President Trump’s decision to abruptly cancel Afghan peace talks will cost more American lives, the Taliban warned on Sunday while the United States promised to keep up military pressure on the militants, in a stunning reversal of efforts to forge a deal ending nearly 20 years of war in Afghanistan.
The Islamist group issued a statement after Trump announced late on Saturday that he had unexpectedly canceled secret talks planned for Sunday with the Taliban’s major leaders at the presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland, Reuters reported. He broke off the talks on Saturday after the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul last week that killed an American soldier and 11 others.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, criticized Trump for calling off the dialogue and said U.S. forces have been pounding Afghanistan with attacks at the same time.
"This will lead to more losses to the U.S.," he said. "Its credibility will be affected, its anti-peace stance will be exposed to the world, losses to lives and assets will increase."
It wasn't initially clear who in the world would be "surprised" when the US anti-peace stance is "exposed", but we look forward to upcoming Taliban 8-K's for further information on this topic.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, Secretary of State and the former head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said that Afghan peace talks were on hold and Washington would not reduce U.S. military support for Afghan troops until it was convinced the Taliban could follow through on significant commitments. Additionally, Pompeo said on Sunday TV news shows that the US has recalled U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad to chart the path forward. Asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether Afghan talks were dead, Pompeo said, “For the time being they are.”
The development is a major setback for Trump, who has long stated his intention to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan - since his days as a candidate - and American diplomats have been talking with Taliban representatives for months about a plan to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops in exchange for security guarantees by the Taliban.
And then it all fell apart shortly after US and Taliban negotiators struck a draft peace deal last week, that would have led to a drawdown of troops from America’s longest war. There are currently 14,000 U.S. forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops in the country, 18 years after its invasion by a U.S.-led coalition following the Sept. 11, 2001,
Saudi al Qaeda attacks on the United States.
Amid the ongoing peace talks, fighting in Afghanistan had continued and recent assaults by the Taliban cast doubts over the draft deal. As violence escalated, Afghan leaders including President Ashraf Ghani have been increasingly critical of the deal and encouraged the Taliban to enter direct talks.
Asked whether the collapse of talks put a U.S. troop pullout on hold as well, Pompeo said the issue would be discussed. “The president hasn’t yet made a decision on that,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
According to Pompeo, Trump decided to get personally involved to get the agreement to the finish line at Camp David after “real progress” had been made in talks: "President Trump ultimately made the decision," Pompeo told Fox. “He said, ‘I want to talk to (President) Ashraf Ghani. I want to talk to these Taliban negotiators. I want to look them in the eye. I want to see if we can get to the final outcome we needed.’"
In the end, the answer was no.
Meanwhile, Trump's secret plans have already unleashed a firestorm of criticism, with the 18th anniversary of Sept 11 just days away.
“Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3000 Americans on 9/11,” Republican Representative Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney who was U.S. vice president at the time of the attacks, wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever.”
Half a world away, US involvement in Afghanistan has been nothing short of a disaster, with Taliban fighters now controling more territory than at any time since 2001 - some have said this is with the blessing of the CIA in exchange for the US maintaining control of the "opium" trade, and launching assaults over the past week that included a suicide attack in Kabul on Thursday that killed U.S. Army Sergeant Elis Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Puerto Rico.
Needless the say, the deep state would not be delighted if the US leave Afghanistan: nine former U.S. ambassadors warned on Tuesday that Afghanistan could collapse in a "total civil war" if Trump withdraws all U.S. forces before the Kabul government and the Taliban conclude a peace settlement.
Not surprisingly, Pompeo downplayed chances of a premature withdrawal.
“President Trump made clear we’re not just going to withdraw because there’s a timeline. We’re only going to reduce our forces when certain conditions are met,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Finally, for all those wondering what US presence if Afghanistan is really all about, here is the answer.