conventional ground forces that Russia has on the ground.  Those are fully in line with our international commitments.

     By contrast to NATO's defensive and proportionate deployments, Russia has shown a consistent disregard for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors.  It is no wonder that so many countries are concerned about Russian threats to their security.  Certainly that will be something that will be discussed at the Leaders Summit.

     Q    Hello, this is David Alandete, from ABC Spain.  I wanted to ask about President Trump's position towards those countries that are the ones that are paying less for defense.  (Inaudible) nation -- the case is specifically of Spain, Italy, and Belgium.  And I wanted to know if Mr. Trump is expecting to meet with these leaders or is he going to push these less-investment countries towards spending more in the coming years?  Thank you.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, the President, as you know, is going to be engaging a number of different leaders.  For example, Germany is not paying 2 percent of its GDP in defense.  And he will certainly be meeting with Chancellor Merkel.

     I would point out though that even among most of the states that have not hit the 2 percent threshold, they are making progress.  For example, Germany has added over $14 billion in new spending since 2016.  For the first time -- Ambassador Grenell told us this a few days ago -- has announced a plan to reach 2 percent.

     So we think those are marks of progress.  But, of course, in that meeting, the President will be urging Germany and other countries to do more.

     Q    Thank you.

     Q    Hi, can you hear me?

     Q    Yeah, hi.  Thanks for the call.  This is Sebastian Smith with AFP.  Just a bit more on the Russia question.  Does the President -- is he thinking more along the lines of what Emmanuel Macron seems to be saying, that Russia is no longer really the priority for NATO?  Macron wants to look more to the south and to terrorism-type threats.  Is Russia still a threat for NATO?  Thanks.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think Russia will be an issue of interest and concern at the NATO Leaders Summit.  While we have, I think, successfully worked to adapt NATO to address new challenges -- as you point out, like terrorism; and as I mentioned earlier, like China and 5G -- the territorial threats to sovereignty, as well as hybrid threats posed by Russia, are an issue a deep, deep concern for many Alliance members, and indeed for us.  And certainly -- certainly that will be a high priority at this Leaders Summit.

     Q    Thanks so much.

     Q    Hello, it's David Charter from the London Times.  May I ask: There's no bilateral you've announced with Boris Johnson of the host nation.  What's the reason for that, please?  Is it something to do with the election?  Was that a UK request?  And is President Trump actually going to appear at a press conference?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, David.  As I mentioned, we're continuing to develop our bilats and that we’ll update accordingly.

     Q    Press conference?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Stay tuned.  We might have more for you on that as it goes forward.

     Q    Yes, this is Mario Parker with Bloomberg News.  Wondering if there'll be any bilat or other interactions between Trump and Erdogan, and what the President's message to him will be at the summit, particularly given the S-400 activation.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, thanks for that.  So we are not doing as you know, Erdoğan -- President Erdoğan was just here a few weeks ago.  The President spent several hours in direct diplomacy with him then.  We do not have a separate bilat scheduled for the NATO Summit.  I suspect President Erdoğan will hear from many Alliance members that -- their concern over the activation of the S-400 radar.

     We have been very, very blunt with him that that radar is inconsistent with Turkey's duties as a NATO member, and particularly its participation in a bilateral sense in the F-35 program.  That message will be reinforced across the Alliance.

     Q    Thank you.

     Q    Hey, it's Tom Howell from the Washington Times.  I just want to know if you're going to spend a lot of time on 5G technology, pushing for nations to resist Huawei, things like that -- if you can just give me a sense of whether that will feature.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, absolutely.  Absolutely.  You know, the -- this has been a major push of ours.  We are absolutely going to insist that our NATO Allies use trusted and reliable partners -- providers in their 5G networks.

     This is not something they want, where they want to allow the Chinese Communist Party to be able to siphon off their citizens’ data or entry into their networks at all.  So this is a very, very high priority for us.  And the President's going to reiterate that message.

     Q    Hi, this is Lucía Leal with EFE News.  I was wondering if there -- the President is planning to have any interactions at all with Prime Minister Sánchez of Spain.  And secondly, President Macron said recently that the NATO was in a state of cerebral death.  I was wondering if President Trump agrees with that.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   Hey, there.  You know, we are not currently scheduled, as my colleague noted earlier, to have a bilateral meeting with Spain, though we continue to engage them at a high level outside of this event.

     With regard to the second part of your question, you know, there is a 70-year history here of the United States -- at least a 60-year history -- of the United States urging its Allies to pay more in the Alliance.  There is concurrently a 60- or 70-year history, as Secretary Pompeo noticed, of contentious actors, (inaudible) France, with NATO.  That is part of having Alliance of 29, soon to be 30, democratic nations.  But I think, underneath all of the democratic politics hurly-burly, the Alliance members are fully in accord on the goals of their shared commitments in this institute, absolutely.
So, I think we take this as part of the hugger-mugger of democratic politics with the Alliance.

     Q    Hi, can you hear me?

     Q    Yes, I am (inaudible) from Sky News Arabia.  I want to follow up on Turkey.  You said that Erdoğan will hear from several members during this summit, their concern regarding the S-400.  But also, there are several issues with Turkey: their invasion to northeast Syria, and we saw this exchange of statements between them and the French leader.  To what extent do you think that issues of Turkey would be present during this summit?

