Trump Says He Spoke To Taliban Leader Following Peace Agreement

Mar 3, 2020
Originally published on March 3, 2020 8:08 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump spoke today with a leader of the Taliban. He says they talked about the peace deal to end America's longest war. This is thought to be the first call between an American president and a top Taliban official since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez joins us now with details.

Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hello.

SHAPIRO: How significant is this call?

ORDOÑEZ: It's very significant. It's further indication of the administration's push to end the conflict. It's been almost 20 years, starting after September 11, 2001. You know, this conflict has cost more than 2,400 American lives and U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars. About a half-million Afghans have been killed or wounded. President Trump, as you noted, talked about it today. Here's what he said as he was leaving the White House.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We had a good conversation. We've agreed there's no violence. We don't want violence. We'll see what happens. They're dealing with Afghanistan, but we'll see what happens.

ORDOÑEZ: President Trump also said earlier that he would meet with Taliban leaders himself in the, quote, "not too distant future." You know, there are more than 12,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The new deal calls for the beginning of a process to withdraw those forces. In return, the Taliban agrees that it won't allow Afghanistan to be used to harbor people who threaten the security of the United States or its allies.

SHAPIRO: And what's the Taliban saying about this call with Trump?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, a Taliban spokesman said on Twitter that Trump spoke to the leader, Mullah Baradar, for 35 minutes. He said that Trump told the Taliban leader that he would ask Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to speak with the Afghan government and try to remove some of the obstacles in the way of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The two sides have been at an impasse for some time about the release of prisoners. President Trump was actually asked about the Afghan's (ph) government's reluctance to release some 5,000 prisoners today. Here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Well, they may be reluctant. You know, they've been - they've done very well with the United States for many years, far beyond military, if you look at all the money that we've spent in Afghanistan.

ORDOÑEZ: See; both sides have prisoners, and both sides are very wary of making - of, you know, giving up concessions. They really just don't trust each other, so it's unclear whether Pompeo can actually push through that impasse.

SHAPIRO: President Trump's been talking for a long time about bringing troops home. How close is that to becoming a reality?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, that's really to be seen. President Trump has made this a campaign promise. He has long complained that American forces are little more than policemen in Afghanistan and that countries need to defend themselves. It's - you know, but it's really still a very delicate agreement. You know, we were close to this point before. Trump canceled a secret Camp David summit in September, where the signing was originally to take place. He called off peace talks after a Taliban attack in Kabul killed a U.S. service member. And the reality is the potential for violence still remains, and that could derail progress. Trump himself said today that the war in Afghanistan has gone on for 20 years. And, frankly, it's not easy to get out of these conflicts.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Franco Ordoñez, thank you very much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.