- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 7, 2019

President Trump has called off talks with Taliban leaders planned for Sunday at Camp David, he tweeted late Saturday, saying that he scrapped what would have been a historic meeting after yet another U.S. soldier died during a Taliban attack in Afghanistan this week.

In a series of tweets, the president blasted the Taliban for publicly boasting that it believes its series of deadly attacks — which have killed dozens of civilians and four U.S. service members over just the past two weeks — increased its leverage at the negotiating table.

Mr. Trump also revealed that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also would have attended the meeting. Such an event would have marked a major turning point in negotiations to end America’s 18-year military campaign in Afghanistan; until this point, the Taliban has refused to formally meet with the U.S.-backed leaders in Kabul.

“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,” Mr. Trump said. “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. 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?”

The president long has promised to end America’s “endless wars” in the Middle East. Despite horrific Taliban attacks and little indication the group would accept a formal ceasefire, the administration had spent months forging ahead with diplomatic talks.

The administration’s Afghanistan envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, met again with Taliban leaders in Qatar on Friday. But there were growing signs that opposition to the deal was mounting inside the White House, State Department and Pentagon.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for example, reportedly refused to sign a peace agreement with the Taliban after the group demanded Afghanistan again be recognized as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” — the name by which the country was known in the years leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The deal also did not explicitly guarantee that the Taliban would cease its attacks.

In his tweets, the president cast new doubt on whether he’ll continue his push to pull the U.S. from Afghanistan.

“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. How many more decades are they willing to fight?” he said.

The latest Afghanistan attack saw a Taliban fighter set off a suicide car bomb in a busy diplomatic area of Kabul near the U.S. embassy. The attack killed a U.S. service member, a Romanian soldier, and at least 10 civilians. Dozens of other civilians were wounded in the assault.

Early drafts of the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement reportedly would’ve seen roughly 5,400 of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan come home, along with the shuttering of five American military bases in the country.

In exchange, the Taliban would guarantee that Afghanistan will never again be used as a base from which terrorist groups can attack the West.

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