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Trump Credits His Focus on Afghanistan, ISIS for Making Gains

Margaret Talev
US President Donald Trump talks to reporters during his departure at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 21, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images) Photographer: JIM WATSON/Getty Images

President Donald Trump credited himself with “letting you win” in a Thanksgiving video-conference with U.S. military stationed around the world, saying they’re making progress in Iraq, Afghanistan and the fight against Islamic State because of steps he has taken.

“Everybody is talking about the progress you’ve made in the last few months since I opened it up,” Trump told the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, during a morning call from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is vacationing with his family. “We’re not fighting anymore to just walk around. We’re fighting to win. You’ve turned it around over the last three to four months like nobody has seen, and they are talking about it.”

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Where candidate Trump had suggested U.S. engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq was a waste of time, one year later the Commander-In-Chief embraced tackling the conflicts and the notion of lasting U.S. military wins with continued engagement. He also promised the military officials that once they came home they would return to a good economy, job opportunities and hopefully “big, fat, beautiful tax cuts.”

Real Fight

“It’s hard to be away from home,” Trump said, but assured the military, “You’re fighting for something real, you’re fighting for something good.”

Trump greeted Marines in Iraq with a “Semper fi” -- the Marine Corps motto, which means “always loyal” in Latin -- and praised them for “delivering defeat after defeat to ISIS.” “We are being talked about again as an armed forces,” he said. “We are really winning, we know how to win. But we have to let you win.

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“They weren’t letting you win before, they were letting you play even,” he said of his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

He also addressed Navy members on the USS Monterey at sea, an Air Force expeditionary fighter squadron at Incirlik, Turkey, and Coast Guard members on USCG Wrangell at Kuwait Navy Base.

The president had a Thanksgiving message for journalists spending the holiday covering him. Promising the military they could have a confidential conversation once the press had been escorted from the room, Trump told the protective pool to “get out. And I’ll say, ‘You’re fired!’”

“And by the way, media, Happy Thanksgiving, I must say. Have a good Thanksgiving in Palm Beach, Florida.”

Earlier Thursday, Trump announced on Twitter that he’d make a surprise visit to a nearby Coast Guard quarters in Florida, continuing a longstanding tradition of presidents visiting security officials on Thanksgiving. The U.S. coast guard played a leading role in preparing for and handling the aftermath of Hurricane Irma that swept through southern Florida in September.

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