WASHINGTON DC: United States President Donald Trump on Saturday said he cancelled peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders after the group said it was behind an attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier and 11 other people.
“Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday,” he wrote in a Twitter thread.
“They were coming to the United States tonight. Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to.. an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people,” he continued. “I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations. What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they only made it worse!”
“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” Trump said on Twitter.
The development came hours after the Afghan government welcomed a pledge by the Pentagon that the US would only accept a “good deal” from the Taliban after a wave of insurgent attacks sparked concerns of a hasty US withdrawal.
During a wide ranging press conference in Paris, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper sought to allay fears that Washington was looking for a quick exit from Afghanistan as it inches closer to a potential deal with the Taliban. “My view, the US view is that the best way forward is a political agreement and that’s what we’re working diligently on right now,” Esper told reporters.
Afghan government’s response
Afghanistan praised the “sincere efforts of its allies” on Sunday after US President Donald Trump said he had called off negotiations with the Taliban, apparently ending a year-long diplomatic push to exit America’s longest war.
“The Afghan government, in relation to the peace, appreciates the sincere efforts of its allies and is committed to working together with the United States and other allies to bring lasting peace,” said a statement from President Ashraf Ghani’s office.
The statement came after Trump tweeted late Saturday that he had planned unprecedented, albeit separate, talks with the Taliban and with Ghani on Sunday at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.
The secret talks would have come after months of diplomatic wrangling between the US and the Taliban over a deal that would allow Washington to begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan.
But after the Taliban killed 12 people in a single attack in Kabul this week, including a US soldier, Trump said he “immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations”.
His announcement left the withdrawal deal shrouded in uncertainty.
The US-backed government in Kabul had eyed the deal with deep unease and long complained of being sidelined from the talks.
“We have always insisted that real peace can only be achieved if the Taliban stop killing Afghans and accept a ceasefire, and face-to-face talks with the Afghan government,” the statement from Ghani’s office said.
A presidential election is scheduled for September 28, and Kabul “insists” the polls should be held to establish “a strong, lawful and legitimate government so that it can take forward the peace process with wisdom”.