WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced he restarted peace talks with the Taliban during a surprise visit to soldiers Thursday at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, his first visit to the country since becoming president.

Trump spent about 2 1/2 hours at the military base, where he served turkey to soldiers in a dining hall, posed for photos, delivered brief remarks and met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, according to press pool reports. The president arrived at Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan, around 8:30 p.m. local time.

The trip, Trump’s second visit to a combat zone, comes as he faces threats to his presidency back home. A fast-moving impeachment inquiry yielded testimony about the Trump administration’s efforts to push Ukraine to announce investigations that could have been politically beneficial to Trump in 2020.

Trump announced the restart of peace negotiations with the Taliban during a bilateral meeting with Ghani. The two presidents sat at one end of the room at the military headquarters, where four alternating U.S. and Afghan flags were erected behind the two leaders, according to pool reports. 

“The Taliban wants to make a deal – we’ll see if they make a deal. If they do, they do, and if they don’t, they don’t. That’s fine,” Trump told reporters.

The president reiterated his desire to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan to 8,600, a figure he cited in announcing a major withdrawal in August. The United States has less than 14,000 troops in Afghanistan; military officials would not confirm the exact number.

The move would reduce troop levels to one of the lowest points in the history of the war. U.S. troops swelled to nearly 100,000 at the highest mark in 2011 and dipped to 8,300 in 2017.

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