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Trump says peace talks with Taliban are now 'dead'

China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-11 07:39

WASHINGTON - Peace talks between the United States and the Taliban are now "dead", US President Donald Trump declared Monday, two days after he abruptly canceled a secret US meeting he had arranged with Taliban and Afghan leaders aimed at ending Washington's longest war.

Trump's remark to reporters at the White House suggested he sees no point in resuming a nearly yearlong effort to reach a political settlement with the Taliban, whose protection of al-Qaida extremists in Afghanistan prompted the US to invade after the Sept 11, 2001, plane attacks on the US.

Asked about the peace talks, Trump said: "They're dead. They're dead. As far as I'm concerned, they're dead."

It's unclear whether Trump will go ahead with planned US troop cuts and how the collapse of his talks will play out in deeply divided Afghanistan.

Trump says peace talks with Taliban are now 'dead'

Trump said his administration is "looking at" whether to proceed with troop reductions that had been one element of the preliminary deal with the Taliban struck by US presidential envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

"We'd like to get out, but we'll get out at the right time," Trump said.

The Taliban on Tuesday vowed to continue fighting against US forces in Afghanistan, saying the US would regret abandoning negotiations.

"We had two ways to end occupation in Afghanistan, one was jihad and fighting, the other was talks and negotiations," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

"If Trump wants to stop talks, we will take the first way and they will soon regret it."

What had seemed like a potential deal to end Washington's longest war unraveled, with Trump and the Taliban blaming each other for the collapse of nearly a year of US-Taliban negotiations in Doha, Qatar.

The insurgents are now promising more bloodshed, and US advocates of withdrawing from the battlefield questioned on Monday whether Trump's decision to cancel what he called plans for a secret meeting with Taliban and Afghan leaders at the Camp David, Maryland, presidential retreat over the weekend had poisoned the prospects for peace.

"The Camp David ploy appears to have been an attempt to satisfy Trump's obsession with carefully curated public spectacles - to seal the deal, largely produced by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban negotiators, with the president's imprimatur," said John Glaser, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, a think tank.

Trump has been talking of a need to withdraw US troops from the "endless war" in Afghanistan since his 2016 presidential campaign. And he said anew in a tweet on Monday: "We have been serving as policemen in Afghanistan, and that was not meant to be the job of our Great Soldiers, the finest on earth."

He added, without explanation: "Over the last four days, we have been hitting our Enemy harder than at any time in the last ten years."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Trump's weekend moves. "When the Taliban tried to gain negotiating advantage by conducting terror attacks inside of the country, President Trump made the right decision to say that's not going to work," Pompeo said on Sunday.

Trump said he called off negotiations because of a recent Taliban bombing in Kabul that killed a US service member, even though nine other US citizens have died since June 25 in Taliban-orchestrated violence.

But the emerging agreement had started unraveling days earlier after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani postponed his trip to Washington and the Taliban refused to travel to the US before a deal was signed, according to a former senior Afghan official.

As Trump's reelection campaign heats up, his quest to withdraw the remaining 13,000 to 14,000 US troops from Afghanistan remains unfulfilled - so far.

Agencies - Xinhua

(China Daily 09/11/2019 page11)

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