Trump’s Planned Camp David Retreat With The Taliban Draws Flak From All Sides

September 9, 2019by Laura King and Shashank Bengali

WASHINGTON — Did the Taliban ever intend to come to Camp David this weekend, as President Trump claimed?

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo insisted Sunday that the president had called off secretly planned talks at the presidential retreat in Maryland with leaders of the Afghan militant group that sheltered Osama bin Laden as he masterminded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and that has fought U.S. forces ever since.

But the Taliban disputed that, saying its leaders had refused to come until the United States had signed an agreement hammered out by negotiators over the past year in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar. Trump instead said he was calling off further negotiations.

Either way, Trump’s abrupt disclosure of plans to meet at Camp David with the Taliban and, separately, with Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, drew unusual barbs from Republican lawmakers who traditionally support the president.

“Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after al-Qaida, supported by the Taliban, killed 3000 Americans on 9/11. No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever,” tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who is third-ranking in GOP House leadership and the eldest daughter of Dick Cheney, who was vice president during the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Never should leaders of a terrorist organization that has not renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our great country. Never. Full stop,” agreed Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan.

The president’s surprise announcement, and the swift emergence of competing versions of events, was in keeping with Trump’s impulsive-seeming and highly personalized style of handling complex international diplomacy.

It also fit with his consistent efforts to present himself as calling the shots, whether in fruitless attempts to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons, win trade concessions from Chinese President Xi Jinping or navigate growing tensions with Tehran by calling for a meeting with Iran’s president.

U.S. negotiators indicated last week that an accord with the Taliban was imminent, but sources close to the militant group’s leadership said the talks had bogged down over a U.S. demand that the group declare a nationwide cease-fire. The Taliban countered with an offer to suspend attacks only in areas of Afghanistan from which U.S. forces withdrew.

The sources also said the Taliban negotiating team was also pushing back against U.S. plans to continue supporting Afghan security forces fighting the militants.

At the same time, Taliban fighters have continued to mount deadly attacks. In addition to two car bombs last week in Kabul, human rights groups blamed the Taliban for the killing of a human rights official who was found dead last week in Wardak province.

Those attacks, along with a renewed offensive against Afghan government forces in the northern state of Kunduz, were part of the Taliban’s strategy of using violence to improve their negotiating position, said sources close to the militant group’s leadership.

Appearing on several Sunday news shows, Pompeo repeated Trump’s contention that the president had scrubbed the proposed Camp David meeting and called off further negotiations with the Taliban because of Thursday’s car bomb in the Afghan capital that killed 12 people, including a U.S. service member. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

“It made no sense for the Taliban to be rewarded for that kind of bad behavior,” Pompeo said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He suggested that the U.S. and its allies also had stepped up its attacks in recent days, however. “We’ve killed over a thousand Taliban in just the last 10 days,” he said.

Pompeo also defended the idea of meeting with the Taliban a few days before the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. He acknowledged still-painful sensitivities surrounding the anniversary but pointed to Camp David’s historic role as a venue for difficult negotiations.

“You know the history of Camp David — lots of bad folks have come through that place,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Pompeo did not respond directly when asked, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” whether factors other than Thursday’s car bomb were involved in the abrupt cancellation. “As we approached this decision point in the discussions … they blow up — and blow up Kabul, and kill an American,” he said.

Apparently referring to that attack, the Taliban said in a statement that Trump’s reaction to “a solitary incident is indicative of a lack of courage and experience.” The president’s actions, the group claimed, would cause the United States to “lose integrity” and “expose their anti-peace stance to the world.”

Even so, the Taliban said it expected the negotiations would resume in Qatar, and expressed readiness to begin talks as early as this month with the Afghan government over a possible political resolution of the country’s long civil war.

The Taliban has refused to hold formal talks with the government, which it considers illegitimate, but the Qatar deal was supposed to set the stage for subsequent talks in Norway between the Taliban and other Afghans, including government representatives.

Afghan government officials greeted Trump’s decision to scrap the Camp David meeting with relief. Many of them worry the U.S. is rushing into a peace agreement so Trump could fulfill his pledges to withdraw troops before the 2020 presidential election.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Ghani, tweeted that the Afghan government should lead the peace process.

“We have consistently stressed that genuine peace is possible when the Taliban stop the killing of Afghans, embrace an inclusive ceasefire, and enter into direct negotiations with the Afghan government,” he wrote.

Staff writer King reported from Washington and staff writer Bengali from Chennai, India. Special correspondent Aoun Sahi contributed from Islamabad, Pakistan.

———

©2019 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Foreign Affairs

Lawmakers Ejected in Hong Kong Debate on Chinese Anthem Bill
Foreign Affairs
Lawmakers Ejected in Hong Kong Debate on Chinese Anthem Bill

HONG KONG (AP) — Three pro-democracy lawmakers were ejected from Hong Kong's legislative chamber Thursday morning, disrupting the second day of debate on a contentious bill that would criminalize insulting or abusing the Chinese national anthem. The legislature’s president, Andrew Leung, suspended the meeting minutes after... Read More

Pompeo Says US No Longer Considers Hong Kong Autonomous from China
Geopolitics
Pompeo Says US No Longer Considers Hong Kong Autonomous from China
May 27, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday that he's informed Congress the State Department no longer considers Hong Kong to have significant autonomy under Chinese rule, a move seen as foreshadowing the end of some or all of the U.S. government's special trade and... Read More

Trump Halts Entry Into US From Brazil, White House Says
Foreign Affairs
Trump Halts Entry Into US From Brazil, White House Says

The U.S. will restrict the entry of non-U.S. citizens arriving from Brazil, where coronavirus cases are spiking, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Sunday. The order begins at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, and the entry of all foreigners who’ve been in Brazil over a 14-day... Read More

Trump to Withdraw From ‘Open Skies’ Arms Control Treaty With Russia
Geopolitics
Trump to Withdraw From ‘Open Skies’ Arms Control Treaty With Russia
May 22, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said Thursday that he 's decided to withdraw from yet another arms control accord, the third he's walked away from in the past two years. The Open Skies Treaty, negotiated three decades ago, allows nations to fly over each other's territory... Read More

Pompeo Faces Scrutiny as House Chair Reveals Ousted Watchdog Probed Arms Sales
Foreign Affairs
Pompeo Faces Scrutiny as House Chair Reveals Ousted Watchdog Probed Arms Sales

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel on Monday raised the possibility that the State Department’s inspector general was fired because he was investigating President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration last year that expedited an arms sale to Saudi Arabia. The dismissal of Steve... Read More

Supreme Court Says Sudan Liable for $4.3 Billion in Damages for 1998 Embassy Bombings
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Says Sudan Liable for $4.3 Billion in Damages for 1998 Embassy Bombings
May 18, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Sudan is liable for $4.3 billion in punitive damages for the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that left 224 people dead and injured thousands. Despite the court's unanimous ruling, however, it is unlikely the victims and... Read More

Straight From The Well
scroll top