Taliban leaders have announced that they will go on with the peace talks with Washington after President Donald Trump decided to pay a surprise Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan.
In a statement for Reuters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the Islamist insurgent group was “ready to restart the talks” that were cut short after Trump called it quits this fall.
“Our stance is still the same. If peace talks start, it will be resumed from the stage where it had stopped,” the spokesman added, The Hill reported.
Trump revealed in September that he had canceled a planned secret meeting with representatives of the Taliban and Afghanistan’s president at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.
The move came days after a deadly attack in Kabul that left 12 people dead, including a U.S. service member, with Trump condemning Taliban commanders after the group took credit for the attack.
Nearly three months later, Trump announced he has reopened talks with the Taliban, saying during his first trip to Afghanistan as president on Thursday that he believes the Taliban is 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 a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf 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.”
The Trump administration has been negotiating with the Taliban for months to end the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan, America’s longest war. The President’s Thanksgiving announcement while visiting troops in Kabul came a week after a prisoner swap between the Taliban and the U.S.
As part of the deal, an American and Australian were freed and left with U.S. forces in exchange for three Taliban prisoners, who were released by the Afghan government.
Trump said during his visit to Afghanistan that he would like to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country from its current total of less than 14,000 to 8,600.
A draft agreement from September involved a significant reduction in U.S. troops in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a launching pad for militant operations against the U.S. or its allies.