Trump hints at new Taliban peace deal in Afghan visit


The Taliban wants to make a peace deal with the U.S., President Donald Trump said late Thursday during a surprise visit to Afghanistan to celebrate Thanksgiving with American troops.

“The Taliban wants to make a deal, and we’re meeting with them,” Trump said in a meeting with his Afghan counterpart President Ashraf Ghani during his visit at Bagram Airfield, according to The New York Times.

“The Taliban wants to make a deal — we’ll see if they make a deal. If they do, they do, and if they don’t they don’t. That’s fine,” he added.

Speaking at the occasion, Ashraf Ghani, his counterpart in Kabul, said Afghan forces are at the forefront in the war against Daesh/ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists.

”2,298 American paid the ultimate sacrifice [in Afghanistan so far],” he said. “This nation will always be grateful for that sacrifices and we will always remember them. Also 20,585 [U.S. soldiers] have been wounded.”

He added that since Trump took office in January 2017, only 52 American soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan.

”Together we will succeed, we will never forget that 9/11 brought us together, and we’ll never permit the repetition of 9/11 again,” said Ghani.

A statement by the presidency in Kabul said the two leaders agreed in a meeting that if the Taliban are ready for a peace deal, they should cease fire, and they also agreed on the need to remove sanctuaries of territories outside the country for sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

In early September, Trump declared the peace talks with the Taliban “dead” following an attack in the capital Kabul which killed a dozen people, including a U.S. service member.

Following Trump’s move, the Taliban opened new battlefronts across the war-weary nation, as Afghan security forces — suffering casualties and desertions — struggle to beat back a revitalized insurgency.

2nd trip to conflict zone

Addressing the U.S. soldiers deployed in Afghanistan for the nation’s longest-running war, Trump thanked them for their service.

“There’s nowhere I’d rather spend Thanksgiving than with the toughest, fiercest warriors.

“I’m here to say Happy Thanksgiving and thank you very much. As president of the United States, I have no higher honor than serving as commander-in-chief,” he added during his stay at the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan.

“We will continue to work tirelessly for the day when all of you can go home to your families, and that day is coming very soon,” he said.

Trump was accompanied by White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere, and Wyoming Senator John Barrasso.

The unannounced trip marks the president’s first trip to Afghanistan and his second to a conflict zone, after last year’s visit to Iraq a day after Christmas.

Last year, Trump spoke with troops in Afghanistan for Thanksgiving in a phone call.

*Shadi Khan Saif contributed to this story from Kabul, Afghanistan. 
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