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US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban were making headway as he voiced cautious hope for a negotiated end to America´s longest war.
“My administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban,” Trump said in his annual State of the Union address to Congress, weighing “a possible political solution to this long and bloody conflict.”
“We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement — but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace,” he said.
“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” Trump said, after his controversial orders to pull all US troops out of Syria and half of the 14,000-strong force in Afghanistan.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in January held an unusually long six days of negotiations with Taliban representatives in Qatar. While Khalilzad has stressed that much remains to discuss, the broad goal would be for the United States to pull troops from Afghanistan and for the Taliban to ensure that foreign extremists will not be based on its territory — the reason for the US invasion after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But the Taliban have refused to negotiate with the internationally recognized government in Kabul. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted ahead of Trump´s speech that he had spoken to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who “underscored the central importance of ensuring the centrality of the Afghan government in the peace process.”
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Trump also appealed for unity among Americans in his State of the Union speech where he sought to turn the page on two years of divisive turmoil and recast himself as a bipartisan national leader.
He took a swipe at the ongoing probe of the president’s possible connections to Russia, saying the “ridiculous partisan investigations” could slow down America’s economic growth.
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations,” Trump said during his speech. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.”
The American president also used his Tuesday address to call for a new era of cooperation to break “decades” of political gridlock and unlock America’s promise.
“We can make our communities safer, our families stronger, our culture richer, our faith deeper, and our middle class bigger and more prosperous than ever before,” Trump said.
“But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good. Together, we can break decades of political stalemate.”
As the speech started, he said: “The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican Agenda or a Democrat Agenda. It is the agenda of the American People.”