Trump says he spoke with Taleban official on Afghan peace deal

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Trump makes his way to board Marine One before departing from the South Lawn of the White House. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump spoke by phone with a top leader of the Taleban about the recent peace agreement reached in Qatar.

Trump, speaking on Tuesday (March 3) as he left the White House, called the conversation a "very good talk" and said they agreed to fulfilling the agreement to reduce violence in Afghanistan.

Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said earlier that Trump had spoken with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who signed the peace accord with the US in Qatar on Saturday.

The accord marked a concrete step toward ending a 19-year US troop presence in Afghanistan following the American invasion in late 2001.

The call is believed to be the first one between a US president and top Taleban official since the US invaded Afghanistan following the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks.

At the time, the Taleban ruled the country and refused to surrender Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who eventually fled to neighbouring Pakistan before being killed by US forces in 2011.

Trump has shown a penchant for being open to talking or meeting with foreign leaders at odds with the US.

He broke decades of precedent when he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in 2018 in an effort to jump start talks over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

He's also lavished praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

The president, speaking on Saturday in a press conference at the White House, said he plans to meet personally with Taleban leaders "in the not-too-distant future."

"I really believe the Taleban wants to do something to show that we're not all wasting time," Trump said.

"If bad things happen, we'll go back."

The peace deal signed on Saturday helps Trump fulfill a 2016 campaign promise to begin pulling American forces out of what he's called "endless wars."

The agreement calls for US troop levels to fall to 8,600 within 135 days, from about 13,000 now, and for all US forces to withdraw in 14 months if the accord holds.

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