Donald Trump calls off secret meeting with Taliban and Afghan leaders.
President Donald Trump says he has called off a secret Camp David
meeting with Taliban and Afghanistan leaders. On Saturday, the president
tweeted that a meeting due to be held on Sunday has been cancelled
because of a Taliban attack in Kabul on Thursday that killed 12 people,
including a US soldier. The president tweeted that he "called off
peace negotiations" and demanded to know who "would kill so
many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position" in
the negotiations. He added that if the Taliban would not agree to a
cease-fire during the negotiations, "they probably don't have
the power" to negotiate a peace deal. While there are multiple
Taliban factions, not all of whom are open to a deal with the US, in
2018 the government and the insurgents agreed to a ceasefire to mark the
Eid holiday -- the first such halt in fighting in 18 years of war. The
pause was largely respected and hostilities halted. Taliban fighters
came into the cities and pictures showed them greeting Afghan soldiers.
While the government sought to replicate the agreement this year, the
Taliban ruled it out. But many Americans on social media reacted with
anger at the news the president was looking to sit down with the Taliban
at Camp David on the same week as the 18th anniversary of the 9/11
attacks. The war in Afghanistan was launched in response to the killing
of 2,977 in September 2001 by Al Qaeda, the leadership of which was
based largely in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban who
were, at the time, in power. The past week has been bloody, with two
Taliban car bombings in the capital of Kabul. It came after US envoy
Zalmay Khalilzad said that he and the insurgents had reached a deal
"in principle" that would begin a US troop pullout in exchange
for Taliban counterterror guarantees. Mr Khalilzad was in Kabul laying
out the terms of the agreement to the government but then returned to
Qatar, where the Taliban have a political office, on Thursday evening.
The abrupt return to Doha came despite saying earlier in the week that
the deal only needed Mr Trump's approval to finalise. Afghan
President Ashraf Ghani had planned to travel to Washington on Saturday
for talks with Mr Trump but decided to postpone the visit. "Peace
with a group that is still killing innocent people is meaningless,"
Mr Ghani said after the bomb attack on Thursday. The Taliban have
maintained a high number of deadly attacks to give them a stronger
negotiating position in talks with the US and to pressure the
government. The Taliban also kidnapped six Afghan journalists working
for private and government media organisations in eastern Paktia
province, government officials and Taliban said on Saturday. The
reporters, working for radio and TV news companies that broadcast news
in the Pashto and Dari languages, were abducted while travelling
together from neighbouring Paktika province to Paktia to attend a media
workshop on Friday. "We are trying to negotiate their release with
the Taliban," said Abdullah Hasrat, a spokesman for Paktia's
governor. A Taliban spokesman confirmed the abduction of six journalists
by their fighters but said they will be released soon. "Yes, our
mujahideen (fighters) have mistakenly kidnapped them," said
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the hardline insurgent group.
"Right now mobile services are not working, but they will be
released as soon as we establish contact with the local commander,"
he said. Afghanistan was the deadliest country in the world to be a
journalist in 2018, with 13 deaths according to the Committee to Protect
Journalists. The International Federation of Journalists said 16
journalists were killed last year. Nine were killed on a single day on
April 30. In June, the Taliban issued a threat to Afghan media, saying
journalists will be targeted unless news outlets stop broadcasting what
they describe as government propaganda against the insurgents.
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