Sunday July 12th, 2020 3:48PM

AP Explains: How US-Taliban talks collapsed on Afghanistan

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — With a series of tweets, President Donald Trump has upended a nearly a year of U.S.-Taliban negotiations on ending America's longest war. He has "called off" the talks and asserted that a planned secret meeting between him and Taliban leaders at Camp David, set for Sunday just days before the 9/11 anniversary, is now canceled. The Taliban have not immediately commented, raising questions about whether Trump's dramatic move was a face-saving attempt after the deal his envoy said had been reached "in principle" faced serious challenges in recent days.

Here's a look at the negotiations on a deal that Trump had wanted quickly, calling it "ridiculous" that the U.S. was still in Afghanistan after nearly 18 years and billions of dollars spent.

The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with a harsh version of Islamic law from 1996 to 2001 and hosted Osama bin Laden as he masterminded the 9/11 attacks, say they no longer seek a monopoly on power. But militant group now controls or holds sway over roughly half of the country. Many fear a full withdrawal of some 20,000 NATO troops would leave the weak and corrupt Afghan government vulnerable to collapse, or unleash another round of fighting in a war that has killed tens of thousands.


The talks between Afghan-born U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban leaders in Qatar, where the insurgent group has a political office, have been so closely guarded that last week Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was shown — not given — the final draft. The Afghan government has been sidelined because the Taliban refuse to negotiate with what they call a U.S. puppet.

The Taliban negotiators have been led by Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the group's founders who was released by Pakistan last year after eight years in prison, apparently upon a U.S. request. He is believed to command enough respect to sell a deal to tens of thousands of fighters.

The deal once final would begin a U.S. troop withdrawal with the first 5,000 leaving within 135 days, Khalilzad announced on Monday. That would leave 8,600 troops who train and support Afghan forces after their combat role ended in 2014. In return the Taliban would guarantee that Afghanistan would not be a launching pad for global terror attacks by groups including a local affiliate of the Islamic State organization and the remains of al-Qaida.

But problems quickly emerged. Even as Khalilzad explained the deal to the Afghan people during a nationally televised interview, the Taliban detonated a car bomb targeting a foreign compound in Kabul. Ghani's office then raised loud objections, agreeing with several former U.S. ambassadors who warned that a hasty U.S. withdrawal without Taliban guarantees on ending violence could lead to "total civil war." Far from guaranteeing a ceasefire, the deal includes only a reduction in violence in Kabul and neighboring Parwan province, where the U.S. has a military base.

Then on Thursday, a second Taliban car bomb exploded in Kabul and killed 12 people including a U.S. service member — which Trump blamed for his decision to cancel the talks. Khalilzad abruptly returned to Qatar for at least two days of negotiations. One Afghan political analyst, Waheed Muzhda, said he believes Khalilzad invited the Taliban to Camp David to sign the agreement but they rejected that location, angering Trump.

More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in nearly 18 years of fighting in Afghanistan, and some observers are asking why the latest death would derail the U.S.-Taliban negotiations on the apparent brink of a deal. The Taliban have said the attacks strengthen their negotiating position.

"A difficulty created by announcing that the U.S.-Taliban deal was completed in advance of actually announcing the terms of the deal or being ready to sign is that space has been created for those unhappy with it — in Kabul or Washington — to try to modify or disrupt it," Laurel Miller, Asia director for the International Crisis Group, said shortly before Trump's announcement.


It is not clear. It seems no one had anticipated a Camp David meeting between Trump and the leaders of an insurgent group that just months ago Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had described as "Taliban terrorists."

The Taliban seemed just as bewildered, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid telling The Associated Press he could not immediately confirm the U.S. president's account. "We are waiting for our leaders and will update you," he said. On Saturday night the Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, made no indication the process had collapsed, tweeting about possible locations on the intra-Afghan talks on the country's political future that were meant to follow a U.S.-Taliban deal.

The Afghan government did not directly comment on Trump's announcement but repeated its plea for an end to violence and said it believed the U.S.-Taliban talks had stopped at least for now. "We have always said that a real peace will come when the Taliban stop killing Afghans and implement a ceasefire and start direct negotiations with the Afghan government," it said in a statement.

That prospect still looks challenging, as Trump's tweets noted he had planned to meet "separately" with Taliban and Afghan leaders at Camp David.

President Ashraf Ghani now might see a clear path to a Sept. 28 presidential election that he has insisted must go forward despite the U.S. pressure for the intra-Afghan talks, including the Taliban, to begin as soon as possible. Those talks were thought to carry the possibility of forming an interim government instead. The Taliban have urged Afghans to boycott the vote and said polling stations would be targets.

