The Taliban on Trump: "We hope he will win the election"
President Trump's re-election offer on Friday received a support vote from a company most of his party would oppose: the Taliban. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told CBS News in a telephone interview: "We hope he wins the election and ends the US military presence in Afghanistan." The militant group expressed concern over Mr. Trump's battle with the coronavirus. "When we heard Trump was COVID-19 positive, we were concerned about his health, but it appears he is doing better," another senior Taliban leader told CBS News.
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement to CBS News that he opposes support for the Taliban and that the Taliban should know that President Trump will always protect American interests by whatever means necessary.
The Taliban's enthusiasm for Mr. Trump is based on the goal of getting US troops out of Afghanistan after 19 years of war - a longstanding promise by the President.
There are now fewer than 5,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien has announced that the number will drop to 2,500 by early next year.
The Trump administration signed a historic pact with the Taliban in February, in which the US and its allies set a timetable for US troops to withdraw by spring 2021. The pact calls for the Taliban to break off from Al-Qaeda and negotiate a power-sharing agreement with rivals of the Afghan government. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated last month after meeting with Taliban co-founder and MP Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha that the US would seek a full withdrawal from Afghanistan by April or May 2021.
The Obama administration has been unsuccessful in attempting to broker a similar diplomatic deal. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden told Face the Nation in February that the US should pull out, but also keep a remaining force of "several thousand people to make sure we have a place to operate from." if al-Qaeda or ISIS gain capacity, beat the US
This week, President Trump said that all troops should be "home by Christmas", although it is unclear whether this is actually expected or whether he is simply reiterating his position on bringing troops home.
"We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE men and women who will be at home in Afghanistan by Christmas," he tweeted.
This schedule goes against the advice of U.S. military commanders, who do not believe it is safe to reduce troop numbers below 4,500 unless the Taliban break with al-Qaeda and reduce the levels of violence. It is also unclear how this will affect the peace peace between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators in Qatar.
Civilians remain embroiled in ongoing violence in Afghanistan, much from Taliban attacks. From January 1 to June 30 this year, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 2,176 civilian injuries and 1,282 civilian deaths due to the conflict.
The Taliban found that they valued Mr. Trump's "America first" knowledge.
"It's been Trump's slogan from the start that they aren't cops for the world and don't want a single flag and anthem for the globe, but their priority is America," said Mujahid.
Another senior member of the Taliban praised the president's honesty. "To be honest, Trump was much more honest with us than we thought, even we were stunned by his offer to meet the Taliban at Camp David."
In 2019, President Trump announced that he had invited the Taliban for peace talks at Camp David - days before the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. He said he canceled the plans after the Taliban killed a US soldier.
A senior Taliban member told CBS News, "Trump may be ridiculous to the rest of the world, but he's a sensible and wise man for the Taliban."
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