     And also, the second question, please.  I want just to make sure that I have all the bilateral meetings that you mentioned.  Can you repeat them, please?  On the second day, especially.  Thank you.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  [Senior administration official], do you want to repeat the bilateral meetings?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:       No.  Ma'am, if you could just send me an email, please.  I will be happy to clarify that for you on the second question.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  Okay.  So, on the substance here.  Diplomacy is a game of addition, not of subtraction.  That is a facile way of saying that the Alliance is stronger with Turkey -- fully in sync with Turkey, than out of sync with Turkey.  That underpins the President's diplomacy with the Turks, and it underpins all of our desire at the very top level, which you saw leading up to the October 17th ceasefire, when the President sent most of his senior national security officials out to Ankara to negotiate with Erdoğan and his Cabinet on a ceasefire in Turkey -- in Syria, rather.

     We believe that ceasefire is still holding.  This is -- this has been widely confirmed.  We are working with the Turks to allow humanitarian access to the area, to that box; to maintain security at the ISIS detention facilities; and to impose order and accountability on those proxy forces -- the TSO -- that the Turkish armed forces support, engage with.

     So all of that to say, I'm not going to speak to the bilateral Turkey-France back-and-forth.  But our approach on Turkey -- and I believe, which is shared by the vast majority of NATO members -- is very clear: direct engagement, working out the tough issues, holding them to their commitments.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Operator, we have time for two more questions.

     Q    Hi, this is Jordan Foster, with ABC.  Can you hear me?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, sure can, Jordan.

     Q    Hi, thanks for doing the call.  I wanted to ask: President Trump is often viewed as a disruptive force within NATO.  But this year, President Macron has sort of been competing for that title, many observe.  So I was wondering if you could speak to the, kind of, special bond between the two men.  And going into this NATO Leaders Meeting, how do the two men relate to one another?  Do they see themselves as sort of a unified force working for change?  If you could speak to that relationship a bit?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Oh, I think they have a great deal of respect for each other.  You know, the -- they have different -- they have different priorities for the Alliance.  The President wants to make it stronger and the burden sharing more equitable.  I think President Macron is still, kind of, working out what he wants out of the group.

     But -- but I think they have a healthy level of respect for each other.  That will come out in their bilateral conversation; indeed, it comes out in every conversation they have.

     We were saddened by the loss of 13 French soldiers recently in Africa as part of the great work the French do on CT missions elsewh- -- and other things outside of NATO down there.

     But in terms of Macron's participation in NATO, I would simply refer you back to the Secretary's comment that the, kind of, one or two standard deviations removed of normal of Alliance discourse that sometimes we hear is really just well within the standard of democratic politics, and indeed of democratic politics at NATO over the last 60 or 70 years.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Last question, please. 

     Q    Hi, there.  It's (inaudiblr) with the Sunday Times.  I wanted to shore up on a question about Mr. Trump and Boris Johnson.  There's an election coming up in Britain.  And I just wonder if the President has been briefed and warned not to speak about it.  The Prime Minister today has said that he -- even though the President has said nice things about him in the past, that he should not endorse or say anything about the Prime Minister.  Is that something that the President has been aware of, that he should avoid talking about the general election while he's in London?  And is that a reason why there's no bilat currently scheduled?  Or is that something you're still working on?  Thank you.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   Hey, that's something we're still working on, as my colleague noted earlier.  I would point out, the President is very conscious -- he doesn't need briefings from us -- of the fact that we do not interfere, wade into other (inaudible).

     Q    He has said things in the past, though.  I mean, he gave quite a splashy interview with The Sun about Theresa May the last time he was there.  Is that a concern?  Is that something that, you know, has come up that he should stick to?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No.  He's well aware of this.  He also, as I suspect you know, likes Boris Johnson -- Prime Minister Johnson, personally.  But he is absolutely cognizant of not, again, wading into other country's elections.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  We're out of time, as we have to transition.  Thank you, everyone for your time today.  And this -- the embargo is lifted.  And we will follow up with any details on bilats.  Thank you so much. 

                         END                 11:31 A.M. EST    


Thursday, November 28, 2019


Office of the Press Secretary


Bagram Airfield-BAF
Bagram, Afghanistan

10:45 P.M. AFT

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, thank you very much.  (Applause.)  That was great.  And we just had a nice Thanksgiving dinner.  I thought I was going to be having it someplace else, and Senator Barrasso is a great friend of mine, and he said, "That'll be great if we did it."  I said, "You come with me, John."  And he came with me.  John, thank you very much.  Great friend of ours.  He's a great senator and a great man.  (Applause.)

And I want to thank General Milley.  Special warrior.  He's a special warrior.  And I want to congratulate you also because I just saw some numbers that are incredible.  ISIS -- you're wiping them out left and right.  There's almost nothing left in this area.  (Applause.)  You're not going to be lonely.  And al-Qaeda, the same thing.  And tremendous progress.

And, you know, we have a very special friend of ours that's here.  We had a meeting a little while ago.  I said, "Would you like to come over and say hello to the troops?"  And he said, "That would be such an honor."  And I think what I'll do is, before I start, I'll bring up the President of Afghanistan.  President Ghani is here.  So please, Mr. President, we'd love to have you say something.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT GHANI:  In the name of compassion and mercy, this President, great American troops, great patriots: Happy Thanksgiving.  (Applause.)  It's an occasion for us to be especially thankful because the President of the United States is here.  And he has been the architect of the South Asia strategy and the strategy for wiping out al Qaeda and Daesh.  (Applause.)

Thanks to your support and the bravery of the Afghan soldiers, we have inflicted an incredible defeat on ISIS in Nangarhar.  (Applause.)

