WASHINGTON / ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - US President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that he was canceling peace negotiations with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan after the insurgent group took responsibility for last week's attack in Kabul on a American soldier and 11 other people.
Trump said he planned a secret meeting on Sunday with Taliban "top leaders" in a presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland. Trump said he also plans to meet with the president of Afghanistan.
But Trump said he immediately suspended negotiations when insurgents said they were behind the attack.
"If they can not accept a ceasefire during these very important peace talks and they even kill 12 innocent people, they probably will not have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway," he said. Trump said on Twitter.
The surprise announcement cast doubt on the future of the draft agreement drafted last week by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, predicting the withdrawal of thousands of US soldiers in the coming months.
The Taliban did not react immediately, but this decision seemed to catch them off guard.
Just hours before Trump's tweet, a Taliban leader familiar with talks in Doha with US officials, including Khalilzad and Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, said an agreement to sign the Taliban agreement seemed close.
Taliban fighters, who now control more territory than at any other time since 2001, have launched new attacks against the towns of northern Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri over the past week and carried out two suicide attacks. major in the capital Kabul.
One of the explosions, a suicide bombing in Kabul on Thursday, claimed the life of US first-class sergeant Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, of Puerto Rico, bringing the number of US soldiers to 16. who died in Afghanistan this year.
The increase in Taliban insurgency attacks in Afghanistan has been "particularly useless" for peace efforts in the country, a senior US military official said on Saturday during a visit to neighboring Pakistan. many Taliban militants.
US Navy General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees US troops in the region, declined to comment on the diplomatic negotiations, but criticized the Taliban's wave of violence, which for a long time overshadowed the agreement.
"It is particularly useless in Afghanistan's history today for the Taliban to increase violence," McKenzie, the head of the US Central Command, told reporters who were accompanying him.
McKenzie said that for the peace process to progress, "all parties should commit to a possible political agreement" which, in turn, should reduce violence.
"If we can not achieve that goal, it's hard to see that the parties can respect the terms of the agreement, whatever they are," McKenzie said.
According to the draft agreement, some 5,000 US troops would withdraw in the coming months in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not serve as a base for militant attacks against the United States and its allies.
However, a total peace agreement ending more than 18 years of war will depend on subsequent "intra-Afghan" talks involving representatives of civil society and leaders, as well as better agreement on issues including the rest Population. the approximately 14,000 American forces, as well as thousands of other NATO soldiers.
The Taliban rejected calls for a ceasefire and instead stepped up their operations throughout the country. It is unclear whether they will accept direct negotiations with the Afghan government, which they regard as an illegitimate "puppet" regime.
NEW CIVIL WAR?
For Afghans, the recent escalation of Taliban attacks has raised fears about the impossibility of reaching a stable agreement after a total withdrawal from the United States.
Ghani called the talks "meaningless" after Thursday's suicide bombing, and his spokesman said there would soon be an official reaction to Trump's announcement.
The Taliban's strategy seems to rest on the assumption that success on the battlefield would strengthen their influence in future negotiations with Afghan leaders. Some of their commanders on the ground also said they were determined not to release