Every year, Sen. John Barrasso has made a habit of travelling overseas to spend his Thanksgivings with members of the U.S. Military.
This year, however, he brought a guest: President Donald Trump.
In a surprise visit to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, Barrasso joined the president in carving up turkey and getting some face time in with members of the nation’s armed forces, including approximately 30 troops from the Wyoming National Guard.
The event — which marked Barrasso’s first-ever trip on Air Force One — was more than just a photo-op for the nation’s chief executive. On the itinerary was a face-to-face meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, marking a re-initiation of peace talks in the longest war in American history and a potential drawdown of troops in a region occupied by the United States since 2001.
“Well as you know for a period of time we’ve been wanting to make a deal,” Trump said in a joint press conference following dinner. “And so did the Taliban and we’ve pulled back. We were getting close — and we pulled back because of what they did.”
Barrasso was the only lawmaker on the trip, which included Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, 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, according to pool reports.
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The event was a surprise to the troops, who according to media reports were not made aware of the president’s arrival until the plane hit the tarmac. In a phone interview from Air Force One, Barrasso said that he had floated the idea of a visit to Afghanistan to the president several weeks ago, asking if he’d like to come along.
Early this week, Barrasso got his answer.
“On Monday, he called me and said ‘I’m gonna do it, and will you come along?’ And me, planning to go all along, said ‘absolutely,’” Barrasso said.
While significant in global politics, the event was also an opportunity for Barrasso to express appreciation for Wyoming’s troops. Two soldiers — one from Cody, and one from Laramie — had an opportunity to join the president onstage as he made his remarks, and at one point in the event, the room was treated to the sound of Wyoming’s signature call: “Powder River, let ‘er buck.”
When asked about the peace talks, Barrasso stuck to the script: This trip was about Wyoming.
“This was about going to see Wyoming’s troops and thanking them for what they do for us, and letting them know that we care for them,” he said. “It was a real special treat to have the president in Afghanistan thanking our men and women in uniform.”
“There was an electricity in the air,” he added. “and it was great to have Wyoming soldiers on the stage.”