Trump announces restart to Taliban peace talks in surprise Afghanistan visit

President TrumpDonald TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip 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 GrishamJill Biden appears on Vogue cover Kayleigh McEnany joins Fox News as co-host of 'Outnumbered' Melania Trump says she was 'disappointed and disheartened' watching Capitol riots 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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump was accompanied on the trip by acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Senate panel advances controversial public lands nominee | Nevada Democrat introduces bill requiring feds to develop fire management plan | NJ requiring public water systems to replace lead pipes in 10 years Senate panel advances controversial public lands nominee in tie vote Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices 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 TrumpTrump discussed pardoning Ghislaine Maxwell: book Jill Biden appears on Vogue cover White House did not brief Pence team on swearing him in after Trump COVID-19 diagnosis: book 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.