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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump's popular push to end the longest U.S. war bogs down

This new Afghanistan setback surfaced in a different way than the others.

The public first heard from President Donald Trump that Taliban representatives had been invited to Camp David.

Trump revealed it Saturday — by announcing  on Twitter that it wouldn't happen.

Trump allies and critics instantly praised the cancellation.

This is an unusual response to a diplomatic defeat. But it makes sense because this week marks the 18th anniversary of the infamous September 11 attacks, carried out by al-Qaida terrorists, who had been sheltered by the same jihadist Taliban movement.

Imagine the response of, say, former GOP Mayor Rudy Giuliani or former GOP Gov. Chris Christie if a Democratic president extended  such an invitation at such a time.

The allegations of surrender and treason  would be loud and long.

But at least you cannot realistically call Trump a warmonger in the mold of some previous presidents.

For all his build-the-military, hold-a-parade, we-could-nuke-you bluster, Trump so far has lunged for glory only by professing to be a great negotiator of agreements — not a military conqueror. 

Better that than ambitious armed aggression, many citizens would say. But not all. 

"Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after al-Qaida, supported by the Taliban, killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11," a righteous-sounding Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, declared.

"The Taliban still harbors al-Qaida. The President is right to end the talks."

She could have also said, and did not, that Trump was right in 2016 to retroactively slam the Bush-Cheney administration for launching the Iraq War on false post-9/11 premises about weapons of mass destruction.

But for all the current episode's novel twists — including reports of internal opposition to the plan from Vice President Mike Pence — much of this story remains characteristically Trumpian.

For one thing, the accuracy of his administration's public statements is in question. 

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo insisted Sunday that Trump called off the slated talks.

But Taliban leaders say it was they who refused to go to the United States until an agreement, worked out over the past year in Qatar, was signed. 

Hostilities in America's longest war will continue. In fact, they may be worse now following Trump's personal intervention, as the Islamic militants increase their violent drive for dominance.

And the role of the recognized Afghan government in the talks remains ambiguous.

As in other foreign clashes, Trump overrated and over-promoted his powers of persuasion. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un hasn't denuclearized; China has made no key trade concessions, and tensions with Iran still simmer.

"Meeting is a great thing," Trump said Monday. "We had a meeting scheduled; it was my idea and it was my idea to terminate it. I didn’t discuss it with anybody else." 

Maverick Rep. Justin Amash (I-Michigan) offered the kind of sensible advice that showed why he was driven out of the Trump-controlled GOP.

"How about we end the war without inviting the Taliban to dinner on the week of 9/11?" Amash tweeted.


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