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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Trump's Taliban Fiasco

In Defying the Odds, we discuss foreign policy issues in the 2016 campaign. Our update takes the story through the 2018 election.

At NYT, Peter Baker, Mujib Mashal and Michael Crowley report on the collapse of Trump's bizarre plan to invite Taliban negotiators to Camp David during the 9/11 anniversary week.
When [US negotiator Zalmay] Khalilzad left Doha after the last round of talks concluded on Sept. 1, two days after the Situation Room meeting, he and his Taliban counterparts had finalized the text of the agreement, according to people involved. Leaders of both teams initialed their copies and handed them to their Qatari hosts.
Before the end of the meeting, Mr. Khalilzad brought up the idea of a Taliban trip to Washington. Taliban leaders said they accepted the idea — as long as the visit came after the deal was announced.
That would become a fundamental dividing point contributing to the collapse of the talks. Mr. Trump did not want the Camp David meeting to be a celebration of the deal; after staying out of the details of what has been a delicate effort in a complicated region, Mr. Trump wanted to be the dealmaker who would put the final parts together himself, or at least be perceived to be.
The idea was for Mr. Trump to hold separate meetings at Camp David with the Taliban and with Mr. Ghani, leading to a more global resolution.
...
 But Taliban leaders, having refused to negotiate directly with the Afghan government until after the group had an agreement with the United States, said the Americans were tricking them into political suicide.
A senior Taliban leader said on Sunday that Mr. Trump was fooling himself to think he could bring the Taliban and Mr. Ghani together at Camp David “because we do not recognize the stooge government” in Kabul.
On Fox, Chris Wallace on Fox asked Pompeo about inviting murderous thugs to Camp David:
QUESTION: I want to get to the bigger question. Who thought it was a good idea for the President of the United States – you had an agreement in principle already, your envoy meeting with Taliban leaders in Qatar. Fine. Who thought it was a good idea for the President of the United States to meet with Taliban leaders, who have the blood of thousands of Americans on their hands, just three days before 9/11?

SECRETARY POMPEO: 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 Taliban negotiators. I want to look them in the eye. I want to see if we can get to the final outcome that we needed so that we could sign off on that deal, so we found that arrangement acceptable, that the verification was adequate. And we concluded this was a perfectly appropriate place. You know the history of Camp David. Lots of bad folks have come through that place. There have been lots of peace negotiations taken place. It’s almost always the case, Chris, that you don’t get to negotiate with good guys. The reason you’re in negotiations to end wars, to end conflict, to end violence, to reduce risks to the American people, is almost always because the person across the table from you isn’t exactly the finest.
One wonders what "bad folks" he was talking about.  Sadat?