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08.09.2019 US & Canada

Trump cancels US peace talks with Taliban

By RFI
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
SEP 8, 2019 US & CANADA

US President Donald Trump says he has called off peace negotiations with the Taliban after the militant group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul. The talks were aimed at putting an end to America's 18-year war in Afghanistan.

In a series of tweets, Trump said he had been due to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior Taliban leaders in the US on Sunday.

He said he had called off the secret meeting at his Camp David retreat after the insurgent group admitted to a recent attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a US soldier.

"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," he tweeted.

Trump's tweet Saturday evening was surprising because it would mean that the president had been ready to host members of the Taliban at the presidential retreat in Maryland just days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Following the attacks, the US invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban whose militants had provided a safe haven for al-Qaeda leaders to plan 9/11.

Cancelling the talks goes against Trump's pledge to withdraw the remaining 13,000 to 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and end U.S. involvement in the 18-year conflict during which more than 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy negotiating with the Taliban, said recently that he was on the “threshold” of an agreement with the Taliban aimed at ending America's longest war.

The president, however, has been under pressure from the Afghan government and some U.S. lawmakers, including Trump supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who mistrust the Taliban and think it's too early to withdraw American forces.

It remains unclear if the U.S.-Taliban talks are over or only paused. Trump said he called off the peace negotiations after the bombing, but Khalilzad said he was meeting with leaders of the insurgent group in Doha, Qatar, on both Thursday and Friday.

The State Department and the White House declined to respond to requests for clarification. There was no immediate response from the Afghan government.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told The Associated Press he could not immediately confirm Trump's account of a Camp David meeting, and he withheld comment for now.

“It is a political issue,” he said. “We are waiting for our leaders and will update you.”

(with AP)

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