Afghans would welcome any agreement that brings improved security and governance. But many have feared the U.S. would settle for an agreement that breaks down as soon as the last American soldier leaves. The prospect of a Taliban return has especially worried Afghan women, who secured new freedoms after 2001 but are still heavily restricted in the deeply conservative country.

"At the end of the day, this is a bilateral accord between the U.S. government and the Taliban. The Afghan government is not a party to it," said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center, ahead of Trump's announcement. "This suggests the Trump administration may reach a point where it decides to sign off on the deal even if it still faces opposition from Kabul."

But the Trump administration walking away from a deal is a development that all parties are now hurrying to digest.


Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
AP Explains: How US-Taliban talks collapsed on Afghanistan
AP Explains: How US-Taliban talks collapsed on Afghanistan and ending America's longest war
7:12AM ( 8 minutes ago )
Silence, devastation mark Bahamas town; but some are staying
After hurricane, some in smashed Bahamas community are determined to stay
6:58AM ( 22 minutes ago )
US-Taliban talks appear stopped for now, Afghan gov't says
US-Taliban talks appear stopped for now, Afghan government says after Trump's surprise Camp David tweets
6:49AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Pope presses need for dignity of work for Madagascar's poor
Pope Francis is pressing for the poor to have the dignity of work with a visit to a hilltop rock quarry in Madagascar where hundreds of people toil for a pittance rather than scavenge in the Indian Ocean capital's biggest dump
3:45AM ( 3 hours ago )
China's trade with US shrinks as tariff war worsens
China's trade with the United States is falling sharply as they prepare for more negotiations with no sign of progress toward ending a worsening tariff war that threatens global economic growth
2:39AM ( 4 hours ago )
Email: Opioid talks fail, Purdue bankruptcy filing expected
A breakdown in settlement talks with the maker of OxyContin puts the first federal trial over the opioid epidemic on track to begin next month
2:19AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP National News
Trump calls off secret meeting with Taliban, Afghan leaders
Trump says he's called off a secret Camp David meeting with Taliban and Afghanistan leaders
11:32PM ( 7 hours ago )
Dorian topples crane, knocks out power in eastern Canada
Dorian turns north and begins lashing parts of eastern Canada
11:05PM ( 8 hours ago )
Andreescu's 1st Slam title at US Open prevents Serena's 24th
Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu built a big lead and then held on to upset Serena Williams 6-3, 7-5 in the U.S. Open final for her first Grand Slam title
9:26PM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Manager: Trump family building 'dynasty' for decades to come
President Donald Trump's campaign manager is predicting that the president and his family will become "a dynasty that will last for decades."
8:45PM ( 10 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump family building 'dynasty' for decades
President Donald Trump's campaign manager predicted Saturday that the president and his family will become "a dynasty that will last for decades."
7:31PM ( 11 hours ago )
SC, Kansas GOP scrap 2020 presidential preference votes
Republican leaders in South Carolina and Kansas have voted to scrap their presidential nominating contests in 2020, while party officials Nevada are deciding whether to follow suit
5:12PM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Elections
Bennet picks up presidential backing of ex-Sen. Gary Hart
Democratic presidential candidate has Michael Bennet picked up the endorsement of onetime White House hopeful Gary Hart, a party elder statesman hoping to boost Bennet's longshot candidacy
3:40PM ( 1 day ago )
NC election tests Trump clout, suburban flight from GOP
There's a do-over special election next week for an open House seat from North Carolina that's testing President Donald Trump's popularity ahead of 2020
1:11PM ( 1 day ago )
New Hampshire gets spotlight as campaign enters new phase
The 2020 field descends on Manchester, New Hampshire, for the state Democratic Party's convention as the campaign enters a more intense phase, with several also-ran candidates needing moments that would elevate them
10:00AM ( 1 day ago )
General Presidential Election News
Silence, devastation mark Bahamas town; but some are staying
After hurricane, some in smashed Bahamas community are determined to stay
6:58AM ( 22 minutes ago )
US-Taliban talks appear stopped for now, Afghan gov't says
US-Taliban talks appear stopped for now, Afghan government says after Trump's surprise Camp David tweets
6:49AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Trump says he canceled secret Taliban meeting at Camp David
Trump says he called off secret meeting with Taliban at Camp David after car bombing that killed American soldier, 11 other people
6:21AM ( 59 minutes ago )
Ex-UK minister says Johnson not trying to get a Brexit deal
A senior minister who quit British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Cabinet says the government is making little or no effort to secure a Brexit agreement with the European Union, despite Johnson's insistence that he wants a deal
6:11AM ( 1 hour ago )
State media: Mugabe to be buried next Sunday
State media say former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe is expected to be buried next Sunday
6:02AM ( 1 hour ago )