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  • U.S. and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers chat with each other at a post in Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan July 7, 2018.

    U.S. and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers chat with each other at a post in Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan July 7, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 September 2019

This comes as a draft peace deal had already been reached between the Taliban and the U.S. last Monday. 

United States President Donald Trump informed Saturday he canceled peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders after the group claimed the attack in Kabul that killed a U.S. soldier and 11 civilians.

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“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks...then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” Trump said on Twitter.

The U.S. president added he had planned a “secret” meeting with the Taliban’s “major leaders” on Sunday at the presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland but decided to drop the negotiations after an increase of violence from the Taliban.

Over the past week, the insurgents launched assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri and carried out two major suicide bombings in the capital.

One of the blasts, a suicide attack in Kabul on Thursday, killed U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Elis Barreto Ortiz from Puerto Rico, bringing the number of U.S. troops killed in the country this year to 16.

This comes as a draft peace deal had already been reached between the Taliban and the U.S. last Monday. 

The agreement, which needed Trump’s approval, would have encompassed the withdrawal of almost 5,000 troops from Afghanistan and the closing of five U.S. bases within 135 days, according to chief U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad.

And although Taliban officials previously insisted that all foreign forces must leave, the agreed-upon phased withdrawal would’ve required a commitment by the Taliban to not allow Afghanistan to be used by militant groups such as al Qaeda or Islamic State.

Yet many weren’t content the agreement, especially the Aghan government nor President Ashraf Ghani, an issue that was underlined when the president was not allowed to keep a text of the draft agreement after it was shown to him. 

An Afghan cabinet minister who asked not to be named told RFE/RL on Sept. 6 that Ghani’s planned trip to speak with Trump on the matter was postponed "by the U.S. government because of Mr. Ghani's opposition" to the text. 

Then Khalilzad abruptly returned to Qatar for unexpected talks with the Taliban on the deal that he had described as complete just days prior. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel has now demanded that Khalilzad testifies before the House committee about the negotiations.

Experts believe that it was “naive” to think that a peace deal could have been reached, as even though the “aim” of the text was to end the war there was no formal ceasefire agreement, as that was to be a responsibility for the intra-Afghan talks and Ghani’s administration, according to the U.S. envoy. 

A rather uncertain prospect, especially since the Taliban won’t “talk to the Kabul administration as a government,” seeing they consider it a U.S. pawn.

And the fact that national elections are scheduled for Sept. 28 in which Ghani seeks re-election to a second five-year term while facing rejection from the Taliban, who have warned civilians to not head to the polls, dismissing them as a sham.

Many now, including Ghani, fear that the uncertain scenario and a troop withdrawal would be reminiscent of the 1990s withdrawal of Soviet troops, which created a vacuum of power and lead to a civil war. 

An unlikely scenario as after a the short-run removal, the Taliban regrouped between 2003 and 2008, to fight back and have retaken most of the country and have widespread support from the ruling Pashtuns. 

Without an end in sight, the war in Afghanistan will continue to be Washington’s longest conflict in its history. It was started after the September 11 attacks in New York City when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan as part of the so-called "war on terror" to dismantle Al-Qaeda by removing the Taliban from power. 

Almost US$975 billion has been spent and approximately 220,000 people have died.

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