Trump scuppered peace plan with Taliban 'by trying to take credit for deal'

Vincent Wood
In this file photo taken on 6 January 2019 US President Donald Trump speaks as he arrives at the White House in Washington, DC, after meetings at Camp David: AFP/Getty Images

A tentative peace deal between Taliban leaders and the US fell apart after Donald Trump moved to make the accord a spectacle as part of his re-election campaign, reports have suggested.

The US president announced he was calling off a secret meeting between senior members of the Taliban, the government of Afghanistan, and his own administration through a Twitter post on Saturday evening - laying blame on the Taliban’s car bomb killing of 12 people in Kabul including a US soldier.

The talks, slated to take place just days before the anniversary of 9/11 at presidential outpost Camp David, were due to seal an agreement that would see US troops withdraw from the country in return for Taliban assurances that they would not facilitate global terrorism.

However reports from The New York Times have claimed the President’s drive to create a spectacle out of the accord had left the Taliban unwilling to proceed - and that officials from the militant group would only accept the terms if the deal was signed off before the meeting in America.

The agreement between the group and the US was struck in Doha, Qatar, by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad over the course of a year. The settlement would have seen the remaining 140,000 US troops pull out of Afghanistan over the next 16 months - keeping the president’s 2016 campaign pledge to withdraw from the country - in return for assurances the Taliban would not house international terror groups as it did al-Qaeda in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

But with the deal finalised in principle and the final round of talks concluded on 1 September, Mr Trump is believed to have pushed for the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, and Taliban leaders to meet him in Camp David - and to let him be the driving force in approving the deal.

Reports suggest the US leader had not wanted the meeting to be a celebration of an agreement already struck, and instead wanted to appear as the one to put the final pieces of the historic accord together.

The president’s push to be seen as a deal maker is reported to have been a sticking point for the Taliban, who argued the US were tricking them into “political suicide” - forcing them to accept the authority of Afghanistan’s government as they vie for control of provinces within the country.

Meanwhile the Afghanistan government had their own misgivings, despite officials agreeing to the meeting to ensure they did not look like they were blocking the path to peace.

Officials from the country remained distant throughout the talks so as not to recognise the Taliban and scupper the re-election campaign of Mr Ghani, due to take place next month. The Afghani government were also not willing to accept the Trump administration using the release of Taliban prisoners in Afghani custody as potential leverage for the deal.

The accord was finally terminated by the American President after the Taliban claimed an attack that killed 12 people, including a US soldier. The death is reported to have unified the administration’s belief it should be cancelled - with mr Trump telling aides “This is off; we can’t do this,”, according to The New York Times.

The Taliban has since warned that Mr Trump’s decision would “harm America more than anyone else”.

A spokesman for the militant group said talks had been completed “in a favourable atmosphere”, adding that the scrapping of the deal “harm America more than anyone else... will damage their status, will make it clear to the world its most hostile stance for peace, will increase its material and human losses, and its role will be known as shaky and fragile in political dealings”.