President Donald Trump has thrown almost a year of delicate peace negotiations with the Taliban into doubt after canceling a summit with leaders of the militant group, leading to fears of renewed Taliban violence in Afghanistan ahead of elections later this month.
Trump surprised everyone on Saturday night when he announced that a previously secret summit with Taliban leaders, due to take place in Camp David on Sunday, had been canceled, citing an attack by the terrorist group in Kabul last Tuesday that left one U.S. soldier dead.
The idea of inviting representatives of the Taliban to Camp David on the eve of the September 11 anniversary left a lot of conservative pundits sputtering. I’m almost sorry the big reveal at Camp David didn’t happen, because the explosion in Trump’s face would have been nuclear. And to think we probably wouldn’t have learned that Taliban had even been invited to Camp David had Trump not tweeted about it.
The original excuse for canceling an agreement with the Taliban was that Trump learned of a suicide attack that killed an American serviceman. But subsequent reporting revealed that the real reason was that the Taliban wanted the deal to be announced before they made the trip. For Trump, the whole point was that he wanted to get credit for the negotiation that would (he was no doubt ready to claim) end the war in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials told the New York Times that the meeting was canceled abruptly because the Taliban balked at Trump’s desire for a made-for-TV moment that would make it look like he finalized the peace deal at Camp David. The Taliban had wanted the deal signed before they traveled to the U.S., so that the Camp David meeting would a celebration of the agreement.
The Taliban wouldn’t go along with Trump’s Art of the Deal theater, so Trump lost his temper and pulled the curtains on the farce.
I’ve read that the government of Afghanistan had not been included in the negotiations, which seems rather hinky to me. The President of Afghanistan had been invited to the Camp David summit, presumably to rubber stamp whatever was agreed to and then smile for the camera. What the President of Afghanistan really thinks of all this I do not know.
According to a writer at Informed Comment, this was the deal that had been struck before Trump blew it up:
Within 135 days of signing a peace accord, the US would withdraw 5,400 of its 14,000 troops now in Afghanistan. It would depart from five military bases or give them to the Afghan military. If the Taliban meets US conditions, then all US troops would be withdrawn in 16 months.
This timetable would have had troops withdrawals going on during the November 2020 election, which I suspect was the point. And while I’m all in favor of getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, seems to me the real deal needs to be between the Taliban and the Afghani government, not us.
But inviting the Taliban to Camp David so near the September 11 anniversary also reveals that Trump is insensitive to how that would have felt to most Americans — like a capitulation. And now it’s believed the Taliban will have no reason not to ramp up the violence. People are going to get killed.
In other Trump news, we have learned that a top secret spy had to be removed from Russia because of intelligence Trump shared with the Russians. And there’s a new report on how Trump is trying to shake down Ukraine to give him dirt on Joe Biden.