Was Donald Trump right to arrange - and then cancel - peace negotiations with the Taliban?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Donald Trump announced that he cancelled peace talks with Taliban leaders this weekend, aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.
The US president tweeted on Saturday: "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.
"They were coming to the United States tonight. 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.
"What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they only made it worse!
He added: "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?"
Trump has been praised for organising and then cancelling the talks, with some arguing he showed "wisdom".
However, Republican congressmen have attacked the president for attempting to hold them at Camp David in the first place.
The New York Post's Jonathan S. Tobin says that Trump's decision to have a peace summit with Taliban leaders - and then to cancel it - was "correct".
He argues: "Negotiating with the Taliban is a bitter pill for Americans to swallow. These brutal Islamist killers have the blood of nearly 2,000 Americans on their hands, as well as that of countless numbers of Afghans.
"But after nearly 18 years of a stalemated war and a doomed effort to democratise Afghanistan, the administration was obligated to seek an alternative."
Tobin says that Trump was right to halt the talks when the US president realised that the outcome would "neither ensure America’s security nor those of the people he’s proposing to leave behind".
He writes: "Trump seems to have belatedly realised he was mistaken and, in contrast to Obama’s arrogance, pulled the plug on a disaster in the making before it was too late.
"While a dramatic gesture like holding talks at Camp David appealed to Trump, it was still a mistake. Cancelling it was the beginning of wisdom."
However, the US president has come under fire for inviting the Taliban for peace talks in the first place, CNN reports.
His Republican colleagues have expressed concerns over the planned negotiations at Camp David, citing the 9/11 anniversary.
Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida has urged Trump to "walk away" from the talks.
Waltz, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said: "As we head into the anniversary of 9/11, I do not ever want to see these terrorists step foot on United States soil. Period.
"The Taliban have shown zero desire for peace. There's no ceasefire that they've agreed to. In fact, they've ramped up their attacks.
"We talked about the American soldier that just came home this morning in a coffin."
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the Air Force, expressed his "disbelief" that Taliban leaders, in the week of 9/11, were "going to come to really the area in the United States, not too far from New York, Camp David, that has been a place of such wonderful things that have happened in the past".
He added: "Negotiations between nation states can happen there, but a terrorist organisation that doesn't recognise nation states, that kills innocent women and children, that denies women the right to really even be in the same room as their husbands... to have them at Camp David is totally unacceptable."
According to the New Yorker, 2,400 American soldiers have died in the Afghanistan conflict, another 1,000 NATO allies have been killed, and 20,000 have been wounded.
Since 2009, more than 30,000 Afghan civilians have killed, while 56,000 have been wounded.
They report: "In a startling shift that has occurred under the Trump administration, the US and its allies in Afghanistan have been linked to more civilian deaths than the Taliban this year."
There have been talks between the US and the Taliban since October 2018, led by former US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.
Figures from CNN show that the Taliban may have been responsible for the deaths of at least 16 US service personnel since those talks began.