Appearing on a round of cable news shows Sunday morning, Pompeo told one of these, Fox News, that negotiations with the Taliban are dead “for the time being”, adding that Washington is recalling its special envoy to Afghanistan to work out its next steps.
Also appearing on CNN, Pompeo noted that the US would not enter into any future agreement with the Taliban without “significant commitments” from the fighters, who now control more Afghan territory than at any point since the US invasion in 2001.
Pompeo’s statements come one day after President Donald Trump canceled meetings with Taliban officials at Camp David. Trump scrapped the talks –which were planned in secret– after Taliban-claimed attacks in Kabul killed 12 people, including one American soldier, earlier in the week.
“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,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.
With diplomacy scuppered, Pompeo told CNN that “if the Taliban don’t behave…we’re not going to reduce our support for the Afghan security forces that have fought so hard there in Afghanistan”, a hint that the US may remain involved in Afghan affairs for some time yet.
Trump dropped a similar hint on Saturday night, asking “how many more decades are they willing to fight?”
Prior to the canceled meeting, US officials seemed hopeful that an end to the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan was near. US Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad presented a draft US-Taliban agreement to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the beginning of the month, which outlined plans for a US withdrawal from the country in exchange for a Taliban pledge not to plan attacks abroad from within Afghanistan.
On Sunday, Ghani urged the Taliban to end violence and talk directly to his government after Trump announced he had canceled a planned meeting with the insurgent group over a draft peace accord.
“Real peace will come when Taliban agree to a ceasefire,” Ghani’s officials said in statement in response to Trump’s cancellation of the secret peace talks, according to Reuters.
A close aide to Ghani noted that Trump’s decision to cancel talks at a time when the Taliban continue to mount attacks proved the concerns expressed by the Afghan government about the deal were acknowledged.
“We stand with President Trump’s decision…the outcome of the draft deal did not guarantee a lasting peace in Afghanistan,” the aide stated on conditions of anonymity.
Trump’s surprise announcement left in doubt the future of a draft peace accord worked out last week by Zalmay Khalilzad, the special US envoy for peace in Afghanistan.
As negotiators reached a draft accord last week, Taliban fighters, who now control more territory than at any time since the war started in 2001, were launching assaults on the Northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri. They claimed responsibility for two major suicide bombings in the capital Kabul.
Under the accord some 5,000 US troops would be withdrawn over the coming months in exchange for guarantees Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States and its allies.
Ghani’s office announced in a statement it was committed to working together with the United States and allies for a “dignified and long-lasting peace”, and emphasized the holding of the presidential election this month.
The statement added that a lasting peace required “a strong, legitimate and a legal government through the upcoming elections to take the ongoing peace process forward with complete accuracy and prudence”.