President’s Message to Troops
“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 and … he said, ‘Tell them I love them,’” Pence said. “And during this special season, I know President [Donald J.] Trump was speaking for every American.”
There are roughly 13,000 American troops based in Afghanistan. This was the vice president’s first trip to Afghanistan since taking office.
“The ‘old book’ says if you owe debts, pay debts; if honor, then honor; if respect, then respect,” the vice president said. “And I am 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.”
USO Holiday Tour Continues
Meanwhile, in the United Arab Emirates, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, brought the USO Holiday Tour to airmen and soldiers taking the fight to the enemy throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. Dunford and Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman, thanked U.S. service members at al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates for their sacrifices.
Around 2,500 American service members serve at this base and the flight line is crowded with F-22 Raptors, KC-10 refueler aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, transporters and utility aircraft. Sharing the line are host-nation F-16s and aircraft from a number of coalition partners.
The chairman compared and contrasted the situation in the region two years ago to today. Two years ago, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had taken vast areas in Syria and Iraq, and declared a caliphate.
“There was also a pretty pessimistic attitude on what was going on in Afghanistan,” Dunford said.
“Tonight, as we gather for this Christmas celebration, 97 percent of the ground ISIS held two years ago has been taken back, and not one piece of ground that Iraqi security forces or the Syrian Democratic Forces have taken was taken back by ISIS,” the chairman added.
Dunford saluted the bravery and sacrifices of Iraqi and Syrian allies.
“I would tell you as I am standing here as the chairman with pride, that the single biggest difference in tonight and two years ago is air power,” he said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)