Last week, it was Nangarhar; in the next three months, it's going to be all of Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  Equally, with your support, what we have done to wipe out al Qaeda South Asia is tremendous.  And thank you.  (Applause.)

President Trump, people talked a lot about bin Laden, but what you did to eliminate al-Baghdadi -- who was an organizer and not a talker -- is a much greater accomplishment.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)

I would also like to take this occasion to say thank you to the Gold Star families: 2,298 American men and women in uniform who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.  This nation will always be grateful for that sacrifice, and we will always remember.  And also, 20,585 have been wounded.  But since President Trump has been President of the United States, fortunately, we still too high a number but only 52 American men and women in uniform have died compared to thousands before.  This is a tribute to our joint partnership and to the sacrifice that Afghan soldiers, your brothers and sisters in uniform, are making.

More than a million Americans have served here in uniform.  We've paid tribute to their families and to your families.  I would like a special request: Please thank your families for agreeing to miss you at this special occasion at home, and for being here, defending United States security and our freedom.  (Applause.)

Together, we will succeed.  We will never forget that 9/11 brought us, and we will never permit the repetition of 9/11 again.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  God bless the President.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Fantastic.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.

Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.  Fifty-two, compared to thousands.  And we're doing a tremendous job.  And, as you know, a big part of that job is ISIS -- certainly the biggest -- and al Qaeda.  And we -- we've got them down to very low numbers.  We'll have that totally taken care of in a very short period of time.  And we'll see what happens.

The Taliban wants to make a deal.  We'll see if they want to make a deal.  It's got to be a real deal, but we'll see.  But they want to make a deal.  And they only want to make a deal because you're doing a great job.  That's the only reason they want to make a deal.  So I want to thank you, and I want to thank the Afghan soldiers for really -- I've spoken to a lot of you today, and you say they're really fighting hard.  I was very impressed with that, actually.  So I want to thank you.

And, General Milley, again, to be at Bagram Airfield, I've heard to much about it.  It's an incredible place.  This is some -- some airfield, some fortress.

I want to thank all of the Afghanistanian troops.  We have a lot of them here, actually.  We have a number of them standing around, saying hello and waving.  And we appreciate it.  And I also say to you, just "at ease."  Let's just enjoy ourselves for a couple of minutes.  I’m going to introduce a few people.

But there's nowhere I'd rather celebrate this Thanksgiving than right here with the toughest, strongest, best, and bravest warriors on the face of the Earth.  You are indeed that.  You know, when I took office -- if you can believe it, almost three years ago -- we were very depleted.  Our military was depleted, in terms of equipment.  You see, right?  They were all shaking their heads.  That's right.  We have all those brand-new planes and brand-new helicopters and brand-new ships being built now.  Brand-new, incredible submarines.  Probably the most powerful submarines -- probably the most powerful weapon in the world, is what we're building, in the form of submarines.  Nobody's -- nothing is even close.

But we have things that nobody has seen, nobody has heard about.  And we'll keep it that way.  But we've spent $2.5 trillion -- very close to that number.  And very shortly, it will be at $2.5 trillion.  And while I don't love that -- you know, what that does to my budget, because I'm a budget person -- we don't have a strong military budget, it don't matter much do they, huh?  I can (inaudible) have to worry about budgets.  So, with what's going on in the world today -- very important.  $2.5 trillion.

And nobody beats our great Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines.  And we think, soon, we're going to be adding a thing called “space” -- you know about that, right?  Space.  (Applause.)  We're going to have space covered very well.  We're covering it now, but we have to cover it to a much greater extent.  And you'll be hearing about that in the coming days and weeks.

I've just come from serving Thanksgiving dinner to some of you -- I recognize already, some of you in the audience.  And -- with General Milley and the folks.  And we had a good time.  I then got down -- I sat down.  I had a gorgeous piece of turkey.  And I was all set to go, and I had some of the mashed potatoes and I had a bite of mashed potatoes.  And I never got to the turkey, because General Milley said, "Come on over, sir.  Let's take some pictures."  I never got to my turkey.  It's the first time in Thanksgiving that I've never had anything called turkey.  (Laughter.)  But that's okay.  But it looked awfully good, I have to tell you that.  I should have started with that, instead of the mashed potatoes.  I made a mistake.

But I hope everyone enjoyed the fantastic meal.  It certainly did look good.  And hopefully everyone can get some well-deserved rest this holiday.  Your family -- they're home, and they love you so much.

We flew 8,331 miles to be here tonight for one simple reason: to tell you, in person, that this Thanksgiving is a special Thanksgiving.  We're doing so well.  Our country is the strongest, economically, it's ever been.  We have never done so well.  We have the greatest economy anywhere in the world.  So it's nice to know that you're fighting for something that is doing well, as opposed to something that was not doing well just a number of years ago.

Our stock market has reached the highest level ever in the history of the exchanges -- all three, if you look.  All three.  It's incredible.  It's incredible, what's happening.  It just broke a record.  I think it's close to 130 days.  So we're less than three years, and 130 times we've broken the all-time record.  And to me, that doesn't mean an all-time record.  It means something different; it means jobs.  It means 401(k)s.

People come up to me with their 401(k)s, they say, "Sir, you've made me look like a genius.  Thank you very much."  You know, they're up 78 percent.  They feel good.

