officials, analysts and citizens on Sunday cautiously welcomed President
Trump’s announcement that he was calling off the troubled U.S.-Taliban peace
talks aimed at ending the 18-year conflict.
of mounting uncertainty and suspicion here, with insurgent violence raging
across the country even as a bilateral deal neared, Trump’s stunning tweets
late Saturday seemed to burst the pent-up tension across Afghan society and
offer a moment of relief — even as they created new fears over what would come
Taliban, for its part, waited all day before issuing a coolly worded statement
saying that it had been ready to sign a peace agreement with the United States
but that Trump’s impatience had sabotaged the process and the insurgents would
now continue their “jihad” against foreign “occupation.”
before Trump’s bombshell were filled with conflicting signals from Taliban and
U.S. leaders. While U.S. negotiators said a deal was imminent, Taliban attacks
intensified. Outside the negotiations, an array of U.S. politicians, military
leaders and diplomats warned that a hasty deal and troop pullout could lead to
chaos and even civil war.
Afghans expressed measured relief.
definitely a silver lining to this,” said Haroun Mir, an analyst based in
Kabul. “There was total confusion before. Everyone was afraid the U.S. would
sign a cease-fire but the Taliban would continue their war against the Afghan
government and people.
President Trump has personally rectified this with his own tweet.”
had trusted the closed-door negotiations between the United States and the
Taliban. Many expressed fears that the Trump administration would make too many
concessions to the insurgents, giving them free rein to reimpose extreme
Islamic rule and sacrificing gains in rights and freedoms under democratic
Ashraf Ghani, who had fumed for months about being excluded from the talks,
prepared to fly to Washington this weekend without public explanation. Aides
said Friday that the trip had been postponed.
tweets Saturday, Trump said he was canceling secret meetings planned with
Taliban leaders and Ghani at Camp David after the most recent Taliban attack, a
bombing Thursday near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that killed a U.S. service
member, 10 Afghans and a Romanian soldier.
It was not
clear whether Taliban leaders had agreed to participate. In the statement late
Sunday, they made no mention of meetings.
for Ghani declined Sunday to say what he had planned to do in Washington beyond
expressing his concerns about the talks.
government strongly welcomed Trump’s announcement early Sunday, saying it
coincided with official worries here that the Taliban was manipulating the
peace process. Officials reiterated Ghani’s long-standing insistence that only
direct bilateral talks between Afghan and Taliban leaders could bring about an
enduring and substantive settlement.
chief spokesman said Trump’s decision “showed he has a proper understanding of
the situation and sees that the Taliban are not committed to peace.”
Sediq Seddiqi thanked the United States for its efforts but said the Taliban
must “stop killing Afghans and agree to negotiate directly with the Afghan
government. We have always been behind a meaningful peace process and we will
always be the implementer of that process.”
also said direct talks among Afghans could not begin any time soon because of
“We do not
have conditions for talks, but peace has conditions,” he said. “How is it
possible to sit in talks and continue the violence?” He said the Taliban had
been enjoying a “honeymoon” in Qatar, the site of the negotiations, while
“cheating Afghanistan and the world. This needs to come to an end.”
unclear what impact Trump’s actions would have on presidential elections
scheduled for Sept. 28. Until now, U.S. officials were pressing for peace talks
to finish in time to hold Afghan-Taliban talks before the vote. Many Afghans
had called for the election to be postponed, fearing it could disrupt the peace
process. But Seddiqi said Sunday that it would be held on schedule. Ghani has
been running hard for reelection despite Taliban threats to attack the polls.
Nabil, a former national intelligence chief, is one of several candidates who
offered to quit the race in the interest of peace.
“It is time
for the Taliban to step forward, stop the bloodshed, announce a cease-fire and
start direct talks with the Afghan side,” he said.
said late Sunday that it was still prepared to return to the table, but Trump’s
abrupt cancellation of bilateral talks would harm the United States and
“increase its financial and human losses.”
are not resumed, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said, “we will continue to [wage]
jihad” and “put an end to the total occupation” of Afghanistan.
has killed scores of people in the past two weeks in attacks and suicide
bombings in the capital and elsewhere. The insurgents also launched recent
offensives in northern Kunduz and Baghlan provinces, and there were reports
Sunday that they had stepped up those attacks, possibly blocking a major
highway to Kabul.
announcement came just before a week of religious and political events that
could be targets for further violence. Monday is the anniversary of the death
of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the anti-Taliban militia leader who was assassinated in
2001. Tuesday is the emotional peak day of Muharram, a Shiite mourning period,
when Shiite mosques and communities have been attacked in previous years.
Rahimi, who teaches law at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul,
said he was fearful of what might happen next.
“A lot of
Afghans are happy about Trump’s tweets because they may stop a bad deal with
the Taliban,” he tweeted Sunday. “But they ignore the fact that there is a
fundamental lack of strategy in Afghanistan that could prolong and exacerbate
the bloody conflict.”
the insurgents should never be forgiven for their attacks on civilians, and
that they had used the bilateral peace process as an excuse to show military
Taliban were never interested in peace. . .
they just kept killing people indiscriminately to get a stronger bargaining position,” tweeted Raihana
Azad, a legislator from Daikundi province.
criticized Trump for saying he had cancelled the talks because of a bombing
that killed a U.S. soldier after months of attacks that harmed hundreds of
Afghan civilians. There was also speculation that he had used the recent attack
as an excuse to cancel the talks amid growing domestic pressure to keep troops
life matters for the U.S., but it is not important for them if Afghans are
dying like lambs,” said Ahmad Shah Aria, 23, an economics student in Kabul.
“Violence has been intense during the talks, and it will intensify if the talks
Salahuddin and Sharif Hassan contributed to this report.
Headline: Afghans welcome Trump’s cancellation of Taliban peace talks
Source: The Washington Post