Trump speaks with Taliban leader, likely first call between US president and insurgent group since 9/11
President Trump said Tuesday that he spoke with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of the Taliban, in what is the first publicly disclosed call between a U.S. president and a senior Taliban official since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Trump said that he and Baradar had a “good conversation” and that both parties agreed that they do not want violence in Afghanistan.
“I spoke to the leader of the Taliban today. We had a good conversation. We’ve agreed there’s no violence,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing for a meeting at the National Institutes of Health. “We don’t want violence. We’ll see what happens. They’re dealing with Afghanistan, but we’ll see what happens.”
Trump called the conversation “a very good talk.”
Speaking later to reporters later at NIH, Trump declined to say whether the conversation marked his first with a member of the insurgent group. He also described his relationship with Baradar as “very good.”
“They’re looking to get this ended and we’re looking to get it ended. I think we all have a very common interest,” Trump said, referring to the long-running conflict in Afghanistan. “We’ve been there for 20 years. Other presidents have tried and they have been unable to get any kind of agreement.”
A Taliban spokesman tweeted earlier Tuesday that Trump spoke with Baradar, who serves as the Taliban’s chief negotiator in talks with the United States, by phone and that details of the call would be provided later.
The White House issued a readout on Tuesday evening saying Trump “emphasized the need to continue the reduction in violence” and “urged the Taliban to participate in intra-Afghan negotiations with representatives of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, as well as other Afghans, with the goal of ending more than 40 years of war.”
Trump’s call with the Taliban leader came days after the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban aimed at paving the way for U.S. troops to withdraw from the 19-year conflict in Afghanistan.
Luke Coffey, a foreign policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, said that, based on publicly available information, the conversation marked the first time that an American president spoke to a senior Taliban official since 9/11.
Trump, who campaigned on withdrawing U.S. troops from “endless wars,” has touted the deal as a major achievement, telling reporters at the White House on Saturday that he planned to meet with the Taliban in person “in the not-too-distant future” without offering further details.
“We’ll be very much hoping that they will be doing what they say they’re going to be doing: They will be killing terrorists. They will be killing some very bad people. They will keep that fight going,” Trump said at the time.
However, there are already signs of trouble within days of both sides signing the agreement. The Afghan government has rejected a prisoner swap with the Taliban that is supposed to come before both sides begin negotiations. Additionally, the Taliban said Monday that it was finished adhering to a partial truce in fighting despite expectations on the U.S. side that it would continue for the duration of talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.
U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Baradar on Saturday signed a deal in Doha, Qatar, to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, an event that was witnessed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In exchange for the reduction in troops, the Taliban said it would not allow Afghanistan to be used by terrorists to attack the United States.
Updated at 7 p.m.