Taliban issues threat to U.S. after talks cancellation

[State Department photo by Ron Przysucha)
President Donald Trump’s cancellation of a secret meeting with “major Taliban leaders” prompted the group to fire back a threat saying it would “lead to more losses to the U.S.”

Trump called off the talks with Taliban and Afghan leaders, reportedly to be held at Camp David, following a terrorist attack last week which jeopardized the Afghanistan peace negotiations and sparked the message from the group which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the New York Post reported.

(Photo: KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)

“Now that U.S. President Trump has announced the suspension of negotiations with the Islamic Emirate, this would not harm anyone else but the Americans themselves,” the group said in a statement. “This will further harm their credibility and will show their anti-peace stance in more clear way.”

The secret talks, planned for Sunday at the presidential compound in Maryland, were “unbeknownst to almost everyone” and revealed by Trump through Twitter on Saturday.

“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,” he added, referring to a car-bomb attack near the American embassy in Kabul last Thursday in which 34-year-old American soldier Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, a Romanian soldier, and 10 civilians were killed. Dozens of passers-by were also injured.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the cancellation of the planned meeting.

“This will lead to more losses to the U.S.,” he said. “Its credibility will be affected, its anti-peace stance will be exposed to the world, losses to lives and assets will increase.”

U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was ordered home after the decision, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who confirmed that the Afghan peace talks were suspended.

“For the time being they are,” Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“In the end, the Taliban overreached,” the secretary of state said. “They forgot America is always going to protect its interests.”

“We will continue to apply the appropriate pressure to make sure we’re never struck with terror again from Afghanistan,” he added.

According to Reuters:

U.S. and Taliban negotiators struck a draft peace deal last week that could have led to a drawdown of troops from America’s longest war. There are currently 14,000 U.S. forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops in the country, 18 years after its invasion by a U.S.-led coalition following the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

Fighting in Afghanistan has continued amid the talks and recent assaults by the Taliban cast doubts over the draft deal. As violence has escalated, Afghan leaders including President Ashraf Ghani have been increasingly critical of the deal and encouraged the Taliban to enter direct talks.

Pompeo also pushed back on fears that Trump would withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, as American diplomats and Taliban representatives have been negotiating an agreement for more guarantees of security in exchange for the decrease of troops after a nearly two decade conflict in the region.

Afghanistan could collapse in a “total civil war” if Trump pulled troops ahead of a peace settlement, nine former U.S. ambassadors warned last week.

“President Trump made clear we’re not just going to withdraw because there’s a timeline,” Pompeo said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“We’re only going to reduce our forces when certain conditions are met,” he added.

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