While visiting Afghanistan for the first time, President Donald Trump announced that the United States has reopened peace talks with the Taliban, coming about three months after negotiations stalled following a terrorist attack.
Trump visited American troops at Bagram airbase and gave them a surprise Thanksgiving greeting.
“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,” the president said. “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.”
He also reiterated his pledge to bring down the total number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan amid the 18-year-long conflict.
“We’re bringing down the number of troops substantially,” Trump said.
Trump arrived in the country to serve troops Thanksgiving dinner, dishing out turkey to several-dozen of troops, according to video footage of the event. He was joined by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
“There’s nowhere I’d rather spend Thanksgiving than with the toughest, fiercest warriors,” Trump told the soldiers. “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.”
He added: “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.”
Reports previously said that Trump was slated to have Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, with his family.
Before the meeting with soldiers, Trump held a meeting with President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, on Thursday, according to Ghani’s Twitter page.
After the meeting, Ghani wrote that “both sides underscored that if the Taliban are sincere in their commitment to reaching a peace deal, they must accept a ceasefire. We also emphasized that for any peace to last, terrorist safe havens outside Afghanistan must be dismantled.”
The Afghan leader said the two leaders also spoke about dismantling the ISIS terrorist group in eastern Afghanistan.
“Trump appreciated the tireless efforts of the Afghan security forces in this fight,” Ghani wrote.
The Associated Press reported that about 12,000 U.S. soldiers remain in Afghanistan. More than 2,400 American service members have died in the war.
The Trump administration was set to hold peace talks with the Taliban and Afghan officials in September, but he canceled a secret meeting at Camp David following a series of terrorist attacks in Kabul.
In 2016, Trump ran on a campaign promise to do away with the country’s “endless wars” and has been pushing for troop withdrawals in Afghanistan and the Middle East, saying that other countries should pay their fair share. Years before, he criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.