So I would just want to say that we thank God for your health and all of the things that you've done.  You are very special people.  And you don't even know how much the people of our country love and respect you.  And they do.  It's why I'm here.  I'm just bringing the message.
The courageous American warriors in Afghanistan and across the region are leading the fight to vanquish America’s enemies and defeat forces of radical Islamic terrorism.  I would say it so often during the campaign.  That's what we're doing.

Together, we're making tremendous progress.  Just a few weeks ago, as you know, and as President Ghani mentioned, U.S. Special Forces brought the world’s number-one, most wanted terrorist to justice.  When the President said more important than Osama bin Laden, I would say that, look, you know -- different, in a way.  He was an organizer.  Al-Baghdadi was an organizer.  He was the founder of ISIS.  He was the father, if you want to call him that, of ISIS.  I think he wasn't so happy, three weeks ago, when he saw those incredible 67 men, in that case, just come pouring down onto where he was staying.  And that didn't work out too good.

And we have a new national hero.  You know who that is, right?  Conan.  Conan is a new -- is our new great hero.  That was some- -- and Conan was at the White House the other day.  You might have seen it.  And it was something.

But the animal known as al-Baghdadi -- the founder, the leader of ISIS, the man that was trying to reinstitute ISIS, because we've defeated -- we have 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate in Syria is now ours -- he is dead.  His second is dead.  His third -- we have the sights on the third.  I think the third doesn't want the job.  (Laughter.)  The third is saying, "You know what?  Maybe I'll go work in a store, or something.”  (Laughter.)

But Baghdadi was a savage and soulless monster who raped, tortured, and slaughtered the innocent, including many, many Americans.  When you saw those folks -- those great people in the orange jumpsuits, oftentimes standing on a beach with a thug behind him and a big knife -- that was all al-Baghdadi.  But he's gone.  The American warriors hunted him down, they executed a masterful raid, and they punched his ticket to hell.  That's what happened.  (Applause.)

Shortly after we got Baghdadi, we focused on some other elements in the area.  And we also started leaving the area, because it's secure.  But we didn't leave it totally.  We kept the oil.  Makes sense, right?  I've been saying for a long time, "Keep the oil."  Hate to say it.  I used to say it with a place called Iraq, too.  "Keep the oil."  They didn't listen to me.  I was a civilian; they didn't listen.  Now they have to listen.  (Laughter.)  But we kept the oil.  And we kept it and we can help the Kurds; we can help our partners; we can have it developed.  It's where they got their wealth.  That's where they got their money.  We kept it.  So, we'll go back in when we have to, as it arises.  But 100 percent.

We have thousands of prisoners.  We'd like Europe to take those prisoners.  They have not stepped up to the plate at all.  Many come from France.  Many come from Germany.  They come from different countries in Europe.  They have not stepped up to the plate.  That's not good.  We have to talk to them, John, because they should be taking those people back and trying them.  And if we didn't do it, they'd go back to France and they'd go back to Germany and to UK, and to all of -- all of the places where they came.  That's where they want to go back.  And they should take them.

Weeks ago, we also announced that the forces are coming back.  They're coming back home.  We're reducing over here, but because of technology and all of things that we have, we're able to reduce, in Afghanistan -- very substantially, actually reduce -- and do even more devastating attacks on the enemy.  So, that's part of the $2.5 trillion that we have coming.

Finest equipment in the world.  We build the greatest equipment anywhere in the world, by far.  And we're selling that equipment now to many, many countries that are our allies.  The enemies, we decide usually not to do it.  History has said, "Don't sell the good equipment to the enemy."

Our message to the bloodthirsty terrorists is clear: You will not escape your wretched fate, because the long reach and the really awesome power of the United States military is unstoppable.  We have the most powerful military in the world, by far.  There's nobody close.  And we're going to keep it that way.  We're going to keep it that way.

This evening, as millions of families sit down at their dinner tables back home, they'll be saying a prayer for the men and women serving our nation in Afghanistan and deployed all around the globe -- great men and women, all around the globe.  Many are coming home.

Our citizens know that you're standing guard, killing terrorists, crushing our enemies, and keeping America safe -- really safe.  But you're also keeping it strong, and proud, and mighty, and free.  And I'm here today to just really say, “Happy Thanksgiving.”  But also, “Thank you very much.”  Great job.  Thank you very much.  We appreciate it.  (Applause.)  Appreciate it.  Very much appreciate it. 

As President, I have no higher honor than to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the United States military -- the greatest force for peace and justice in the history of the world.

This evening, I also want to express the profound and heartfelt gratitude of the entire American nation for our amazing military families, because they really do make you what you are, when you think of it.  Anybody here disagree with that?  Raise your hand, please.  Nobody has the courage to raise your hand.  (Laughter.)  You have a lot of courage, but not that kind of courage, right?  No, but it's true.  The families -- they make you great.  The extraordinary commitment and the sacrifice of your loved ones make it possible for all of our families to live in safety and to live in peace.

I especially want to recognize several of the incredible patriots with us tonight.  These are great fighters, great warriors, great people, great men and women.  You've already met Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  It was my honor to appoint him.  I had no doubt, from the day I met him -- I met him very early on.  And I said, "I like that man.  He's a tough cookie and he's smart."

You know, he went to Princeton.  I said, "I don't know.  I didn't know he was an academic.”  And he went to Columbia.  I'm not sure: Was that a good thing or a bad?  I don't know.  Did I like it or not?  I was, sort of -- but that's pretty good.  That means he's an academic.  That means he's a smart cookie.  And he is a smart -- and he's a tough one.  General Mark Milley.  Thank you, General.  (Applause.)  He's an academic.  I can't believe it.  He's a great gentleman.

