Talks "will resume from where they had stopped", Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says a day after US President Trump signalled the Afghan insurgent group would agree to a ceasefire.

Taliban insurgents have long refused to talk to Kabul, declaring the administration a
Taliban insurgents have long refused to talk to Kabul, declaring the administration a "puppet" of the US. (AFP Archive)

The Taliban said on Friday it was ready to restart peace talks with the US a day after President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to US troops in Afghanistan and said he believed the group would agree to a ceasefire.

Taliban leaders said that the group has been holding meetings with senior US officials in Doha since last weekend, adding they could soon resume formal peace talks.

On Friday, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group, said they were "ready to restart the talks" that collapsed after Trump had called them off earlier this year.

"Our stance is still the same. If [formal] peace talks start, they will resume from where they had stopped," said Mujahid.

Trump cancelled peace negotiations in September after the militant group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier.

"We are hoping that Trump's visit to Afghanistan will prove that he is serious to start talks again. We don't think he has much of a choice," said a senior Taliban commander on condition of anonymity.

Trump's surprise visit

Trump's Thanksgiving Day visit was his first to Afghanistan since becoming president and came a week after a prisoner swap between Washington and Kabul that has raised hopes for a long elusive peace deal to end the 18-year-long war.

"The Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them," Trump told reporters after arriving in Afghanistan on Thursday.

"We say it has to be a ceasefire and they didn't want to do a ceasefire and now they want to do a ceasefire, I believe. It will probably work out that way."

However, Mujahid suggested roadblocks remain. 

"It is way too early to talk about the resumption of talks for now," the insurgent spokesman told AFP news agency in a WhatsApp message, adding that his group would give an official reaction later. 

Dead deal 

In September, the US and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin pulling troops out of Afghanistan in return for security guarantees.

It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul.

But that month, Trump abruptly called the year-long effort "dead" and withdrew an invitation to the insurgents to meet in the US due to the killing of an American soldier.

"We were getting close and we pulled back. We didn't want to do it because of what they did," Trump said at Bagram during a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, referring to the death of the soldier.

"Since then, we've hit them so hard, they've never been hit this hard," he added.

Most observers agree that a political settlement is the only way towards lasting peace in Afghanistan and since September diplomatic efforts to foster dialogue have continued. 

The Taliban last week handed over two hostages – an American and an Australian - after three years in captivity in exchange for three high-ranking insurgent prisoners, a move seen as a boost to resuming negotiations.

About 13,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan 18 years after the US invaded following the September 11, 2001 attacks. 

'Political solution'

Trump said he planned to reduce the number to 8,600 and later added "we can go much further than that" without giving details.

The president also said on Thursday that the war in Afghanistan "will not be decided on the battlefield" and that "ultimately, there will need to be a political solution" decided by people in the region.

The insurgents have long refused to talk to Kabul, however, declaring the administration a "puppet" of the US.

Source: AFP