Donald Trump slammed for plan to host Taliban at retreat
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump faced blowback from fellow Republicans this week for a plan – later scuttled – to use Camp David for negotiations with the Taliban.
The meeting, had it occurred, would have delivered the kind of drama that appeals to Trump, a former TV star. But it wouldn’t have been the first time the sprawling retreat, tucked into a mountainous national park in Maryland, has been used for high-stakes diplomacy.
Built by Depression-era Works Progress Administration workers in the 1930s, the secluded camp has been used by past presidents to meet with world leaders attempting to sort out thorny issues from Middle East tensions to the Cold War.
Trump drew fire from lawmakers, including Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, who expressed outrage over the idea of granting the Taliban the prestige of a meeting at the presidential retreat, especially so close to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Cheney noted that Camp David was where President George W. Bush assembled his senior advisers and Cabinet officials to deliberate the response to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Bush administration blamed the Taliban for harboring al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, and went to war to oust it from power in Afghanistan.
“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,” Cheney posted on Twitter. “No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever.”
Trump defended the move this week.
“Camp David’s held meetings with a lot of people that would have been perceived as being pretty tough customers,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday. “There have been plenty of so-called bad people brought up to Camp David for meetings.”
Here’s a look at past high-stakes meetings that have taken place at Camp David:
It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who converted the facility into a presidential retreat, renaming it Shangri-La. Roosevelt hosted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill there in 1943 as Germany was pushing across Europe during World War II.
Nearly a year later, the U.S. would play a central role in the D-Day invasion that changed the course of the war.
The Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum holds a photograph of the two leaders fishing at the retreat, with Roosevelt holding a fly rod and Churchill his trademark cigar.
Cold War tensions
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who named the retreat Camp David after his father and grandson, met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev there in 1959. At a point of high Cold War tension, the two leaders made some progress, such as agreeing to open talks on the administration of war-torn Berlin. But much of the good will was scuttled when an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union months later.
Middle East talks
Perhaps the most famous international gathering to take place at Camp David happened under President Jimmy Carter. The president brought Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to the site in 1978, forcing two leaders who had little trust for each other to sit down to broker a peace accord named for the retreat.
The touch-and-go negotiations took place over 12 days – all of it in secret.
President Bill Clinton attempted to recreate the sense of momentum in the Middle East with his own summit in 2000 but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat failed to reach an agreement.
Eisenhower wasn’t the only president to host Russians at Camp David. President George W. Bush hosted Vladimir Putin in 2003. President Barack Obama held a G8 summit at Camp David in 2012, when the Russians were still part of the group of the world’s most industrialized economies. Obama hosted the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev.