This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. President Donald Trump, asked about the state of U.S.-Taliban peace talks, has said: “They’re dead. As far as I’m concerned, they’re dead.”
Trump made the comments while addressing reporters at the White House on September 9, two days after he announced on Twitter that he had cancelled secret talks with Afghan and Taliban officials in the United States.
He reiterated earlier statements that he made the decision after the Taliban carried out a recent car bombing in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a U.S. soldier.
“They’re dead, as far as I’m concerned”: President Trump says Afghanistan peace talks are off after he canceled a secret Camp David meeting with the Taliban https://t.co/YpiMmNQPzy pic.twitter.com/ypuTDCbmn4
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 9, 2019
“They thought they had to kill people in order to put themselves in a little better negotiating position. When they did that they killed 12 people,” Trump said.
“You can’t do that can’t do that with me,” he added, saying that “we’ve hit the Taliban harder in the last four days that they’ve been hit in over 10 years. So that’s the way it is.”
Trump said that the plan to invite the Taliban, who have been involved in Afghan peace negotiations with the United States for months, to the U.S. presidential retreat Camp David “was my idea, and it was my idea to terminate it.”
Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, acknowledged in comments to CNN on September 9 that “there were communications in the past few days of a possible trip to the United States so that the Afghan president can share and discuss the people’s concern about a possible [U.S.-Taliban] deal that was on the brink to be signed.”
But Sediqqi noted that the Afghan government had concerns about the deal.
“We strongly believe that the decision that was taken by President Trump is a genuine reflection of the concerns not only the Afghan people have in regard to a flawed deal, or a deal that will only give elevation — or leverage — to a group that is heavily involved in violence,” Sediqqi said.
The Taliban responded to Trump’s decision by saying in a statement on September 8 that the decision would “harm the United State more than anyone else and will undermine its credibility.”
During a visit to Afghanistan on September 9, U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, indicated to reporters that the United States was likely to increase operations against the Taliban.
“We’re certainly not going to sit still and let them carry out some self-described race to victory,” AP quoted him as saying. “That’s not going to happen.”
He said that the U.S., which has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, was hardly “defenseless.”
Taliban fighters now control more territory than at any time since the war in Afghanistan started in 2001, and had been stepping up attacks just as U.S. and Taliban negotiators appeared to be closing in on an accord to end the fighting.
Political analyst Waheed Muzhda told AP he was gloomy about the prospects for Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately all the months of efforts came to an end with no result,” he said, “and I think the fight in Afghanistan will continue for long years.”
Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and more than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in the war.
Trump, who has said he would like to reduce U.S. troop numbers to about 8,600, addressed promises made since his presidential campaign to leave Afghanistan.
“Yeah, we’d like to get out,” he said. “But we’ll get out of the right time.”
An unidentified official from NATO, which maintains a force of about 16,000 troops in Afghanistan, told AFP on September 9 that its focus “remains unchanged” in the wake of Trump’s decision to cancel the secret meeting.
The objective is to make “the Afghan security forces stronger so that they can fight international terrorism and create the conditions for peace,” the official said.