The revelation of planned peace talks with the Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David and the cancellation of the meetings are the latest of U.S. President Donald Trump's unconventional foreign policy moves.
Trump said Ghani and the Taliban leaders had been planning to travel to the United States Saturday night.
While U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that Trump "made the right decision" to call off peace talks with Taliban leaders at his presidential retreat because of the terrorist group's on-going attacks in Afghanistan," lawmakers from both parties said the meeting at the presidential retreat outside Washington should never have been planned.
"Camp David is where America's leaders met to plan our response after al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11," Republican Rep Congresswoman Liz Cheney tweeted. "No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever."
Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3000 Americans on 9/11.
No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever.
The Taliban still harbors al Qaeda.
The President is right to end the talks.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) September 8, 2019
Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said of the meeting: "It's another example of the Trump administration's foreign policy, which is a high-wire act that ultimately is focused on Trump as a persona, but not in the strategic, methodical effort of creating peace."
Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, an Air Force pilot who served in Iraq and Afghanistan before winning a seat in the House of Representatives, said on Twitter, "Never should leaders of a terrorist organization that hasn't renounced 9/11 and continue in evil be allowed in our great country. NEVER. Full stop."
Never should leaders of a terrorist organization that hasn’t renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our great country. NEVER. Full stop. https://t.co/pagnRFuFtc
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) September 8, 2019
"I'm still looking for confirmation an actual, physical trip to Camp David was planned," said Democratic presidential candidate hopeful Juan Castro. "It's very odd to invite a terrorist organization like that to Camp David."
Secretary of State Pompeo has defended Trump's foreign policy calling it tough rather than inexperienced.
Pompeo said Trump's planned Sunday meetings at his Camp David with the Taliban and Ghani, albeit separate talks with each, were set in the belief that they "could further America's national interest" to end the 18-year U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
Negotiators for the U.S. and Taliban have held nearly a year of peace talks. U.S. chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad last week said his team of negotiators had drawn up a draft framework agreement that, if approved by President Trump, would allow 5,000 American troops to leave five military bases in the country within 135 days.
Pompeo said Khalilzad has been told to return home.
The longest war in American history started with U.S. military efforts to wipe out al-Qaida terrorist training grounds protected by the Taliban that were used to launch the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people, with the 18th anniversary of the attack coming up on Wednesday.
Trump disclosed the Camp David talks, which he said were "unbeknownst to almost everyone," as he called them off, following a car bomb blast in Kabul last week that killed 12 people, including a U.S. soldier.
While Trump has vowed to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Pompeo said, "We're not going to just walk away, if it's not right" for American security interests in protecting against terrorism.
"If the Taliban don't behave, if they don't deliver on the commitments that they've made to us now for weeks, and in some cases months, the president is not going to reduce the pressure, we're not going to reduce our support for the Afghan security forces that have fought so hard there in Afghanistan," he said.
The Taliban said that U.S. military forces in Afghanistan "will suffer more than anyone else" from Trump's abrupt cancellation of the Camp David talks.
The Taliban said the U.S.'s "credibility will be harmed, their anti-peace stance will become more visible to the world, their casualties and financial losses will increase, and the U.S. role in international political interaction will be discredited even further."
Even with the initial goal of attacking the al-Qaida training grounds, the Afghan war has dragged on for years, with nearly 2,400 U.S. military personnel killed and more than 20,000 wounded in action.
The U.S. currently has about 14,000 military personnel in Afghanistan although Trump has vowed to sharply draw down that force.
But with Trump's cancellation of the Camp David meetings, the fate of the tentative peace agreement that had been reached between the U.S. and the Taliban is in question. The Taliban said it had agreed to hold intra-Afghan talks with the Ghani government on September 23.
After Trump called off the Camp David meetings, the Afghan government said it remained "committed to working together with the United States and other allies to being a lasting peace."