US President Donald Trump’s secret visit to Kabul, Afghanistan

US President Donald Trump’s secret visit to Kabul, Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — President Trump paid an unannounced Thanksgiving visit to American troops here on Thursday, and said that he has restarted peace negotiations with the Taliban less than three months after he scuttled talks with the group.

“The Taliban wants to make a deal, and we’re meeting with them,” Mr. Trump said here during a meeting with Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani.

“We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make to make a deal very badly,” said Mr. Trump, who reaffirmed his desire to reduce America’s troop presence here from 12,000 to 13,000 to 8,600.

Mr. Trump made his first visit to Afghanistan under a shroud of secrecy, arriving in a darkened airplane just after 8:30 p.m. local time on a trip that the White House had concealed from his public schedule for security reasons.

Mr. Trump carried out the traditional role of feeding turkey and mashed potatoes to American troops in fatigues, before dining, mingling and posing for photographs before he delivered remarks celebrating America’s military in an aircraft hangar.

But his visit also had an important political dimension, and comes at a crossroads for Afghanistan and the United States military presence here months after Mr. Trump angrily called off his talks with the Taliban, which had produced a draft agreement that would begin the phased withdrawal of American forces from the country. Mr. Trump, who boasted of American military successes against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, suggested that the Taliban is eager to make a peace deal, but that he himself is indifferent to that outcome.

“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,” Mr. Trump said.

He also said that the Taliban is now willing to agree to a cease-fire, a matter of contention in the earlier talks and something that Mr. Ghani’s government has been insistent upon.

We’re saying it has to be a cease-fire, and they didn’t want to do a cease-fire,” Mr. Trump said of the Afghan insurgents. “Now they do want to do a cease-fire. I believe it’ll probably work out that way.”