Commander of the Resolute Support and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, General Scotty Miller.  He's done an incredible job.  Thank you, Scotty.  Thank you, Scotty.  (Applause.)  Incredible job.  And I hope the word gets out.  And I hope the press, which is right back here -- they traveled with us -- I hope they're able to get the word out as to what Scotty and all of the folks have done, with respect to ISIS and with respect to al Qaeda.

He said, "They don't want to fight us, sir.  They don't want to fight us."  But, you know, what -- what we've done over the last 12 months -- 6 months and 12 months, but over the last 12 months -- has been incredible.  And I hope that the media is able to tell our families, tell our friends, tell our citizens, tell the people of the United States the success that we've had, because people don't read about that.  They don't read about it. 

Commander of Bagram Airfield, Brigadier General Brian Wolford.  Thank you, Brian.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Brian.  Great, Brian.  Commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, Brigadier General Scott Jobe.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Scott.  Thank you, Scott.  Commander of Area Support Group Afghanistan, Colonel David Raugh.  (Applause.)  Thank you, David.  Good job, David.  Thank you.  U.S. Forces Afghanistan Chief of Staff, Colonel Chip Daniels.  Chip, thank you.  (Applause.)

And let’s not forget our senior enlisted officers:
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman, Command Sergeant Major John Wayne Troxell.  (Applause.)  John, where -- thank you, John.  Command Senior Enlisted Leader of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Command Sergeant Major Timothy Metheny.  (Applause.)  Timothy, thank you.  Thanks, Timothy.
Senior Enlisted Leader of Bagram Air Field, Sergeant Major Jason Huckabay.  Jason, thank you.  Thank you, Jason.  And Chief Master Sergeant David Dickson of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.  Where is he?  Chief Master David Dickson.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you very much, David Dickson.

Also with us are National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien -- doing a great job; Ambassador John Bass; and I introduced already one of the great, great patriots of our country, John Barrasso of Wyoming.  Great state.  Wyoming.  (Applause.)  Thank you, John.

With the help and the devotion everyone has given here tonight, America is winning again.  We are winning like we have not won in a long time.  And you know what?  We’re respected like we haven’t been respected in a long time.  America is winning again, and America is respected again and respected at the highest level.

We’re investing so much money in our military, and we’re not going to stop until it’s totally rebuilt and complete.  Along with a record investment in our military, we’ve also got your largest pay raise in over 10 years.  And I’m very pleased to report that, starting January 1st, you will be receiving another 3.1 percent pay raise.  And if anybody doesn’t want it -- (applause).  If anybody doesn’t want it, just sign up at the door and we’ll take it away.  Okay?  (Laughter.)  Make it a contribution.

Here in the region, we’re boldly confronting America’s adversaries and pursing a foreign policy focused squarely on our national interests.

Less than three years ago, ISIS controlled the vast reaches of territory in Iraq and Syria.  Today, the U.S. Armed Forces and our allies have totally obliterated ISIS and its caliphate.  And, you know, I was going to leave.  We were down to 98 percent.  And I have to say this: When I came in -- again, less than three years ago -- it was a mess.  They were all over the place.  And I was about set -- “We’ll leave now.”  We were at 97, 98 percent.

And I got a lot of -- a lot of bite-back from people that, frankly, would have been very happy to leave if it was anybody else but me.  They said, “Why don’t you finish the job?”  These are people that would have loved -- but, you know what?  I said, “Maybe they’re right.”  And we finished the job.  We did it very, very quickly, and very surgically.  So that job is finished.  We liberated more than 3 million civilians from that brutal reign.

I’ve also taken action to confront the corrupt and terror-supporting dictatorship in Iran.  And, in Afghanistan, our warfighters continue to serve heroically to stamp out terrorism and to eviscerate the enemies of civilization.  Because that’s what, really, they are; they’re enemies of civilization.

Right here, at Bagram, you are logistical hub for all forces in Afghanistan.  You are absolutely essential to victory. From this base, the unrivaled aviators of the U.S. Air Force deliver unmatched firepower across the region.  When our enemies hear the sound of your jets -- those brand-new, beautiful jets -- they hear the sound of those jets.

We don’t put too many environmental controls on those jets.  (Laughter.)  Because if it takes away 4 percent of what we need, we want the 4 percent.  Do you agree with that, everybody?  Is everybody -- (applause).  And we’re all environment, but we’re not heavy into environmental controls, and even pollution controls, on our aircraft when it’s a fighting jet.  We don’t want to have any excuses.

But when our enemies hear the sound of those screaming engines through the valleys, their terrorist blood runs cold because they know that their demise is near.

In particular, I want to thank outstanding airmen from the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, who deliver righteous American thunder anywhere, anyplace, anytime.  Raise your hands.  Let me see.  (Applause.)  Great.  Great job.  Helps to have new equipment, doesn’t it?  Does it help a little bit?  You got nice, new equipment.

Thanks as well to the skilled professionals of the Expeditionary Medical Group -- (applause) -- who run the most capable trauma hospital in Afghanistan: Craig Joint Theater Hospital.  Thank you very much.  Great job you do.  (Applause.)  “Nobody…”  I’ll tell you what, there’s a little phrase that I hear: “Nobody dies today.  They live to fight another day.”  You’ve done a fantastic job.

And I’m told that, not long ago, a critically injured soldier was brought here in need of multiple blood transfusions. Within 15 minutes, more than 100 members of Bagram -- the community, the base -- showed up to give their blood.  That says everything you need to know about the men and women who serve here.  Thank you very much.  It was incredible.  They needed it fast, and they got it.  (Applause.)  They got it.

