Trump cancels meeting after Kabul bombing.
Byline: JONATHAN LEMIRE AND DEB RIECHMANN email@example.com
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump said he cancelled a secret weekend meeting at Camp David with Taliban and Afghanistan leaders after a bombing in the past week in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier, and has called off peace negotiations with the insurgent group.
His tweet on Saturday evening was surprising because it would mean that Mr Trump was ready to host members of the Taliban at the presidential retreat in Maryland just days before the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
More than 2,400 American troops have been killed since the US invaded Afghanistan to go after the Taliban, who were harbouring al Qaida leaders responsible for 9/11.
Cancelling the talks also goes against Mr Trump's pledge to withdraw the remaining 13,000 to 14,000 US troops from Afghanistan and end US involvement in an almost 18-year conflict.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration's diplomat who has been talking to Taliban leaders for months, said recently that he was on the "threshold" of an agreement with the Taliban aimed at ending America's longest war.
The president, however, has been under pressure from the Afghan government and some US politicians, including Trump supporter Senator Lindsey Graham, who mistrust the Taliban and think it is too early to withdraw American forces.
"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," Mr Trump tweeted.
"They were coming to the United States tonight. Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations," he wrote.
On Thursday, a Taliban car bomb exploded and killed an American soldier, a Romanian service member and 10 civilians in a busy diplomatic area near the US Embassy in Kabul. The bombing was one of many attacks by the Taliban in recent days during US-Taliban talks.
The Defence Department said Sergeant 1st Class Elis A Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, was killed in action when the explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was the fourth US service member killed in the past two weeks in Afghanistan.
"What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn't, they only made it worse!" Mr Trump tweeted.
"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. How many more decades are they willing to fight?" It remains unclear if the US-Taliban talks are over or only paused.
<B President Donald Trump Chip Somodevilla
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|Publication:||Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Sep 9, 2019|
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