10, September 2019
US President Donald Trump has declared as “dead” so-called peace talks with the Taliban, saying Washington is back at pounding the group’s positions in Afghanistan as part of its 18-year-long war in the country.
“They are dead. As far as I am concerned, they are dead,” Trump said at the White House on Monday, when asked about the long-running talks with the militant group in Qatar.
The talks produced a draft agreement last week that included a substantial US military drawdown from the country after 18 years of occupation, putting in sight an end to what has become the longest war in America’s history.
However, the prospect of peace in Afghanistan collapsed on Saturday, when Trump said he had called off a secret meeting with Taliban leaders in Camp David, outside Washington to discuss the deal.
The decision, Trump said, was his response to a deadly bomb blast by the Taliban, which killed 12 people in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Thursday, including an American soldier.
Trump put another nail in the coffin of the draft agreement, saying his military commanders had already stepped war against the militant group to the highest levels in a decade.
“Over the last four days, we have been hitting our Enemy harder than at any time in the last ten years!” he wrote in a tweet.
Trump’s comments were echoed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said a day earlier that the talks were “dead” because the Taliban “tried to use terror to improve their negotiating position.”
He, too, noted that America’s military operations in Afghanistan were now back on full throttle.
“We’ve killed over a thousand Taliban in just the last 10 days,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees Washington’s military operations in Afghanistan, said the US military was likely to accelerate the pace of its operations against the Taliban.
US Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of CENTOM, said during a visit to Afghanistan the Taliban overplayed its hand in the negotiations by resorting to violence.
Seemingly unrepentant, the Taliban, which is today in control of more territory than at any time since 2001 when its rule ended over the country, said Sunday that more American lives would be lost in Afghanistan if the peace talks stop.
McKenzie declined to comment on the Taliban statement but said US troops would not hesitate to hit back.
“We’re certainly not going to sit still and let them carry out some self-described race to victory. That’s not going to happen,” McKenzie told reporters during a stop at Bagram Airfield in northeastern Afghanistan on Monday.
The CENTCOM chief said pledged a “spectrum” of attacks against the Taliban, which will also include airstrikes and raids involving Afghan commandos.
Any increase in US military action would correspond to an acceleration of Taliban attacks, he added.
According to a United Nations report that came out on September 3, airstrikes by US-led foreign forces and Afghan aircraft in Afghanistan reached 506 between May 10 and August 8, around 57 percent increase from the same period in 2018.