Afghan govt cautiously welcome halt to summit
Taliban warn more US lives will be lost
US President Donald Trump on Saturday said he cancelled peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders after the insurgent group claimed responsibility last week for an attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier and 11 other people.
Trump said he had planned a secret meeting with the Taliban’s “major leaders” yesterday at a presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland. Trump said he also planned to meet with Afghanistan’s president.
But Trump said he immediately called the talks off when the insurgents said they were behind the attack.
“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 said on Twitter.
The surprise announcement left in doubt the future of the draft accord worked out last week by Zalmay Khalilzad, the special US envoy for peace in Afghanistan, for a drawdown of thousands of US troops over the coming months.
Meanwhile, Taliban said yesterday that Trump’s decision to cancel peace talks with its leadership would lead to the further loss of American lives and assets.
“The Americans will suffer more than anyone else for cancelling the talks,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the hardline insurgent group, said in a statement.
The United States will keep on pressuring Taliban militants to live up to commitments made in peace talks and will not reduce military support for Afghan troops in the meantime, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday.
Just hours before Trump’s tweet, a senior Taliban leader privy to talks in Doha with US officials including Khalilzad and Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, said an agreement to sign the deal appeared close.
Taliban fighters, who now control more territory than at any time since 2001, launched fresh assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri over the past week and carried out two major suicide bombings in the capital Kabul.
One of the blasts, a suicide attack in Kabul on Thursday, took the life of US Army Sergeant 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Puerto Rico, bringing the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan this year to 16.
A spike in attacks by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan has been “particularly unhelpful” to peace efforts there, a senior US military commander said on Saturday as he visited neighbouring Pakistan, where many Taliban militants are based.