US president says he called off secret meetings with the Taliban and Afghan president, cancels peace negotiations.
“Now that US President Trump has announced the suspension of negotiations… this would not harm anyone else but the Americans themselves,” the group said in a statement on Sunday.
In a series of tweets on Saturday, Trump said he was calling off secret meetings scheduled for Sunday with Taliban representatives and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David in Maryland, US.
Citing a Taliban attack in Kabul last week in which 12 people, including a US soldier, were killed as the reason, Trump also cancelled the US-Taliban negotiations ongoing in Qatar for nearly a year.
The Taliban said the cancellation of talks would “lead to more losses for the US”, “harm [its] credibility” and “show their anti-peace stance in [a] more clear way”.
“Our struggle for the past 18 years … will continue until the foreign occupation is finished and the Afghans are given a chance to live by their own choice,” said the statement.
The Taliban said the US negotiating team was “happy with the progress made so far” in Doha and the talks were held “in a good atmosphere”.
“We had fruitful discussions with the US negotiating team and the agreement was finalised,” said the statement.
“The American delegation was happy from the outcome of the talks until yesterday [Saturday]. Both sides were preparing for the announcement and the signing of the agreement.”
The Taliban said it had even set September 23 as the inaugural day of another round of inter-Afghan dialogue in the hope that a deal with the US would be reached before that date.
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
Following Trump’s announcement, the Afghan president’s office said that “real peace” would only be possible if the Taliban stopped launching attacks and held direct talks with the government.
The Taliban has long refused to engage with the Afghan government, calling it a “puppet regime” of the West with “no real power”.
The US has also recalled its special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, to Washington to determine the path forward, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a US network on Sunday.
Asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether the Afghan talks were dead, Pompeo said, “For the time being they are.”
Reporting from Washington, Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds said the cancellation of talks with the Taliban was “certainly startling for policymakers and politicians and pundits” in the US capital.
Reynolds, however, said the decision did not necessarily signal that the talks were dead.
“Its is worth recalling that President Trump both as a businessman and president has used this tactic many times in the past, that of walking away from negotiations in hopes of getting a better or stronger negotiating position.”
Reynolds said Trump was hoping that the Taliban would decide that it needed a peace deal more than the US.
“Trump’s use of the word ‘leverage’ in his tweets indicated that he is approaching these talks like a “business transaction,” he said.
Last week, US and Taliban negotiators struck a draft deal that could have led to a withdrawal of troops from America’s longest war.
There are currently 14,000 US forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops in Afghanistan, 18 years after its invasion by a US-led coalition following the September 11, 2001 attacks.