By Steve Herman
August 20, 2019
Nike Ching and Ayaz Gul contributed to this report.
WHITE HOUSE — “Good discussions” are under way about Afghanistan, including between the United States and the Taliban, President Donald Trump said Tuesday. But he cautioned a U.S. troop withdrawal agreement might not be realized.
“I don’t know whether or not the plan is going to be acceptable to me, and maybe it’s not going to be acceptable to them,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office alongside Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
Trump made his remarks shortly after the State Department announced that its special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalizad, is traveling to Doha on Tuesday to resume talks with the Taliban on a peace agreement aimed at ending the 18-year conflict in the country.
Khalizad will also travel to Kabul to “consult with the leadership of the Afghan government on the peace process and encourage full preparation for intra-Afghan negotiations,” according to the State Department.
“At a certain point, you have to say that’s long enough,” Trump said of the 18 years of American military involvement in Afghanistan following the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Taliban has been in talks with the U.S. on a timetable for the withdrawal of American and NATO forces from Afghanistan. Unless that happens, the insurgent group maintains it will not engage in much-sought intra-Afghan negotiations to discuss a permanent cease-fire and issues related to future political governance.
In exchange for a foreign troop withdrawal, the Taliban will be tasked with preventing transnational terrorists from using insurgent-controlled Afghan territory for international terrorism.
Taliban and U.S. negotiators in recent days have repeatedly asserted they are ready to sign a deal.
The two sides are said to be working out the details.
“The Taliban would like to stop fighting us,” said Trump on Tuesday. “They’ve lost a lot.”
The U.S. president said Moscow’s failure to win a war in the Asian country led to “the Soviet Union becoming Russia because of Afghanistan.”
Asked by a reporter if the Taliban can be trusted, Trump replied, “Nobody can be trusted,” describing Afghanistan as “the Harvard University of terrorism.”
Trump said the United States will always have intelligence assets and personnel on the ground to prevent Afghanistan from returning to its pre-9/11 status when the country was run by the Taliban.
Trump again reasserted he could quickly vanquish terrorist elements in the country with a campaign of intensive but non-nuclear bombing. But “I’m not looking to kill 10 million Afghans,” he said.