WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday said peace talks between the United States and Taliban “are dead” as he defended his initial decision to invite the group to meet on American soil just days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
“I took my own advice,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about the meeting that was set to take place at the historic Camp David site on Sunday. The president ultimately canceled the gathering on Saturday, notifying the world of the scrapped talks via Twitter.
Speaking to reporters before departing for a campaign event in North Carolina, Trump said “as far as I’m concerned, they’re dead,” when asked about the status of the negotiations aimed at ending the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan.
The president dismissed reports that Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Adviser John Bolton had urged him against inviting Taliban leaders to meet with him in the United States. The meeting would have capped months of negotiations that have been taking place between top Taliban officials and U.S. negotiators looking to reach a cease-fire agreement to end the nation’s longest war.
The president downplayed bipartisan criticism over his effort to host the group that provided protection to leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist group that masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
“I liked the idea of meeting,” Trump told reporters. “I’ve met with a lot of bad people and a lot of good people over the course of the last three years. I think that meeting is a great thing; otherwise, wars would never end.”
Responding to criticism over his choice to invite the leaders to Camp David, which has often been used to host foreign leaders and royalty, Trump said holding the meeting at the White House would have been “a step too far.”
“I thought Camp David would be good, and I still do,” Trump said.
The president said his administration is “looking at” whether to move ahead with the withdrawal of some 5,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan as part of a plan announced last month. The troop reduction was part of an initial deal reached between the Taliban and U.S. negotiators that would have required the Taliban to reduce violence and stop its support of al-Qaida, but the status of that deal now remains in limbo.
“We’d like to get out, but we’ll get out at the right time,” Trump said.
The president’s declaration that talks were done came a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in television appearances, left the door open for negotiations to resume in the future.
Taliban officials responded to the canceled talks with a statement warning of future “losses” to the United States.
“More than anyone else, the loss will be for the United States — their standing will be hurt, their anti-peace position will be clearer to the world, their human and treasure loss will increase, and their political actions will come across as unstable,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement.
Trump on Monday repeated his earlier rationale for canceling the meeting, saying he decided to call off the meeting after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a car-bombing near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul last week that killed a U.S. paratrooper.