President Trump says Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and major Taliban leaders were set to meet with him at Camp David on Sunday, but he canceled the negotiations after learning about a Taliban attack.
Trump added that he called off further peace negotiations with the Taliban, which had been ongoing for months and were said to be near completion.
In a series of tweets on Saturday, the president said the Camp David talks were supposed to be a secret.
“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. They were coming to the United States tonight,” the president wrote.
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. They were coming to the United States tonight. Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2019
Before the meeting could take place, Trump said, the Taliban admitted to a Kabul attack that killed 12 people, including an American 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,” Trump tweeted.
The White House and the State Department both declined to offer any further details about Trump’s statement.
A spokesman for the Taliban said the group had only learned of the cancellation through the media — and that U.S. officials had not formally notified them. Suhail Shaheen, the insurgents’ spokesman, said Taliban officials wanted to meet and discuss the latest developments before they could respond further.
This is not the first time an announcement by Trump has disrupted negotiations. On Aug. 29, Trump told Fox News Radio he was planning to wind down troop numbers to 8,600 for the time being. That outraged Taliban officials who told NPR that they were negotiating for a full, not partial, withdrawal of foreign forces — in exchange for promises they would not allow the country to become a base for global terror.
The announcement of talks being canceled may be a partial relief to many Afghans who feared a withdrawal of American troops would embolden insurgents to step up their violent attacks against Afghan security forces, who would be badly weakened in the case of any withdrawal.
The Taliban already contest or control more than half the country. A U.S. withdrawal could have encouraged them to march onto Kabul — triggering an even more violent and chaotic round of conflict. And activists feared the Taliban gaining more power would quickly erode their fragile gains for women’s rights and democracy.
Until now, it had appeared that the U.S. was nearing a deal with the Taliban that would bring home some, if not all, of the 14,000 U.S. troops still stationed in Afghanistan.
The U.S. and the Taliban have held multiple rounds of talks this year in the Gulf nation of Qatar.
Trump has argued repeatedly that it’s time to end the war that has dragged on for nearly two decades.
Read more at NPR