Trump met Thursday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and announced that the U.S. and the Taliban had restarted peace negotiations, according to a White House press pool report. Trump said he believed the Taliban wanted a cease-fire.
“The Taliban wants to make a deal ― we’ll see if they make a deal,” Trump told reporters following his meeting with Ghani. “If they do they do, and if they don’t they don’t. And that’s fine.”
In September, Trump declared peace talks between the U.S. and Taliban leaders were “dead” after an American soldier was killed by a suicide bomber in the capital city of Kabul.
“We’ve made tremendous progress and at the same time we’ve been drawing down our troops,” Trump said Thursday.
He said he hopes to decrease the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 8,600. Last month, the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin Miller, said the size of the U.S. forces in the country was between 12,000 and 13,000 troops.
Before his meeting with Ghani, Trump served turkey to troops at Bagram Airfield. He later addressed the crowd of roughly 500 troops, which erupted in applause when he finished speaking, according to the White House press pool report.
“It’s a dangerous area, and he wants to support the troops,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said of the president’s trip. “He and Mrs. 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.”
Grisham said the trip had been planned weeks in advance, according to the White House press pool report.
The first lady did not accompany the president on the trip. Last week, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, surprised U.S. troops in Iraq for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration.