Talks with Taliban to end Afghan conflict are ‘dead’
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday that talks with the Taliban to bring peace to Afghanistan after 18 years of conflict are “dead.”
Trump’s assessment following months of negotiations between Taliban leaders and U.S. officials was a step harsher than that offered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Sunday provided a caveat that talks were done “for now.”
“They’re dead,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re dead.”
Trump abruptly canceled once secret talks between the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that he said were to take place at Camp David this weekend. Trump pushed back Monday on reports that he overruled objections from Vice President Mike Pence and others about holding the secret meeting at the storied presidential retreat.
“Meeting is a great thing,” Trump said. “We had a meeting scheduled; it was my idea and it was my idea to terminate it. I didn’t discuss it with anybody else.”
More than 2,400 American soldiers have been killed in the war, according to the most recent figures from the Pentagon. About 22,000 coalition troops are in Afghanistan now, 14,000 of them Americans. Trump has said he wants to bring the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan down to 8,600 but has not set a timeline for withdrawal.
Trump, who was under pressure from within his administration to not accept a hasty agreement in Afghanistan, became increasingly frustrated with the peace talks, administration officials speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations said. Among the critics, officials said, was National Security Adviser John Bolton.
With growing frustration, Trump stepped in and offered the unexpected meeting at Camp David to prod both sides along.
“You’re talking about war,” Trump said. “There’s meetings with war otherwise wars would never end. You’d have them go on forever.”
Contributing: Michael Collins