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Here’s What You Need to Know About the Canceled U.S.-Taliban Peace Talks

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  • President Trump tweeted Saturday that he canceled secretly scheduled peace negotiations with the Taliban.
  • The proposed peace deal involved the U.S. taking troops out of Afghanistan and the Taliban promising to no longer engage in violence in areas where the U.S. military is present.
  • Many opposed the plan and the meeting, including officials in the Trump administration who worried the Taliban could not be trusted.
  • Afghan officials were also skeptical of the plan, arguing that it did not include input from the Afghan government and did not require the Taliban to stop attacks on Afghan civilians or the Afghan military.

Trump’s Announcement

President Donald Trump announced in a series of tweets on Saturday that he had canceled a secret meeting between U.S. officials and the Taliban.

“Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday” the president wrote on Twitter. 

“Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people,” he continued. “I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations.”

“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” he concluded.

Here’s what you need to know about the agreement, the talks, and what comes next.

The Agreement

Under the agreement, which officials have been negotiating for almost a year, the U.S. would remove 5,400 of the remaining 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan within 135 days.

The broader goal of the deal would be to gradually withdraw the entire U.S. military presence, which has been in the country for nearly 18 years since the 9/11 attacks. In exchange for the U.S. withdrawing the troops, the Taliban would stop enacting and supporting violence in the regions of Afghanistan where the U.S. military is based.

Last Monday, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told local media in the country that both sides had agreed to the deal “in principle.” 

However, many people in the Afghan government, including President Ashraf Ghani, were skeptical of both the peace deal and the meeting at Camp David.

Afghan critics of the agreement argued that it did not include input from the Afghan government and did not really give them a seat at the table for negotiations.

The Trump administration addressed this concern by arguing that its talks with the Taliban would pave the way for the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.

But others worried that plan was problematic because the Taliban does not recognize the Afghan government, and has refused to negotiate with them in the past.

Those critical of the plan also argued that the deal only protected American troops because it did not require the Taliban to stop attacks on Afghan civilians or the Afghan military.

That is especially important because the Taliban now controls more territory in the country than it has at any time since the war started, and also because the Taliban has carried out and supported numerous deadly attacks over the last few months.

Now, Afghan officials are worried that if the U.S. pulled out, it would create a sort of security vacuum, leaving the Afghan military to fend for itself. They fear that, as a result, the Taliban would not only launch more violent attacks but also try to take over the government.

Opposition In Trump Administration

Afghan officials were not the only people who opposed the negotiations.

According to reports, multiple high-ranking officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton, also did not support the meeting. 

Bolton, among others, allegedly did not believe that the Taliban could be trusted and so the deal would just collapse anyway. 

Other administration officials who did not want the meeting reportedly worried about the optics of having an unprecedented meeting with a militant group on U.S. soil just days before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

One senior administration official also told NBC that Pence had argued the meeting could also send a bad message to members of the U.S. military and their families, especially those who had fought and been killed by the Taliban.

Taliban & Afghan Government Responds

After Trump’s tweets, a leader from the Taliban told NBC they were caught off guard by the news.

“It not only shocked us it made us realize the people we were talking with were not sincere in peace talks,” the leader said.

On Sunday, the Taliban also released an official statement on the matter.

Such a reaction towards a single attack just before the signing of an agreement displays lack of composure and experience,” the statement read.

“We called for dialogue twenty years earlier and maintain the same stance today and believe America shall return to this position also,” it continued. “Our previous eighteen-year resistance should have proven to America that we will accept nothing less than the complete end of occupation and allowing Afghans to decide their own fate.”

President Ghani has not responded specifically to Trump’s tweets, but his office released a formal statement on Sunday.

“The people and the government of Afghanistan pursue a dignified and sustainable peace and are committed to putting any effort into ensuring peace in the country,” it said. “We have consistently stressed that genuine peace is possible when the Taliban stop the killing of Afghans, embrace an inclusive ceasefire, and enter into direct negotiations with the Afghan government.”

“The government of Afghanistan praises the earnest efforts of its allies and is committed to working together with the United States and other partners to ensure honorable and enduring peace in the country,” the statement continued.

Conflicts on Cancelation Reasons

While speaking to news outlets Sunday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Trump’s comments by insisting that the reason the negotiations were canceled was because of the most recent Taliban attack.

However, a report from The New York Times suggested there could have been other factors. Citing Pompeo’s negotiator, the Times said the Taliban wanted to go to Washington, but not until after their deal had been announced. 

Trump, however, did not want their visit to be a celebration of the deal, instead, he “wanted to be the dealmaker who would put the final parts together himself, or at least be perceived to be.”

What Next?

The breakdown of peace talks with the Taliban has left many wondering what comes next.

During Pompeo’s major news circuit Sunday, he provided some insight into that question. When asked by a Fox News anchor if Afghan talks were dead, Pompeo responded, “For the time being they are.”

However, he also told CNN that the U.S. is still interested in striking a deal, as long as the Taliban honors its commitments.

Right now for the U.S., it looks like it has three main options. It could try to come to the table with another deal, it could withdraw the troops without concessions from the Taliban, or the U.S. could just keep the troops in Afghanistan.

As for Afghanistan, it is set to have elections later this month, on September 28.

The Taliban does not want those elections to take place, and now, officials in both the U.S. and Afghanistan are concerned that the Taliban will have more incentive to ramp up their violent attacks as the election approaches.

See what others are saying: (Vox) (VICE) (NBC News)

International

95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home

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The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.


A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.

Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.

At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.

They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.

The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.

She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.

Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.

After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.

NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.

Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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International

U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”


The Public Order Act

A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.

The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”

It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.

“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”

An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests

During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated. 

“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed. 

“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”

Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”

“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote. 

When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should  do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police. 

For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.

“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)

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International

Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages

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The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.


As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.

On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.

An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.

Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.

“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.

Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.

More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.

Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.

Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.

Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.

Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)

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