Washington, September 8: US President Donald Trump has announced the cancellation of a "secret" meeting with the Taliban and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani planned for this weekend, and also called off peace talks with the militant group entirely.
The cancellation comes after a Taliban suicide attack on Thursday in Kabul killed at least 12 people, including an American soldier, reports Efe news. Donald Trump Calls Off Afghanistan Peace Talks After Taliban Claims Responsibility of Kabul Bombing.
"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," Trump tweeted on Saturday, referring to the presidential country retreat in Maryland, just outside of Washington.
Trump added that "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".
"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?"
The unexpected announcement comes after Washington and the Taliban on September 2 reached a draft agreement in principle after more than a year of negotiations, which provides for the withdrawal of 5,000 US troops 135 days after signing.
The Taliban has insisted that the troop withdrawal is a fundamental issue in reaching an agreement during the nine rounds of talks held in Doha so far. The Taliban has refused to meet the Afghan government until a pact with Washington was formalized.
The war in Afghanistan is the longest-running conflict in which the US has been immersed.
US troops have been in the country for 18 years. Nearly 3,500 members of the international coalition forces have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion, more than 2,300 of them American.
The figures for Afghan civilians, militants and government forces are more difficult to quantify. In a February 2019 report, the UN said that more than 32,000 civilians had died.