President Donald Trump on Friday seemed to suggest that formal negotiations with the Taliban were back on – months after the peace talks with the militant group collapsed.
“We’re working on an agreement now with the Taliban,” Trump said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” “Let’s see what happens.”
His comments come several days after the Taliban released an American and Australian professor in exchange for the release of three Taliban prisoners by the Afghan government. The Taliban also released 10 Afghan soldiers this week.
The US praised the release of the professors, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, with Trump tweeting on Tuesday, “Let’s hope this leads to more good things on the peace front like a ceasefire that will help end this long war.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Tuesday, “We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement.”
CNN has reached out to the White House about Trump’s comments.
Formal talks between the US and the Taliban collapsed in early September 2019 after a Taliban-claimed attack in Kabul that killed a dozen people, including an American soldier. Trump said at the time that Taliban leaders were to travel to the US for secret peace talks, but after the attack he called off the meetings and canceled the negotiations. The President referenced that attack on the morning show on Friday.
“The last time I was supposed to have an agreement, they thought that when they came over they thought it would be good to kill people so they could, you know, negotiate from a position of strength,” he said.
Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan since the collapse of the negotiations, but the State Department stressed after the first trip that the “meetings do not represent a re-start of the Afghan Peace Process.”
A report issued this week found that attacks by the Taliban were deadlier than those committed by any other group in 2018. The report, the 2019 Global Terrorism Index, found that the militant group took significantly more lives than ISIS did last year.
Steve Killelea, the executive chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace, which produced the report, said the Taliban “now account for 38 per cent of all terrorist deaths globally,” which he believes “underscores the difficulty with the current conflict” in Afghanistan.