The Taliban said on Friday they were ready to restart peace talks with the United States, a day after President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to US troops in Afghanistan and said he believed the radical group would agree to a ceasefire.
Trump’s Thanksgiving Day visit was his first to Afghanistan since becoming president and came a week after a prisoner swap between Washington and Kabul that has raised hopes for a long elusive peace deal to end the 18-year-long war.
“The Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them,” Trump told reporters after arriving in Afghanistan on Thursday. “We say it has to be a ceasefire and they didn’t want to do a ceasefire and now they want to do a ceasefire, I believe. It will probably work out that way.”
Taliban leaders have told Reuters that the group has been holding meetings with senior US officials in Doha since last weekend, adding they could soon resume formal peace talks.
On Friday, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the militant group, said they were “ready to restart the talks” that collapsed after Trump had called them off.
“Our stance is still the same. If peace talks start, it will be resumed from the stage where it had stopped,” Mujahid told Reuters.
“We are hoping that Trump’s visit to Afghanistan will prove that he is serious to start talks again. We don’t think he has not much of a choice,” said a senior Taliban commander. Trump met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and served turkey to some US troops before sitting down to eat Thanksgiving dinner with them. He chatted and had his picture taken with some of the US forces deployed there.
“What a great job you do. It’s an honour to be here,” he said.
It was only the second trip to a war zone by a US president who never served in the military and has often derided US engagement in foreign conflicts as costly blunders. He travelled to Iraq in 2018 for a Christmas holiday visit with troops. Trump was greeted upon his arrival by US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.