Afghan talks cancellation: Taliban say Donald Trump’s decision would lead to fresh loss of U.S. lives

Mr. Trump cancels secret Taliban peace talks; future of draft peace deal in doubt; Afghan President calls on Taliban to talk directly; EU says Afghan elections must be held this month.

September 08, 2019 10:37 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 08:14 am IST - KABUL

A reporter browses the Twitter page of Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in Kabul. File

A reporter browses the Twitter page of Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in Kabul. File

The Taliban on September 8 said U.S. President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to cancel peace talks would lead to fresh losses to American lives in Afghanistan at a time when the insurgent group was ready to finalise a deal to end the war.

The Islamist group issued a statement hours after Mr. Trump unexpectedly cancelled talks with the Taliban’s “major leaders” at a presidential compound in Camp David following the Taliban’s claim of responsibility for an attack in Kabul last week that killed an American soldier and 11 others.

“Both sides (U.S., Taliban) were busy with preparation for the announcement and signing the peace deal, but now the U.S president called off the peace dialogue... this will lead to more losses to the U.S.,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said in a statement. “Its (U.S.) credibility will be effected, its anti-peace stance will be exposed to the world, losses to lives and assets will increase,” he said.

“We will stay committed if the path of negotiation is chosen instead of fighting...we won’t be satisfied until there is an end to the foreign occupation of our country,” he said.

U.S. diplomats have been talking with Taliban representatives for months seeking to agree to a plan to withdraw thousands of American troops in exchange for security guarantees by the Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, seeking a second tenure in twice-postponed elections scheduled for September 28, urged the Taliban to end violence and talk directly to his government after Mr. Trump cancelled the meeting. “Real peace will come when Taliban agree to a ceasefire,” Mr. Ghani’s officials said in a statement in response to Mr. Trump’s cancellation of the talks.

However the Taliban have so far refused to talk to the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate “puppet” regime.

Almost 4,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of 2019 in the war against militant groups, including a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and foreign forces, the United Nations said in July.

As negotiators reached a draft accord last week, Taliban fighters, who now control more territory than at any time since the war started in 2001, were launching assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri. They claimed responsibility for two major suicide bombings in the capital Kabul.

Mr. Trump’s surprise announcement left in doubt the future of a draft peace accord worked out last week by Zalmay Khalilzad, the special U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan.

Under the draft some 5,000 U.S. troops would be withdrawn over the coming months in exchange for guarantees Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States and its allies.

A full peace agreement to end more than 18 years of war would depend on “intra-Afghan” talks involving officials and civil society leaders as well as further agreement on issues including the remainder of the roughly 14,000-strong U.S. forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops.

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