This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. President Donald Trump says he is ready to sign a peace agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan if a temporary truce between the two sides holds.
“We think they want to make a deal, we want to make a deal. I think it’s gonna work out, we will see,” Trump told reporters before departing for India on February 23.
Earlier this month, the two sides announced a weeklong “reduction in violence” that took effect from the start of February 22.
If the truce holds, it will be followed by the signing of the peace accord that would end the United States’ longest war.
“You know we have a certain period of nonviolence. It’s been holding up, it’s a day and a half so we’ll see what happens,” Trump said, adding that “after 19 years” of war, it was time for U.S. forces “to come home.”
There are more than 12,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Afghan media, however, reported that the Taliban carried out several small-scale attacks on checkpoints manned by Afghan security forces in provinces in the past two days.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on February 21 that the United States and the Taliban have been engaged in talks to facilitate a political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan and reduce the U.S. presence in the region.
Pompeo said that if the truce holds, the “signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward.”
“We are preparing for the signing to take place on February 29,” Pompeo said.
He said that intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, with the final aim of delivering “a comprehensive and permanent cease-fire and the future political road map for Afghanistan.”
The Taliban confirmed the planned signing of a deal on February 29 “in front of international observers” and said that “the groundwork for intra-Afghan talks will be resolved.”
Trump arrived in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad on February 24 for his first trip as president to the world’s fifth largest economy.
Addressing a rally of around 100,000 people at the second-largest stadium in the world, Trump vowed to boost trade ties between Washington and New Delhi, and said the United States was prepared to supply India with the “best and most feared military equipment,” ranging from drones to helicopters and missile systems.
He said he looked forward to expanding space cooperation between the two countries, and that both sides were at the early stages of reaching an “incredible” trade deal.
Trump also had words of praise for Modi, who attended the event.
Accompanied by First Lady Melania, Trump later traveled to Agra in northern India to visit the famed Taj Mahal mausoleum.
He will then fly to New Delhi to hold delegation level talks with Modi on February 25.