Every day, the fierce soldiers of the U.S. Army are carrying out harrowing missions across this land.  The Army marches bravely into danger, traverses perilous terrain, and pumps stunning firepower straight into the face of evil.

In particular, I want to thank the men and women of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, who operate rotary -- oh, I know what “rotary” is, right? -- (laughter) -- rotary wing aircraft across Afghanistan, and fly magnificent Apaches like the one right next to me.  That is magnificent.

And I was just at the -- at Dover, because you had a terrible accident a week ago of two of your incredible people.  And I greeted them as they came in on a very big plane.  And I greeted their families.  I heard they were fantastic people.  So thank you very much for that.  I know a lot of you asked about them.  Their families are doing fine, but that was a rough night for them, I will tell you.  It’s a rough night for me; it’s a rough night for everybody.

Thanks also to the 1st Armor Division’s Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade for supplying our forces.  The Brigade is incredible -- so respected by everybody -- keeping our military in top fighting shape.  (Applause.)  You are “Iron Soldiers,” they say.  “Iron Soldiers.”  Do you think so?  Yeah.  Right?  (Applause.)  I think so.

And among those in RSSB are two sisters: Master Sergeant Eliana Gallardo and Captain Carla Gallardo.  And I don’t know -- where are you?  Where are you two sisters?  Where are they?  They’re here someplace.  Come here.  Come.  Have you ever spoken publicly?


THE PRESIDENT:  Give it a sho- -- (laughs).  She said, “Yes.”  That’s pretty good.  Please, say something please.

CAPTAIN GALLARDO:  Hello, everyone.  Happy Thanksgiving.  (Applause.)

MASTER SERGEANT GALLARDO:  Happy Thanksgiving.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you both.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you both very much.

I know that Senator Barrasso is very proud of the fact that Wyoming’s National Guard is here at Bagram.  (Applause.)  Oh, you get them, huh?  Where are they?  Come here.  Come here.  Say a few words.


FIRST LIEUTENANT WERGER:  Let ‘er buck.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  These people are all action, no talk.  (Laughter.)  But I just want to thank you for being here.

And the Alpha Battery Second of the 300th Field Artillery Battalion, thank you very much.  Your First Lieutenant Ira Werger and First Sergeant Michael Clancy -- I want to thank you very much for doing such a great job in leading the unit.

Let me also recognize the terrific service members from Area Support Group Afghanistan; JTF Parwan; Task Force Cobalt; our Theater Reaction Force -- “Fury”; Task Force Griffin; Task Force Hellhound EOD.  Where are you?  (Applause.)  Task Force Loyalty.  (Applause.)  I like them.  I like them there.  Task Force Hiki No.  (Applause.)  Hiki No.  Where are you, Hiki No?  (Applause.)  That’s great.  That’s great.

Warfighters, keep up the great work.  Really, keep up the great work.  That’s fantastic.  And we’re glad we could mention most of you.  I know we left somebody out.  Did we leave anybody out?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I agree.  Who else?  (Laughter.)

Together, we’re all very proud of the part the most feared and lethal fighting force ever assembled has played toward peace.  America’s military dominates the sky.  Nobody can dominate the sky like we do.  We have the new F-35s coming out -- stealth, and even super-stealth.  It’s hard for the enemy because there’s one problem they have: You can’t see the planes.  It’s always tough to fight a plane when you can’t see it.

But America’s military dominates the sky.  You dominate the sea.  You dominate the land.  You dominate space.  You will not be deterred, and you will never, ever be defeated.

The United States never seeks war.  We seek peace wherever peace can be found.  We want peace.  We do want peace.  I want peace more than anybody.  You know, they said, when I was elected, “Oh, we’ll be in a war in the first day.”  Right?  Remember that?  No.

But when we do, and if we do -- and I hope we never do -- we will win.  We’re going to fight to win.  We only fight to win.  We only fight to win.  (Applause.)

But if we are forced, we will avenge the enemy with overwhelming power, and we will win like -- the old days, we won.  Then we went where we sort of played for ties.  But we don’t play for ties anymore.  We don’t do the tie thing anymore.  Is that okay with you folks?  Is that all right?  (Applause.)

Victory on the battlefield will always belong to you, the American warrior.  In the long run, of course, the future of Afghanistan and nations across this region will not be decided on the battlefield.  Ultimately, there will be -- need to be a political solution, and we’re working with the President and we’re working with a lot of people right now on a political solution decided by the people of the region themselves.

But rest assured that my administration will always be committed to annihilating terrorists wherever they appear, because we don’t want them in our country.  We’re going to tell them, “Get the hell out.”  And we’re doing it all the time.  “Get them out.”  And we will continue to work tirelessly for the day when we can bring each and every one of you home and safe to your family.  And that day is coming -- coming very soon.

In the 18 years since the attacks of September 11th, thousands of American patriots have left their everyday lives and cherished loved ones, put on their uniforms, and flown here to Afghanistan.  Some of our brave warriors have made the ultimate sacrifice.  We honor their memory today, and we will always honor their memory.  Like all of them, each of you came to do your duty.  You came to defend American liberty.  You came because our nation needed you, and they needed you right here.

The men and women of our military are totally loyal to our country.  And every day I am President, America will always be totally loyal to you.

