Trump insists Taliban wants to 'make a deal' after surge in violence in Afghanistan

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 MORE projected confidence on Thursday about the prospect of a peace agreement in Afghanistan after a surge of violence was attributed to the Taliban in the region just days after his administration signed a deal with the insurgent group aimed at paving the way for U.S. troop withdrawal.

Trump said he believes the Taliban wants to “make a deal” and insisted that the United States needs to bring troops home from the 19-year war in Afghanistan.

“These are warriors. We’ve been there for 20 years,” Trump said during a Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pa. “We could win that war very easily, but I don’t feel like killing millions of people to do it.”

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Trump seemed to minimize the surge in violence in the region, saying “a group formed that was going to attack certain Afghan soldiers” but that the U.S. military “took them out.”

The U.S. military conducted an airstrike against the Taliban on Wednesday — the first since the beginning of the reduction of violence in the region — after the Taliban carried out an attack on an Afghan military checkpoint.

Trump also spoke positively about his phone call Tuesday with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, during which the White House said the president “emphasized the need to continue the reduction in violence” in the region.

“I had a very good conversation with him,” Trump told Fox News anchors Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier. “I believe they really want to make a deal.”

Earlier on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoChinese state media: Wuhan conducted 6.5 million coronavirus tests in 9 days The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans debate life under COVID-19 risks The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE called the surge in violence in Afghanistan “unacceptable” and warned both the Taliban and the Afghan government that it would need to stop for peace talks to move forward, while maintaining that Taliban leadership remained committed to the agreement.

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“In no uncertain terms, violence must be reduced immediately for the peace process to move forward,” Pompeo said.

Trump has long promised to bring American forces home from “endless wars,” and he has heralded the deal with the Taliban as a major step toward fulfilling that goal. Still, Republicans have expressed considerable skepticism about the deal and cautioned that the Taliban is unlikely to live up to their commitments.

MacCallum tried to press Trump on whether he would listen to U.S. military generals if they recommended he increase troop presence in Afghanistan, but the president didn’t directly answer. 

He insisted that it was unfair to leave American troops as a “police force” in other countries and noted that he granted a request from his former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman Mattis'Never Trump' Republicans: Fringe, or force to be reckoned with? Trump sending ally to Pentagon to vet officials' loyalty: report Pentagon watchdog unable to 'definitively' determine if White House influenced JEDI contract MORE to increase troop presence in Afghanistan but said it “didn’t work.” 

“There’s a big question about the government of Afghanistan,” Trump said. “We’re getting along with everybody. We have to get our people back, it’s not fair.” 

“We want our people to come back home,” the president continued.