President Trump speaks during a surprise Thanksgiving day visit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan in 2019. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
President Trump's campaign on Saturday firmly rejected the Taliban's endorsement of him ahead of next month's U.S. presidential election.
Driving the news: Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told CBS News the militant Afghan group admires the president's "America first" focus and that "Trump might be ridiculous for the rest of the world, but he is sane and wise man for the Taliban."
"We hope he will win the election and wind up U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. When we heard about Trump being COVID-19 positive, we got worried for his health, but seems he is getting better."— Mujahid to CBS
- Another senior Taliban member told CBS, "Honestly, Trump was much more honest with us than we thought, even we were stunned with his offer to meet Taliban in Camp David" — in reference to a meeting that the president said he called off after a 2019 bombing in Kabul killed an American soldier and 11 other people.
What they're saying: Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said in an emailed statement, "We reject their support and the Taliban should know that the President will always protect American interests by any means necessary, unlike Joe Biden who opposed taking out Osama bin Laden and Qasem Soleimani."
The big picture: The U.S. reached an agreement with the Taliban in February to begin a gradual drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan. U.S. troops began withdrawing from the country under the peace agreement the following month.
- National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said last Wednesday the U.S. would cut its number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early 2021.
- Later Wednesday, President Trump tweeted without further elaboration, "We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!"
The other side: The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment on the Trump campaign's claims about the former vice president's stance on bin Laden and Soleimani.
- However, Biden said in 2012 that he told then-President Obama "don’t go" and launch the mission that killed the al-Qaeda leader bin Laden, but later said he should do checks and follow his instincts on the matter, per Politifact.
- On Soleimani, Biden said last January the leader of the elite Quds force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps "deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region." He added the decision to kill him in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq was "a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region."