I just want to finish by saying that, with your courage, we will continue to pursue America’s enemies to ends of the Earth.  Greatest in the world.  We will chase them down.  We will get the terrorists.  We will break their will.  We will not give them rest -- no break and no way out.  They won’t have a chance.  As long as America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines are on the mission, our nation’s adversaries do not have even a small hope of victory.

Together, we will preserve our freedom, we will protect our homeland, and we will always defend and honor our great American flag.

I want to thank you, Bagram Air Base.  This is a special place -- a place that everybody talks about in our country.  What you’ve done here and what you’ve built here is powerful.  And I just want to say: Next year, we’ll be having Thanksgiving together -- it may be back in the United States -- because you’ve done so much work here, and you’ve done it well.

God bless you.  God bless our great country.  God bless everybody in this room.  Be safe.  I will see you very soon.  We will be back.  We’ll be back.  And we are coming back as a country like nobody has ever seen.

When I’m greeted -- and I’m often greeted -- by leaders of the world, they start off by saying two things: “Congratulations on what you’ve done with your country, from an economic standpoint.  We’ve never seen anything like it.”  And, “Sir, congratulations on rebuilding your military.”  And that’s what we’ve done.

God bless you all.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

END                  11:24 P.M. AFT


Office of the Press Secretary


455th Air Wing Command Building
Bagram Airfield-BAF
Bagram, Afghanistan

10:02 P.M. AFT

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, thank you very much.  It’s great to be in Afghanistan with our troops.  And we had a wonderful Thanksgiving lunch.  It was abbreviated a little bit, but we served lunch and had lunch.  And these are great people, and it’s also wonderful to be with the President of Afghanistan.  And, President Ghani, thank you very much.  It’s an honor.

     We have a lot of things to talk about -- many, many things.  We’ve had tremendous success in the last few months with our military, as you know.  ISIS has been very -- very badly hit, very severely hit.  We had al-Baghdadi down in a different part to the world, and we took him out.  That was the father of ISIS -- the founder.  And he was trying to rebuild it, and that didn’t work out too well for him.

     But we had tremendous success with ISIS over the last three to four months, and we're down to a very small number.  And likewise, with al Qaeda, we’re down to a very small number.  And 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.  But we’ve had tremendous success.

     And I think what I’d like to do -- and perhaps, General, if you could say just a couple of words before President Ghani.  Tell him about how we’ve literally decimated ISIS in Afghanistan, also al Qaeda in Afghanistan, if you would.

     GENERAL MILLEY:  Sure, absolutely, Mr. President.  And, President Ghani, good to see you again.  And we had a great meeting earlier today.

     And as you know, Scott Miller and the troops here, and Afghan troops and international troops, have all put a significant amount of pressure on ISIS, particularly in Nangarhar.  And they’ve been hurt bad.  Their numbers have been treaded and dwindled significantly.  Organizationally, they have not been destroyed but they have been severely hurt.  And that pressure will continue.

     And as the President mentioned, there's ongoing talks with the Taliban, and hopefully those will be successful.  And hopefully we’ll -- that will lead to Afghan-to-Afghan dialogue in the not-too-distant future.

     So I think there's been some significant progress, Mr. President.  And I thank Scott Miller and the Ambassador.  And the entire team of U.S. forces here, in combination with the Afghan National Security Forces, has done a great job.

     So thanks for your support.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Good.  Thank you very much, General.

     And, Scotty, do you want to just mention how much -- what we’re left with?  You’re down to very small numbers with ISIS, and also you’re down to very, very small with al Qaeda.  Do you want to mention that?    

     GENERAL MILLER:  Mr. President, with the Afghan forces, particularly over the last 30 days of this -- although it's been a long fight -- we’ve seen a -- quite a few surrenders by Daesh/ISIS fighters, as well as their families, coming out of southern Nangarhar, which, as everybody knows, that’s a -- been a tough set of terrain for the United States of America and Afghanistan.

     Since 2001, it was a safe haven for bin Laden in the early days, and been a pretty remarkable military operation, as well as the following operations with the Afghans.

     PRESIDENT GHANI:  It (inaudible) al Qaeda South Asia.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  We made that tremendous progress though over the last, I would say, six months.  And we've really, with respect to ISIS and al Qaeda.  And we've hit them very, very hard.  And they’re down to literally hundreds as opposed to thousands.  They had many thousands a short while ago, and now they’re down to hundreds.  Probably 200 left.  And we’re scouting them out.  So we’ll be down to very little, if anything, in a very short period of time.

     Great job, by the way.  Great job.

     GENERAL MILLER:  Thank you, sir.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Appreciate it, Scotty.

     Mr. President, please.

     PRESIDENT GHANI:  Well, Mr. President, it’s a great honor and pleasure to welcome you.  Let me first pay tribute to the Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

     From 2001, 2,298 Americans -- might be one or two difference -- paid the ultimate sacrifice.  We salute their courage and their determination for your security and our freedom.

     Since you’ve been President, the number has been 52.  So it’s been a tremendous change.  Afghan Security Forces are taking the lead now in most of operations.  I would like to pay tribute to General Miller and to Ambassador Bass for their remarkable partnership with their problem solving and our security forces.  Our team is here; has gone from strength to strength.

