US president Donald Trump said on Monday that US peace talks with the Taliban are “dead” and that he is ramping the war back up after cancelling secret talks with the Afghan insurgents at his weekend retreat.
“They are dead. As far as I am concerned, they are dead,” Trump said at the White House about the long-running attempt to reach an agreement with the Taliban and extricate US troops following 18 years of war.
The announcement followed Trump’s dramatic cancellation of a top-secret plan to fly Taliban leaders in for direct talks at the Camp David presidential facility outside Washington.
Driving another nail into the coffin of what had appeared to be nearly finalised negotiations, Trump said a US military onslaught on the guerrillas was back up at its fiercest 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.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “We’ve killed over a thousand Taliban in just the last 10 days.”
Trump angrily denied that the whiplash effect of his sudden shifts on Afghanistan was causing turmoil.
The Taliban vowed to fight on after Trump’s statement.
Until this weekend, there had been steadily mounting expectations of a deal that would see the US draw down troop levels in Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban would offer security guarantees to keep extremist groups out.
But then on Saturday, Trump revealed that he had cancelled an unprecedented meeting between the Taliban and himself at storied Camp David.
He said this was in retaliation for the killing of a US soldier by the Taliban in a huge Kabul bomb blast last week.
The cancellation – announced on Twitter – was the first time most Americans learned that such a dramatic meeting was even planned.
Many in Washington were shocked and some were angry that the Taliban had been on the point of visiting Camp David on the eve of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
There was also widespread consternation at the characteristically unpredictable manner of Trump’s negotiating style.
But Trump denied any discord among government members including his vice president.
In a tweet, he accused journalists of trying “to create the look of turmoil in the White House, of which there is none”.
Trump added that he had no second thoughts about his actions. “In terms of advisers, I took my own advice,” he later told reporters.