US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that peace negotiations with Afghanistan’s Taliban are dead and that Washington will not enter any future agreement without “commitments” from the militants.
Appearing on a round of cable news shows Sunday morning, Pompeo told one of these, Fox News, that negotiations with the Taliban are dead “for the time being,” adding that Washington is recalling its special envoy to Afghanistan to work out its next steps. Also appearing on CNN, Pompeo said that the US would not enter into any future agreement with the Taliban without “significant commitments” from the fighters, who now control more Afghan territory than at any point since the US invasion in 2001.
Pompeo’s statements come one day after President Donald Trump canceled meetings with Taliban officials at Camp David. Trump scrapped the talks –which were planned in secret– after Taliban-claimed attacks in Kabul killed 12 people, including one American soldier, earlier in the week.
“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,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.
With diplomacy scuppered, Pompeo told CNN that “if the Taliban don’t behave…we’re not going to reduce our support for the Afghan security forces that have fought so hard there in Afghanistan,” a hint that the US may remain involved in Afghan affairs for some time yet.
President Trump dropped a similar hint on Saturday night, asking “how many more decades are they willing to fight?”
Prior to the canceled meeting, US officials seemed hopeful that an end to the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan was near. US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad presented a draft US-Taliban agreement to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the beginning of the month, which outlined plans for a US withdrawal from the country in exchange for a Taliban pledge not to plan attacks abroad from within Afghanistan.
Trump’s revelation that the talks had fallen apart drew a wave of political and media criticism for even hosting them in the first place. Democrat and Republican lawmakers alike argued that members of the Taliban should “never” be allowed onto US soil. CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Pompeo on Sunday whether he would support a similar move from a Democrat president, especially one taking place days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
“We have an obligation to do everything we can,” Pompeo responded, and told Tapper that he has always been “fully supportive” of Trump’s efforts to sit down with the Taliban.