US President Donald Trump has confirmed that his administration had resumed talks with the Taliban with the purpose of bringing peace in Afghanistan, but refused to give a timeline for drawdown of his troops.
“Yes,” Trump told a small group of reporters at the Bagram Air Field on Thursday when asked to confirm whether the US had restarted discussions with the Taliban after calling the peace talks “dead” in September.
During his first and surprise trip to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving, Trump said the terms of the deal would have to include a Taliban ceasefire, adding that he thought the Taliban would agree to it.
“The Taliban wants to make a deal and we’re meeting with them and we’re saying it has to be a ceasefire and they didn’t want to do a ceasefire and now they do want to do a ceasefire. I believe it’ll probably work out that way,” he said.
The president said the US had made tremendous progress over the past six months and had been drawing down its troops at the same time.
“We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal or we have total victory and they (Taliban) want to make a deal very badly,” he told reporters during a hastily-arranged bilateral meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the air field, the largest US base in Afghanistan.
Trump confirmed that he hoped to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan to 8,600. The US currently has less than 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, but military officials would not confirm the exact number.
Earlier, in his address to the American troops, Trump said the war in Afghanistan would not be decided on the battlefield and, ultimately, there needs to be a political solution that he said would be decided by the people of the region.
“We will see if the Taliban wants to make a deal,” he said. “If they do, they do. If they don’t they don’t.”
The president referred to his September announcement to abruptly withdraw from peace talks after the Taliban killed a US soldier.
“They (Taliban) thought that was good negotiating power,” Trump said. “That’s bad negotiating power and since then we’ve hit them so hard.”
Addressing a few hundred cheering troops from inside a massive hangar on the air field, he said: “We will continue to work tirelessly until the day when we can bring each and every one of you home and safe to your family and that day is coming.”
In his brief remarks, Ghani thanked the American troops who have made the “ultimate sacrifice” in Afghanistan and noted that the US casualties in Afghanistan were way down under Trump’s presidency.
“Afghan security forces are taking the lead now,” Ghani said.