President Donald Trump said that the United States has reopened peace talks with Taliban during a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving to rally U.S. troops.
It was his first trip to the country, the president told troops gathered at the Air Force that he would be resuming cease-fire discussions with the Taliban — three months after the president cut off talks between Washington and the Afghan insurgents following a terror attack that killed 11 people, including one U.S. soldier.
“We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make a deal very badly,” President Trump said, reported the Fox News. “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.”
Opportunity to resume negotiations came after a prisoner swap led to the release of two westerners, including American Kevin King, who had been held captive for three years, reported the Politico. President Trump also reaffirmed his commitment to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, bringing it down to 8,600 from about 12,000 to 13,000.
“We’re bringing down the number of troops substantially,” he said.
On Wednesday evening, Nov. 27, President Trump secretly left his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to make a 13-hour overnight trip from an undisclosed airport. The White House said the security precautions for the trip were taken to the extreme. It even planned in advance to keep the president’s Twitter account active during the trip in order not to raise suspicions.
The president 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 Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
Air Force One landed at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, just in time to serve troops Thanksgiving dinner. President Trump was greeted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and about two dozen troops at a dinning facility warmly decorated with Thanksgiving banners.
“There’s nowhere I’d rather spend Thanksgiving than with the toughest, fiercest warriors,” the president said. “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.”
“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 added.