Trump says U.S. dealing well with ‘tough,’ ‘smart’ Taliban

© Reuters/KEVIN LAMARQUE U.S. President Trump holds news conference at the White House in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Friday complimented the Taliban for being tough and smart, and said the United States is dealing well with the Afghan militant group.

The Taliban, whose rigid Islamist government was overthrown by U.S. forces which invaded Afghanistan a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, began peace negotiations with the Afghan government this week to end two decades of war.

“We’re dealing very well with the Taliban,” Trump told a news conference. “They’re very tough, they’re very smart, they’re very sharp, but you know it’s been 19 years and even they are tired of fighting, in all fairness.”

Trump, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 3, is eager to claim an end to America’s longest conflict, and his administration has voiced its intention to use aid as leverage to push for a peace deal in Afghanistan.

The United States is set to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by May 2021, subject to the Taliban meeting certain security guarantees.

Taliban and Afghan government peace negotiators held their first formal meeting on Tuesday in Doha, after an opening ceremony on Saturday which was attended by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.