Trump announces restart to Taliban peace talks in surprise Afghanistan visit

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE on Thursday made a surprise trip to Afghanistan, his first to the nation as president, to visit troops for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Trump held a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during which he announced that he has restarted peace talks with the Taliban, and that he’d like to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 8,600, down from a current total of less than 14,000.

Trump arrived at Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan, and was expected to be on the ground for roughly 2 1/2 hours. He served turkey to troops in a cafeteria, posed for photos and delivered brief remarks in a hangar.

“It’s a dangerous area and he wants to support the troops,” White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamTrump's split-screen presidency takes stark form in impeachment Trump boasts of US economic gains in Davos as impeachment trial gets underway Parnas attorney asks William Barr to recuse himself from investigation MORE said of Trump. “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.

“It’s truly about Thanksgiving and supporting the troops.”

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Trump was accompanied on the trip by acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Collins breaks with GOP on attempt to change impeachment rules resolution MORE, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial Green groups raise alarms about alleged Pentagon incineration of 'forever chemicals' House passes sweeping bill to target spread of toxic 'forever chemicals' MORE (R-Wyo.), deputy chief of staff for operations Dan Walsh, Grisham, deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere and social media director Dan Scavino. First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump beefs up impeachment defense with Dershowitz, Starr Trump welcomes LSU to the White House: 'Go Tigers' The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE was not on the trip.

Trump said he believes the Taliban are ready for a cease-fire.

“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,” Trump said during his meeting with Ghani.

“The Taliban wants to make a deal and we’re meeting with them and we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire and they didn’t want to do a cease-fire and now they do want to do a cease-fire,” he added. “I believe it’ll probably work out that way.”

Trump had said in September that talks with the Taliban were “dead” after an attack by the group killed 12 people, including a U.S. soldier.

“We were getting close — and we pulled back because of what they did,” Trump said Thursday. “It was not a good thing they did with killing the soldier.”

The Trump administration has been negotiating with the Taliban for roughly a year in an effort to end America’s longest war. The outlines of a deal are expected to involve a significant U.S. troop reduction in exchange for assurances from the Taliban that it would not allow terrorist groups to use Afghanistan as a launch point for attacks against the United States.

“Afghan security forces are taking the lead now,” Ghani said Thursday, adding his thanks to Americans who have made the “ultimate sacrifice” in Afghanistan.

Trump later tweeted a short video of his visit, wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

Updated at 4:43 p.m.