The president's plane touched down at 7 a.m., almost 36 hours after he left for the then-undisclosed destination from his Mar-a-Lago resort at which he was vacationing for the holiday with his family.
The journey began Wednesday night when Trump flew on an undisclosed plane to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where he boarded Air Force One 15 minutes after landing. Less than 20 minutes later, the president was again in the air, heading to Afghanistan.
The plane landed at Bagram Airfield in the dark with its interior lights off and shades drawn more than a dozen hours later. On the tarmac, Trump was met by Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who had arrived earlier.
"It's a dangerous area and [Trump] wants to support the troops," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told the press pool who were barred from writing about the trip for security reasons until the president landed in the Middle Eastern country.
"He and Mrs. [Melania] 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."
The trip had been planned for weeks, Grisham said.
"It's truly about Thanksgiving and supporting the troops," she said.
Cellphones, hotspots and other signal-emitting devices were confiscated and the White House had arranged in advance for Trump's Twitter account to remain active during his travel. Reporters weren't told of the destination until a few hours before landing.
After spending3.5 hours with the troops, during which he announced he had restarted peace negotiations with the Taliban and served Thanksgiving dinner at Bagram Airfield, Trump boarded Air Force One shortly after midnight, and headed to Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany where an identical 747 was waiting for him.
Deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere told the press pool that the plane, which also serves as Air Force One and had flown Trump to Florida on Tuesday, waited at the Palm Beach International Airport before departing for the U.S. Forces airbase in Germany, where it landed at 3:17 a.m. to take the president the rest of the way home.
Two planes are required for such a trip to save time, Deere said.
In Germany, Trump was transferred from one plane to the other in a 3-series BMW sedan, according to the press pool report.
In Afghanistan, Trump said he flew 8,331 miles to speak with the troops because it was "a special Thanksgiving" and he wanted to tell them so in person.
"I would just want to say that we thank God for your health and all of the things that you've done," Trump told the troops during his address. "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."