     I’d like to thank you for your leadership and for your determination both on the South Asia strategy that made this possible and on your very principled decisions regarding putting limits on the type of peace that would ensure the gains of the past years and ensure your security and our freedom.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Right.  Well, as you know, for a period of time, we’ve been wanting to make a deal and so have the Taliban.  Then we pulled back.  We were getting close and we pulled back.  We didn’t want to do it because of what they did.  It was not a good -- it was not a good thing they did with the killing a soldier.  They knew he was a soldier, but he was a solider -- an American soldier from Puerto Rico.  And they killed him.  They killed a United Nations soldier.  And they also killed -- they killed a total of 12 people.  They thought that was good negotiating power.  I said, “No, that’s bad negotiating power.”  That was not good what they did.

     And since then, we’ve hit them so hard, they’ve never been hit this hard.  In the history of the war, they have not -- never been hit hard.

     And they want to make a deal.  So we’ll see what happens.  If they make it, fine.  If they don’t make it, that’s fine.

     We’re going to be able to do everything we’re doing, and actually more.  And at the same time, we’re bringing down the number of troops substantially.  But we’re able to because of the weaponry and all of the things that we have in place.  We can do, actually, more damage with even fewer troops.

     So we're going to -- we’re bringing it down very substantially.  And we’ll be down at a number that’s very -- it’s a good number.  And we’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal or we have total victory.  And they want to make a deal very badly.

     So we’re dealing with -- this is really for the media, I guess, more than anybody, because the President knows what I’m saying.  The Taliban wants to make a deal.  And we’re meeting with them, and we’re saying it has to be a ceasefire.  They didn’t want to do a ceasefire, but now they do want to do a ceasefire, I believe.  And it will probably work out that way.  And we’ll see what happens.  But we’ve made tremendous progress.

     But the thing I’m most proud of -- because you could look at Taliban and say they’re fighting for their land; you could look at, you know, others and say they’re fighting for other things.  But we know what ISIS is fighting for and we know what al Qaeda is fighting for.  And we have them down to a very small number of people.  So -- and that won’t be -- that will not be a long-lasting fight.  That will be over with very soon.

     So we made a lot of progress, and, at the same time, we're drawing down our troops.  And, by the way, the same thing in Syria.  I have to tell you, there was false reporting in the New York Times and some of the others, yesterday.

     We -- as you know, we did withdraw from Syria, except we kept the oil.  And we’re doing a little scattered fighting because we had some areas where ISIS was a little prevalent and gaining some traction.  And we sent some troops in and pretty much wiped it out.  But we have left -- for the most part, we’ve left, but we've kept the oil.  And by keeping the oil, we don’t have the enemy getting the oil.  And the oil is what fueled the enemy.  In this case, it was ISIS.

     And so in addition to -- in addition to what we did two weeks ago, which was pretty remarkable, the -- what that group of young people was able to do very rapidly and very surgically, we are only in an area where we’re keeping the oil and knocking out certain small groups of ISIS as it reforms.  We don’t want to -- as it -- as it reforms, it gets back, it tries to get back.

     But we’ve also knocked out -- Mr. President, as you know, we knocked out the number-two person who became the number-one person.  And now we have our sights on the number-three person, who’s going to be the number-one person, if he wants it.  You know, it’s not a good job.  I don’t think he wants it.  Maybe he doesn’t want it so badly.  He’s not acting too quickly.

     So we’ve had tremendous success.  And we’ve had tremendous success here, especially over the last period of six months to a year.  So it’s very -- very nice to be with be with you.

     PRESIDENT GHANI:  It’s a pleasure.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Very, very nice.  Thank you.

     PRESIDENT GHANI:  Thank you, Mr. President.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Okay, thank you very much everybody.

     Q    Mr. President, will you withdraw without a deal?  Will you withdraw if there is no deal?

     Q    Has the U.S. restarted peace talks with the Talban?

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Say it?

     Q    Has the U.S. restarted peace talks with the Taliban?

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  No, we’re talking to the Taliban.  Yeah.

     Q    Are you prepared to withdraw even without a deal?

     Q    And will you include the Afghan --

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I would never say a thing like that.  You wouldn’t want me to say a thing like that.  But I could just say this: We haven’t had so much success in this -- in this country, in this area.  We haven’t had success like this probably from the beginning, certainly as it relates to ISIS and al Qaeda, which is a very primary aim.  But we’ve had very good success in talks with the Taliban.

     Q    You said that you’re, at this point, pulling out troops.  How many troops are currently in Afghanistan?  And what is the plan for --

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, we’ll give you those numbers later, but we’ll get down to a certain number.  I’m not sure I want to give you that number, to be honest.  But it’s a very big difference.  But because of new weaponry and technology, we’re able to do actually more with fewer troops.

     Q    You had mentioned 8,600.  Is that not the number anymore, sir?

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  It’s a number that people are talking about, yes.

     Q    And is that the number you’re talking about?

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Yeah, it is, for now.  And then we can do much better than that.

     Q    Would you like to get it lower, sir?

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  We can go much further than that.  But we’ll have it all covered.

     You know, this is a country where, for whatever reason, they reform, they regenerate.  And we don’t want that to happen.  And we also have the support of a lot of other countries, by the way.  We have a lot of help from a lot of other countries.  But don’t let anybody tell you that’s it’s anybody else, because we’re leading it all the way.

     And frankly -- and frankly, that’s one of the thing.  We -- look, we’re in an area of the world -- we’re 8,000 miles away.  Some of us -- I guess, most of us came here together.  We want other players in this area to help.  They don’t like ISIS either.  They don’t like al Qaeda either.  And they have to help also.  You have countries that are right nearby that are very big, that have power, and they should be doing some of the work too, not just the United States.

     Thank you very much everybody.

                          END            10:14 P.M. AFT