Afghanistan: US cancels peace talks with Taliban

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KABUL (TCA) — The United States has recalled its chief envoy involved in Afghanistan peace talks with the Taliban, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump cancelled a secret meeting that was to include leaders of the militant group that carried out a recent car bombing in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a U.S. soldier, RFE/RL reported.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced during television appearances on September 8 that Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan who has been negotiating with the Taliban, had been recalled and indicated that the peace talks were over for the time being. He said the Taliban had “overreached” with the car-bomb attack that prompted Trump’s decision, and said it was up to the militants to “change their behavior.”

The “Taliban demonstrated either that they weren’t willing to or couldn’t live up to the commitment they needed to…reduce violence there,” Pompeo told Fox News.

In a series of tweets on September 7, Trump said he had planned to hold the talks with the two sides at Camp David just days before the anniversary of 9/11, which marks the deadliest terrorist attacks in United States’ history that was carried out by Al-Qaeda and whose leaders were harbored by the Taliban.

Trump accused the Taliban of trying to increase their negotiating leverage by carrying out the September 5 car bombing that took place in a neighborhood that is home to embassies, government buildings, and the local NATO headquarters.

“If they cannot agree to a cease-fire 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 in a tweet.

The bombings came as the U.S. envoy negotiating with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, reached an agreement “in principle” with the militant group following nine rounds of talks in Qatar.

The Taliban responded by saying in a statement on September 8 that the decision would “harm the United State more than anyone else and will undermine its credibility.” The militant group said it had set a date to start intra-Afghan dialogue, a key element of the peace negotiations, and expressed hope that the peace talks will resume.

The Taliban in the statement said that they had “productive negotiations” with the US negotiators and “the agreement was finalized”, Afghan broadcaster TOLOnews reported.

It added that the US team was satisfied with the progress in the talks until yesterday [Saturday, Sept. 7] and our talks ended in a good environment. And meanwhile, both sides were preparing for announcing and signing of the peace deal, the statement said.

“We had selected September 23 for beginning intra-Afghan negotiations after signing of the peace agreement,” the Taliban said, adding that regional, world countries and international organizations were supporting the process.

“We are committed to continuing negotiations till the end if a [political] settlement is chosen instead of war,” the statement said.

It added that the US reaction to one attack ahead of the signing of the agreement does not show patience or experience. “While just sharply before the attack [in Kabul], hundreds of Afghans were martyred in the US and its internal supporters’ attacks and properties were destroyed by fire,” the group claimed.

“Islamic emirate has its own policy and a firm stance. We called for talks 20 years ago and the stance is the same today and we believe that the US is unduly coming back to its [previous] stance,” the Taliban said in the statement.

Sergey Kwan

TCA