Taleban tried to use terror to improve negotiating position

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks to Christopher Wallace on why President Donald Trump decided to engage with the Taleban and why the meeting was called off

By Christopher Wallace

Published: Tue 10 Sep 2019, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 10 Sep 2019, 10:39 PM

Let's start with US President Donald Trump's tweet that he has called off the meeting with the Taleban that was to be held at Camp David. Where does that leave the plan to begin to pull US troops out of Afghanistan?
Well, President Trump has made clear he wants to reduce risk to Americans. You showed the pictures last night from the dignified transfer of the remains of Sergeant First Class Barreto. I was out there with his family. It's a reminder to all of us of the enormous cost and sacrifice these heroes make for us each and every day. President Trump is trying to reduce that risk.
At the same time, he is committed to making sure that we reduce the risk that terror should strike the US from Afghanistan again. And so, we've been working for a peace and reconciliation deal. We've been trying to get the Afghans to talk to each other.
We had the Taleban's commitment to break from Al Qaeda, publicly. And they would obviously have to deliver on that commitment. They forgot that America is always going to protect its interests. We killed over a thousand Taleban just in the last 10 days. And while this isn't a war of attrition, the American people should know we will continue to apply appropriate pressure to make sure we are never struck with terror again from Afghanistan.
So are the talks now dead?
Well, for the time being, they are. We've recalled Ambassador Khalilzad so that we can begin to think about how we would chart the path forward. They tried to use terror to improve their negotiating position. And I think anyone who has observed President Trump knows, whether it was in Hanoi with North Korea, or whether it's been in how we responded when the Chinese reneged on their commitment in the trade deals; if, in the course of a conversation where we're trying to improve both teams' outcomes through a negotiated solution, if the other team commits an act that's inconsistent with that, President Trump is not going to take that deal.
So the talks are off indefinitely?
I hope we get them started. It will ultimately be up to the Taleban. They have got to demonstrate that they are prepared to do the things that we asked them to do in the course of those negotiations.
But the Taleban has just come out with a statement.
Yeah, a lot of people bluster. Cooler heads, I hope, will prevail. I didn't see the full statement. It's the case that the Taleban is not monolithic.
But let me just say they said Americans will suffer more than anyone else and that this will result in the death of more American troops. I hope that's not the case. We don't want any loss of American life.
Who thought it was a good idea for the President of the US to meet Taleban just three days before 9/11?
We know the history of Camp David. We reflected on that as we were thinking about how to deliver for the American people. And, so, as we considered the right path forward, your point about an agreement in principle - I think that's true. We weren't complete. There were still lots of implementation issues, lots of technical issues that needed to be worked on, even though we'd been doing this for months. President Trump ultimately made the decision. He said: "I want to talk to President Ghani. I want to talk to these Taleban negotiators. I want to look them in the eye. I want to see if we can get to the final outcome". And we concluded this was a perfectly appropriate place.
I can understand the envoy talking to him. Why does the President have to confer that status on them?
President Trump was very clear. He wanted to make sure we got to the right place. He is willing to take risks if he believes he can deliver a good outcome for the American people. We've got to make sure we have the forces postured right all across the world.
We sometimes singularly focus on Afghanistan because of its deep history and deep connection and what they did on 9/11 that still angers me to this very moment, and we've got to make sure we get it right. Our efforts over the last months have been to do that. President Trump has been clear about our mission, and I hope we'll get the opportunity to continue to head down that path so that we can get the reduction in violence and we can get the Taleban to make a commitment and then live up to it to break with Al Qaeda.
Is the threat of a nuclear Iran increasing? What's the US going to do about it?
We hope the whole world will join us. President Trump has been very clear. Iran won't have a nuclear weapon on our watch. We'll stop it.
Our approach has been very different: build out alliances with the Gulf states, with Israel, with all the partners around the world who understand the threat of nuclear weapons inside of the Middle East, and to reduce their capacity to execute that. And we've done it.
Christopher W Wallace is anchor and political commentator at Fox News

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