U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday told troops in Afghanistan that Washington had resumed peace talks with the Taliban insurgents.
During a surprise trip to Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield to celebrate Thanksgiving with deployed troops, the U.S. president said America wanted the insurgents to declare a ceasefire. “We were getting close and we pulled back. We didn’t want to do it because of what they did,” he added during a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in reference to the killing of a U.S. soldier in a militant attack. “Since then, we’ve hit them so hard, they’ve never been hit this hard.”
Ultimately, said Trump, the war in Afghanistan would “not be decided on the battlefield” and “there will need to be a political solution” decided by the residents of the region.
The Taliban have steadfastly refused to negotiate formally with the Afghan government, claiming it is illegitimate. Diplomatic efforts, led by regional groups, have however continued to foster dialogue in the hope of an eventual peace deal.
During his visit, Trump also reiterated his vow to reduce the number of troops deployed to aid security operations in Afghanistan to 8,600 from the current count of approximately 13,000.
“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,” the U.S. president told the troops during his first trip to the war-torn country.
The United States, earlier this year, reached a deal with Taliban insurgents to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan and wind down America’s longest war in exchange for security guarantees. But in September Trump abruptly called off the yearlong talks over the death of a U.S. soldier and withdrew an invitation to the insurgents to meet in the United States.
Ghani thanked Trump during their meeting, and praised him for pushing for “the type of peace that will ensure the gains of the past year and ensure your security and our security.”